As many of you may know, our official name is First-Pilgrim United Church. Note the hyphen between the two! The hyphen is there because we are a combination of First and Pilgrim churches. However, nowadays we seem to be known as First Pilgrim. The hyphen has disappeared! It has disappeared from our bulletins, our letterhead etc. I wonder why? It is certainly easier to type if you skip the hyphen. Was that the reason? But the hyphen was there for a reason. It speaks to our history. If we remove it I suspect something of our history is lost.
We at First Pilgrim, see I forget the hyphen too, follow the lectionary which is a set of prescribed bible readings for each Sunday. The lectionary asks that we read 2 Samuel 6: 1-5, 12b-19. It is the story David bringing the ark of the covenant into Jerusalem accompanied with singing and dancing and music and food! It was a raucous event.
I have always loved this reading. To me it is well needed antidote to the idea that worship needs to be stiff and sober. But, you may notice, there are verses missing, verses that have been dropped because, well, because they are unpleasant! If you read the whole story, you will find that during the procession, a man named Uzzah was killed by God just because he reached out to steady the ark when it looked like it might fall! The whole event scared David so much that he decides not to bring the ark into Jerusalem. He leaves it with Obed-edom, a Gentile! He only decides to go back and get the ark when he hears that Obed-edom has had an abundance of blessings while the ark was in his possession. This is a troubling passage. For example, why did God kill Uzzah when all he was trying to do was keep the ark safe? What kind of God would do that? It isn’t a very faltering picture of the great King David either. He’s more than a bit self-serving here don’t you think? Or does he only want the Holy when it works for him? Fortunately, the lectionary leaves these verses out so, in theory, we don’t have to deal with these troubling bits. The difficult verses are dropped, just like our hyphen, in favour of easier, smoother, happier reading. It is very convenient but it does not tell the whole story!
It makes me wonder what else gets dropped in our desire for easy, happy reading? What parts of history have been left out or re-written because they don’t make us look good? The recent revelation of more than a thousand unmarked graves found at Residential Schools reminds that we’ve done it and as a result a large portion of that people’s story has gone untold. What other stories have been dropped, just like our hyphen? What harm do we create when do that? What harm do we create when all we post on Facebook are stories of grand events and airbrushed selfies?
Maybe it is time to stop censoring our history. Maybe its time to stop manipulating scripture. Maybe it is time to seek the stories that have been dropped and reclaim them. Maybe it is time to reclaim our hyphen.
What do you think?