Why Baruch now?

For those of you who follow the Midday Lectionary promulgated by this page, you may be puzzled to find that the continuous reading through 1 Esdras is interrupted today and for the next couple days to make space for the first three chapters of Baruch.  This is in anticipation of the regular Daily Office Lectionary’s inclusion of Baruch 4 & 5 in Evening Prayer on February 23rd and 24th.

Okay, that makes sense I guess.  But why are we reading from Baruch between Jeremiah and Lamentations at Evening Prayer?

The bigger question is why are we not reading all of Baruch at that point!  In the Greek Old Testament, Baruch is connected to Jeremiah and Lamentations because of the authorship attribution.  The books of Jeremiah and Lamentations are ascribed to Jeremiah and his scribe, Baruch, and thus the book of Baruch simply belongs with them.  What the 2019 book’s lectionary does (strangely, given historical precedent) is only appoint chapters 4 & 5 of Baruch, and omit the first three.

Chapters 1 & 2 in particular are poignant “answers” to the instructions left by Jeremiah in Jer. 29.  Perhaps that renders them redundant in the eyes of the suspicious-of-the-books-called-apocrypha editors?  Instead, Evening Prayer appoints chapters 4 & 5, which contain the tail end of a wisdom discourse and an extensive section of hope.  This is, again, in accord with the writings of Jeremiah, but both historically and thematically it is reasonable to follow up the dour ending of Jeremiah’s book the hopeful ending of Baruch’s little book.

Still, it’s best to read the whole thing if you can, which is why I created this Midday Prayer lectionary in the first place!

A Cheerful Giver, 2 Cor. 9:6-7

Today I’ve got a little homily for you based on part of this evening’s reading from 2 Corinthians 9.  I must apologize in advance for a distracted recording process; I usually record videos when my two-year-old is asleep, but it turned out he was up and about and I was a bit distracted as a result.

Hopefully where the minister falls short, the Word of God continues to stand strong regardless!

Planning Prayers & Readings Review 2/3

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!

Planning Prayers & Readings Review 1/20

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.

Communion Propers

Yesterday was the 2nd Sunday of Epiphany, so the first traditional prayer book option for a weekday Eucharist is to repeat yesterday’s Collect and Lessons.  Another good option would be to use the traditional Collect and Lessons for Epiphany 2, which deal with the wedding at Cana.  Because of the missional tone that the modern lectionary brings to the fore in this season, good second choice for a weekday Eucharist is For the Mission of the Church, noted on page 733, using the propers for World Mission Sunday.

And, of course, Saturday is a major feast day, so be sure to observe the Conversion of St. Paul – the Collect for that Day beginning at Evening Prayer on Friday, and carrying through Saturday evening.

Apart from that, some commemorations to consider are St. Fabian today (Monday the 20th), St. Agnes tomorrow, and St. Vincent of Saragossa on Wednesday the 22nd.

Readings Review

Last week: Genesis 12-18, John 6-8, Jeremiah 11-17, 1 Thessalonians 4-5, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians 1-2
This week: Genesis 19-24, John 9-13, Jeremiah 18-24, 1 Corinthians 3-9

Special reading for the Conversion of St. Paul on Saturday morning: Acts 9:1-22.  This is not one of the lessons appointed for the Communion service that day, but it is similar – the reading in the place of the Epistle is Acts 26:9-21, which is one of St. Paul’s re-tellings of his conversion on the road to Damascus, whereas the morning’s reading from Acts 9 is the initial account of that event in this book.

Our readings from John’s Gospel complete the “Book of Signs”, or, the first half of the book.  For the most part this is a forward-looking section of the book, anticipating the “glorification” of Jesus which is to take place on the Cross.  If you search this book for the words glory and glorify and glorification you’ll find a massive concentration of them in chapter 12, where the book makes its turning point – “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified!”  The last supper follows, and does his final discourse before his arrest, trials, suffering, and death.  That is the “Book of Glory” where all the “signs” finally pay off.

More insights into the lessons

Every now and then I’ve provided some comments on the scripture readings from the Daily Office Lectionary.  That’s something I will continue to do on an ad hoc basis, but with less urgency, as I am happy to share with you all a couple new resources out there to help people along in the process of reading the Bible according the 2019 Prayer Book’s plan.

First there’s The Daily Office Vlog, by Fr. Brian Barry who serves at Christ the Redeemer Anglican Church in Danvers, Massachusetts. (For those not in the know, “vlog” is a modern term for video log.  “Web Log” –> “Blog” –> “Video Blog” –> “Vlog”)  Like my videos, it’s nothing fancy, just cutting straight to the subject at hand.  He comments on any or all of the four sets of readings in the Prayer Book, and is aiming to produce approximately one video per week, summarizing a week’s worth of readings in about ten minutes.

The other resource is a podcast from Adverseria, run by an Englishman named Alatair Roberts.  He has been producing daily podcasts focusing on the two readings from Morning Prayer (currently Genesis and John), and I believe his goal is to cover the Evening Prayer readings next year, and/or to get to a point where he can provide a podcast study for every reading in the lectionary!

So if you want Bible Study aids that run concurrently with the lectionary, I heartily recommend the ministries of these two gentlemen.

In the beginnings

As we’ve noted before, it’s nice starting to read John and Genesis at the same time.  Both deal with “the beginning” in wonderfully complementary ways, and better appreciation of that might save us some interpretative heartache.

And then, once I read from Jeremiah 4 and caught another reference to the language of Genesis 1:1-2, I knew it was time to write something about it.  It took me about a week longer than anticipated, but I finally got ’round to it.

* * *

One of the coolest things about the Bible’s text is that the first book literally starts “In the beginning…”  I mean, of all the things it could start with, it just makes perfect sense that it would start with the beginning.  And when you finish that sentence you find that the “beginning” is eternity past – before time itself was created.  In the beginning, God created.  You learn so much about God in that phrase – his distinction over against all created things, his omnipotence over the same, his very being belonging beyond not only physical existence but also beyond time.  I’m really into science fiction, especially Doctor Who, which deals constantly with the ins and outs and paradoxes of time travel.  So it’s kind of strange, in a marvellous way, to find a truly “timeless” deity proclaimed in the opening words of Sacred Scripture.

But then you get through the first couple chapters and the debates start flying thick and fast – how did God create the world?  Are there conflicts between the various pieces of the text?  Are these writings meant to be taken literally?  What, even, is the literal meaning?  All this and more quickly rises to the forefront of a Bible Study, sermon, or discussion on the opening chapters of the book of Genesis; it’s almost inescapable.  So let’s side-step that direction of argumentation and look at Genesis from a birds-eye view.

“In the beginning, God created…”

Read the rest here.

Planning Prayers & Readings Review 1/13

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.

Communion Propers

Yesterday was the 1st Sunday of Epiphany, so the first traditional prayer book option for a weekday Eucharist is to repeat yesterday’s Collect and Lessons (dealing with the baptism of our Lord).  Another good option would be to use the traditional Collect and Lessons for Epiphany 1, which deal with the finding of Jesus in the Temple.  Because of the missional tone that the modern lectionary brings to the fore in this season, good second choice for a weekday Eucharist is For the Mission of the Church, noted on page 733, using the propers for World Mission Sunday.

And, of course, Saturday is a major feast day, so be sure to observe the Confession of St. Peter – the Collect for that Day beginning at Evening Prayer on Friday, and carrying through Saturday evening.

Apart from that, a commemoration definitely worth noting are St. Anthony on Friday the 17th.  Consider also St. Kentigern on Tuesday the 14th.

Readings Review

Last week: Genesis 5-11, John 3:22-6:21, Jeremiah 4-10, Galatians 5-6, 1 Thess. 1-4:12

This week: Genesis 12-18, John 6-8, Jeremiah 11-17, 1 Thessalonians 4-5, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Corinthians 1-2

Special reading for the Confession of St. Peter on Saturday morning: Matthew 16:13-20.  This is a clone of the Gospel lesson for the communion service that day, albeit with one extra verse, providing us the raison d’etre for this holy day.

The changeover from last week to this week with regards to the readings from Genesis is that before we were dealing with ancient history of almost legendary or pre-historic quality, and now we are stepping into the story of Abraham.  The book of Genesis is organized into ten “origin stories”, subtly given a ten-fold prologue to the exposition of the Mosaic Law and Covenant in the book of Exodus, which itself centers around a famous group of ten.  If you’re not familiar with the Genesis Ten, feel free to pull up an overview.  The focus switches to Terah (and primarily his son Abraham) part-way through chapter 11 and remains with him into chapter 25, so we’ll have just over two weeks with the Abrahammic Sagas, as some like to call them.

The importance of Abraham in the Christian faith cannot be overstated.  While there are indeed many references to the Law of Moses in the New Testament, those references are a mixed bag of positive and negative iterations of keeping the Old Covenant.  Ultimately, while we have much to learn from what God revealed through Moses, our ancient-historical identity as Christians largely bypasses him and links us straight back to Abraham.  Abraham, as we read last week in Galatians, is the father of all the faithful, both circumcised and uncircumcised.  We are blessed through him and his offspring (Jesus), not through Moses and his law.  So take a good look at the interactions between Abraham and the Lord.  He indeed has a journey of growth in working knowledge and trusting faith, but in the end God lays a foundation with him upon which even we, today, are built.

Readings Review – The Epiphany Special

Our usual Monday fare is going to look a little different today.  Instead of looking at the lessons of the whole weeks (past and present) we’re just going to narrow in on the feast of the Epiphany.  But first, the quick run-down…

Last week: Wisdom 9-11 Genesis 1-4, Revelation 21-22, John 1-3:21, Song of Songs 6-8, Jeremiah 1-3, Luke 23-24, Galatians 1-4

This week: Genesis 5-11, John 3:22-6:21, Jeremiah 4-10, Galatians 5-6, 1 Thess. 1-4:12

Special reading for the Epiphany on Monday morning: Matthew 2:1-12
Special reading for the Epiphany on Monday evening: John 2:1-12

As I noted last week the Epistles of St. Paul in evening prayer are being read in their estimated chronological order, so after Galatians we’re moving to 1 Thessalonians.

The Epiphany Lessons

The major highlight this week is today – January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany.  It’s one of the seven Principle Feasts listed in the 2019 Prayer Book on page 688, putting it essentially on par with Christmas and Easter (and four other holy days).  As a result, both Morning and Evening Prayer get a special reading, out of the daily sequential sequence, to mark this day.

In the morning is the obvious choice: Matthew 2:1-12, in which we read of the magi and their journey and the gifts for the young Jesus.  This is the “primary” celebration for the Epiphany.  It’s also doubling with today’s gospel lesson at the Communion, which previous daily lectionaries never really did before, but ours does due to the sad reality that very few churches hold communion services on weekday feasts anymore.

The other special reading, in Evening Prayer, is John 2:1-12, which is perhaps less obvious: the Wedding at Cana.  If you go back to the original prayer book daily lectionary you will see three major gospels featured: The adoration of the magi (at the Communion), the baptism of Jesus (in Morning Prayer), and the Wedding at Cana (in Evening Prayer).  Those are three big “epiphanies” that start off the season.  Each of these gospel stories, in their various ways, proclaim the divinity of Jesus – his reception of gifts, the testimony from God the Father, and finally the power at Jesus’ own command.  The wedding at Cana would go on to be the gospel lesson for the Communion in one of the early Sundays of the Epiphany season, and in the 20th century the baptism of Jesus began to take over the first Sunday of Epiphanytide also.  But in the modern lectionary that we have in the 2019 Prayer Book, the wedding at Cana in John 2 is no longer a mainstay gospel.  It’s read on the second Sunday in Year C, but not not Years A & B.  Therefore our lectionary makes a point of retaining this story on Epiphany Day itself to make sure it’s still part of our annual observance of Epiphanytide.

The Circumcision & Holy Name of Jesus

It’s January 1st, and you know what that means… it’s the eighth day of Christmas, when our Lord Jesus got circumcised!  Happy Feast of the Circumcision, everybody!  Let’s turn to the Bible:

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:21

Yeah, I’m not kidding.

The handling of this holy day in the 2019 Prayer Book is actually one of the last-minute changes that have proved a pleasant surprise for me to discover.  Last year, as I described it here, the draft texts suggested that this would be the feast of the Holy Name and Circumcision, but in the actual book the order has been switched to Circumcision first, Holy Name second.  This represents a rare recovery of old tradition that had been largely lost in the course of modernist revision.  The 1979 Prayer Book replaced the Circumcision with the Holy Name.  Even the Roman Catholics replaced the Circumcision, in their case with a solemnity of Mary, because apparently they didn’t have enough Marian feasts already, I guess?

If you’re new to the concept of this holy day, or to the idea of circumcision in general, consider checking out this write-up I made two years ago.  Some of its liturgical references are out of date, or non-applicable to the 2019 Prayer Book, but that’s alright, the information is still useful, and Scripture is still Scripture.

So how do we go about celebrating the circumcision of Christ according to the 2019 book?  Let’s start with the Collect of the Day, which should be read last night (Evening Prayer on December 31st) at at Morning Prayer, the Communion service, and Evening Prayer today.

Almighty God, your blessed Son fulfilled the covenant of circumcision for our sake, and was given the Name that is above every name: Give us grace faithfully to bear his Name, and to worship him with pure hearts according to the New Covenant; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

The daily office, sadly, only give us one special reading for this day, where the historic prayer books always had more.  It’s Luke 2:8-21, which is simply the post-birth narrative of Jesus, leading up to his circumcision and naming in verse 21.  This serves as the Gospel lesson at the Communion service as well.  If you follow this customary’s midday prayer supplemental lectionary then you’ll get back one of the historic readings for this feast day, Genesis 17:9-end, in which Abraham first receives the covenant of circumcision from God.

Turning to the Communion lessons, we’ve got Exodus 34:1-9, Psalm 8, Romans 1:1-7, and Luke 2:15-21.  The Gospel is a shorter version of the Evening Prayer lesson already mentioned.  The reading from Exodus 34 tells of the re-establishment of the covenant with Moses during which God declares one form of his name: “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”  Psalm 8 responds with a celebration of how majestic God’s Name is, and Romans 1 opens a striking christological statement.  The line about “the obedience of faith” is a key tie-in with the Old Covenant concept of circumcision, and the call to “belong to Jesus Christ” is a pointer to the New Covenant.

Something that is, perhaps, a missed opportunity, is the Epistle lesson appointed for this day in the classic prayer books, before 1962.  It was Romans 4:8-14, which deals more directly with the question of circumcision and its relation to the justification offered in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

If you have time today, I encourage you to look at the articles and pages linked to in this entry, as they will help you explore and discern the richness of this ‘unlikely’ holiday.

Sirach’s Wisdom anticipates Jesus

We don’t typically have entries on this blog on Sundays; most of the readership is busy on Sunday morning and I don’t want to distract you on the Lord’s Day (or distract myself promoting a post on Facebook or whatnot).  So today we’re looking at something that’s show up in one of tomorrow’s lessons.

At Morning Prayer on December 15th we read Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 51, the final chapter of that long book.  The last chapter and a half, like the prologue, make for great reading because we get to see the author step out from behind the shadows and talk briefly about himself and his work, giving us an unusual amount of insight into the purpose and making of this book – very few biblical writings provide us with such opportunities, the opening verses of Luke and Acts being shorter examples.

Specifically, the very end of chapter 51 has a lovely little wrap-up:

Draw near to me, you who are untaught, and lodge in the house of instruction.
Why do you say you are lacking in these things, and why are your souls very thirsty?

I opened my mouth and said: Get these things for yourselves without money.
Put your neck under the yoke and let your souls receive instruction; it is to be found close by.
See with your eyes that I have labored little and found for myself much rest.
Get instruction with a large sum of silver, and you will gain by it much gold.
May your soul rejoice in his mercy; and my you not be put to shame when you praise him.
Do your works before the appointed time, and in God’s time he will give you your reward.

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 51:22-30

A host of references to other parts of the Bible can be found here.  The first three verses echo Proverbs 1:20-33 and Proverbs 8, in which Wisdom is personified, calling out on the streets to the simple who would come and learn from her.  Ben-Sirach does not depict Wisdom as a woman in this closing poem, but puts himself forth as a sage, one who teaches wisdom to others, but he is clearly well-schooled in Hebrew wisdom given his fluent use of the language of the proverbs in issuing his invitation to learn from the great tradition through him.

He then speaks of learning in terms of a “yoke” and “little” labor.  A little study in wisdom goes a long way!  Our Lord Jesus himself would take up this language from Ben-Sirach when he said “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).  The similarities are remarkable; it’s likely that either this set of images was commonplace in Hebrew teaching language, or Jesus was simply paraphrasing Sirach.

Even the line about paying silver to gain instruction and “much gold” lays the foundation for some of Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of God – the buried treasure, the pearl of great price – the idea that what we have to gain is far greater than what we could ever spend to gain it.

Of course, there is a difference between the wisdom and teaching of Ben-Sirach in his book called Ecclesiasticus, and the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.  The former was a brilliant compiler of the Hebrew wisdom tradition and well-schooled in the grand sweet of the Hebrew Bible, able to write of the great heroes of the faith from Enoch in the mists of the past all the way to Simon the High Priest who saw the consummation of the Maccabean rebellion.  If there was no New Testament, this book could almost be treated as the capstone for the entire Hebrew Bible.  But we do have a New Testament, and we do have Jesus the awaited Messiah, or Christ.  As effective a teacher as Ben-Sirach was, he was not God-in-the-flesh.  As Christians, we turn to Jesus to show us the perfect way to understand the Old Testament.

In the meantime, it’s great to see moments like this, in chapter 51, where Ben-Sirach’s stand so clearly and brightly between the Old Testament and the New.  (This is why this book, with the other Ecclesiastical Books, belongs between the Testaments in print, unlike its strange placement in the new one from Anglican Liturgy Press.)