Re the Daily Office Readings June 2 Anno Domini 2020

Death chasing a flock of mortals by James Ensor

The Readings: Ecclesiastes 2:16-26; Galatians 1:18––2:10; Matthew 13:53-58

Death is a deal-breaker in Ecclesiastes, but not in Proverbs. Why? Part of the answer may lie in the difference between the worlds implied in the two books. Here are a couple characteristic contrasts:

“The memory of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.” (Prov. 10:7)

“For there is no enduring remembrance of the wise or of fools.” (Eccl. 2:16a)

“Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray.” (Prov. 22:6)

“I hated all my toil in which I had toiled under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to those who come after me — and who knows whether they will be wise or foolish?”  (Eccl. 2:18-19a)

And with the social world becoming less stable, the sense of self links less to the multi-generational community, more to the individual—which can also shift perceptions of what counts as justice. Jeremiah: “In those days they shall no longer say: ‘The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But all shall die for their own sins; the teeth of everyone who eats sour grapes shall be set on edge” (31:29-30).

The world of Proverbs may feel like a more comfortable world— “Nice work if you can get it”—but it’s Ecclesiastes that sets death up as the enemy, with its conqueror not yet on the horizon.

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