On Monday, most weeks these days, we’re looking at the liturgical schedule to highlight the propers, prayers and scripture readings, that we’re holding in common according to the 2019 Prayer Book.

The Propers

Yesterday was the feast of the Presentation, so it’d be a good idea (assuming you celebrated that holy day) to make a point of observing Epiphany 4 on a weekday Communion service if you have one this week.

Among the three optional commemorations this week, I would particularly highlight Cornelius the Centurion as worthy of observance (on Tuesday the 4th), as he is a New Testament character.  Although the generic “For a Saint” propers should be used, it may be a good idea to substitute out the Epistle lesson for Acts 10, in which Cornelius actually appears.

Even if you celebrated the Presentation on Sunday, the Collect for Epiphany IV is the Collect of the Day throughout this week in Morning & Evening Prayer.

Readings Review

Last week: Genesis 25-31, John 13-16, Jeremiah 25-31, 1 Corinthians 10-15:34
This week: Genesis 32-38, John 17-20, Jeremiah 32-38, 1 Cor. 15-16, 2 Cor.1-6

Let me remind you of this lovely resource to highlight the readings coming up: https://ctrnorthshore.org/the-daily-office-vlog-week-of-2-2/

As this week unfolds we reach the ‘historical narrative’ chapters of the book of Jeremiah.  You may recall in the case of Isaiah that his book also has some stories about half-way through, separating some earlier from later writings that tend to take on different tones and emphases.  Unfortunately that is not really the case with Jeremiah, or at least, it’s not quite so clear-cut.  As we will read in chapter 36, Jeremiah’s earliest prophetic writings were destroyed by King Jehoiakim, necessitating a rewrite by Jeremiah’s scribe, Baruch.  That incident is probably the beginning of the confused and confusing manuscript history of the book of Jeremiah – you can read more about the book here and here.  It’s also important to note that the Greek and Hebrew versions of Jeremiah are unusually different: entire chapters are relocated, and sometimes added or subtracted, when you compare the two manuscript traditions.

Meanwhile in Genesis we are wrapping up the Jacob stories and heading into the last major “Genesis Story” of the book: Joseph and the rest of the twelve tribes of Israel.  But before we get there, we find three little “interruptions”:

  1. the story of Dinah (ch. 34)
  2. the Genesis of Esau/Edom (ch. 36)
  3. the story of Tamar (ch. 38)

Dinah is the only named daughter of Jacob, and she is unpleasantly married off to the local gentiles, much to her brothers’ chagrin.  The enmity that springs up between Jacob’s clan and the local tribes is but the beginning of strife that continues to this day, really.

Esau is named here the ancestor of Edom, one of the neighboring kingdoms that would be a thorn in Israel’s side for centuries to come.  They’re even identified (and cursed) for their cheering on the Babylonians when Jerusalem was finally sacked in 586 BC.  But their ancient ancestry is named and honored here because they are a ‘brother nation’ to Israel, and thus they foreshadow the redemption of the Gentiles that the prophets would eventually proclaim, and the Church would finally realize in her own growth and ministry.

Tamar, finally, is the wife of Judah’s firstborn, Er; but Er is struck down by the Lord for his wickedness, so the expectation was that Tamar should be married to Judah’s next son.  This foreshadows the levirate marriage laws that would be enshrined in the Law of Moses, and would go on to be a central point to the story of Ruth.  Judah, however, fails to get Tamar a new husband, so she disguises herself and has a child by Judah herself.  Judah accepts his guilt when he is later called out for this act, and Tamar is vindicated.

These are “interruptions” to the larger stories of Isaac & Jacob and Joseph, but they’re also important entries in their own right.  Not only do two of these stories bring important women to the spotlight (which is relatively unusual in ancient writing) but they also give us deeper insight into the moral shortcomings and failings of God’s people.  This may be the chosen family, the line of promise, but they are still as fallible as any other.  Their elect status is not due to their own works or earnings or deservings, but entirely to God’s grace.  Let that be an important reminder to us, too, who rejoice in our calling unto salvation – God called pulled us out of the mire, not rewarded us for our prior righteousness!

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