Case Histories

A colleague told me this story.  She had recently retired after nearly twenty years as pastor of a suburban church.  During all those years she had amended the Good Friday readings to remove the anti-Jewish invective.  For the last nine of her years there her organist’s husband, an acclaimed tenor, had sung for the Good Friday service.

An interim was called after the pastor retired, and he refused to tamper with the translation of the assigned readings.  That year the tenor, a Jew, heard the readings for the first time.  He found himself unable to sing, nor did he want to.  He left.

One can think of many ways that the situation could have been handled in a more pastoral way, and not necessarily by changing the translation.  The point to be made, though, is that these readings do have the power to wound, to offend.  They had offended the pastor enough that she changed the readings as a matter of conscience; and they had wounded a man who had given freely of his talent on behalf of Christian worship.

Many of us Christians do not take seriously the power of words.  In fact, they can hurt much more than sticks and stones.