Genesis 37:1-41:13 We begin close to four weeks with Joseph and his family. After Cain & Abel, Esau & Jacob, etc. what happens this time around? For the post-Moses/Exodus audience, Egypt is a freighted setting: Abram gets out by the skin of his teeth (Gen 12:10ff); what will happen to Joseph?
For Gen 37, recall that Rachel, Joseph’s mother, dies in Gen 35. Recalling the crucial role of mothers in protecting their sons (Sarah and Isaac, Rebekah and Jacob), her absence leaves Joseph vulnerable in multiple ways.
The Lectionary omits, oddly, Gen 38. It’s worth reading in sequence not only because Tamar appears in Jesus’ genealogy (Mt 1:3), but also because it increases the dramatic tension (what will happen to Joseph?) and because it provides a counterpoint to the action in both Gen 37 (37:32-33//38:25-26) and Gen 39 (Potiphar’s wife’s and Tamar’s choices). In passing, 38:26 presents Tamar’s actions as an important model of what it means to be a tsaddiq (to be righteous). (By the way, 39:19: why does Potiphar become enraged?)
1 Corinthians 1:1-4:7 Murphy-O’Connor recalls the Greco/Roman proverb “Not for everyone is the voyage to Corinth,” i.e., “only the tough survived at Corinth” (New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible I.734). Paul, having planted a church there, is now working on the more difficult task of ongoing conversion (we are in Lent, after all): which survival skills need to be modified or simply jettisoned? What does Christ crucified do to our easy assumptions about what counts as wisdom or folly?
Mark 1:1-3:6 The Phariseestend tofare badly in the Christian imaginations, so it’s worth noticing that of all the groups the Gospels identify (the Herodians, the Sadducees, the Zealots, etc.) it’s only the Pharisees that Jesus bothers arguing with. The Pharisees—very roughly—a lay renewal movement that asked how holiness could be freed from the temple precincts to transform daily (secular) life. So when the Pharisees get it wrong, it’s likely that they’re getting it wrong in ways that anticipate the ways Christians will get it wrong. They can serve as a mirror, and in Lent mirrors aren’t bad things to have. Since the Lectionary has juxtaposed these chapters of Genesis and Mark, consider Tamar and Jesus as two paradigmatic tsaddiqs. How do they deal with the choices and demands the powerful around them are making?