Many liturgists suggest women are underrepresented in the Lectionary. Patriarchy was the rule of so many cultures of the ancient Middle East, and this continued into Christian Europe.
Deep in the Pentateuch, we have an opportunity to observe our spiritual forebears at a moment of death. What do we see? First, a husband mourns for a deceased wife. Then a business transaction by an unfranchised immigrant (hence the omission of verses 5 through 16). In the end, Sarah’s body is laid to rest in the land that will one day be the nation of Israel. So there is a sense of movement toward a future the readers and listeners know. Perhaps we Christians too can look upon death and burial as a placement into a future promised land
(Sarah) died in Kiriath-arba—now Hebron—
in the land of Canaan,
and Abraham proceeded to mourn and weep for her.
Then he left the side of his deceased wife
and addressed the Hittites:
“Although I am a resident alien among you,
sell me from your holdings a burial place,
that I may bury my deceased wife.”
Thus Ephron’s field in Machpelah, facing Mamre,
together with its cave
and all the trees anywhere within its limits,
was conveyed to Abraham by purchase
in the presence of the Hittites,
all who entered the gate of Ephron’s city.
After this, Abraham buried his wife Sarah
in the cave of the field of Machpelah,
facing Mamre—now Hebron—in the land of Canaan.
- This isn’t a Roman Lectionary option. It doesn’t appear in the funeral rites of other churches as far as my experience tells me.
- Some mourners choose readings because of an association in the Bible with their feelings. Sarah was mourned in her death by a husband and if one reads ahead into chapter 24, her son was also deeply grieved by the loss of his mother.
- The details of Genesis 23 lend themselves to visualizing the scene, even to the description of a burial site with a field, cave, and trees.
- The most obvious choice would be to use this reading with the death of a wife. If the parish or mourners are as literally inclined, possibly not with cremated remains.