FROM THE RECTOR: JOSEPH WEPT
At this point in my life I am only a little surprised when I hear or read something new in the Bible. It’s been happening on and off for years now, and that’s not because I haven’t basically heard or read almost all of it before. This week’s surprise: Joseph wept when he heard his brothers talking about him.
Genesis and Exodus are read during Lent every year at the Daily Office at either Morning or Evening Prayer—this year in the evening. Right now, we are hearing the last narrative in Genesis, the story of Joseph and the going down into Egypt of the Hebrew people. The famine about which Pharaoh dreamed has gripped Egypt and the world beyond. Joseph has become the overseer of Egypt. All who wish to buy grain must come to him. When the famine is bad enough in Palestine, Jacob sends ten of his sons to Egypt to buy grain, but keeps Joseph’s youngest brother Benjamin behind with him.
For many years as a preacher I’ve wished it had been possible for this series of readings to be structured so that the moment Joseph reveals himself to the brothers who had sold him into slavery would be read on a Sunday—it will be read this week on Tuesday of the third week of Lent. At this climactic moment, this is how the story unfolds:
Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him; and he cried, "Make every one go out from me." So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept aloud, so that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. And Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph; is my father still alive?” (Genesis 45:1–3a).
This is a scene I remember very clearly. But it turns out this was not the first time in the story that the presence of Joseph’s family made him weep. Early on, when his brothers are speaking among themselves in Hebrew about the sin they committed by selling Joseph into slavery, unknown to them Joseph could understand them. And understanding, he has to turn away because he begins to weep (Genesis 42:24). As the story continues, when Benjamin arrives, and before the scene where he makes himself known, Joseph has to hurry to his chamber. He is overcome with emotion, and he weeps (Genesis 43:30).
“Jesus wept” is one of the most well-known phrases in the New Testament (John 12:35)—it’s Jesus’ response to seeing the tomb of his friend Lazarus. If the English of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible is correct, the first time anyone is said to weep in the Bible is a child born outside of marriage. It’s the story of the infant son of Abraham and his concubine Hagar, Ishmael.
After Abraham’s wife Sarah gives birth to Isaac, Sarah sees her son and Ishmael playing together. Sarah insists that Abraham send Hagar and Ishmael away—and he gives in to Sarah. In the wilderness, when there is no more water Hagar puts her son under the bushes and goes apart from him. She prays, “Let me not look upon the death of the child” (Genesis 21:16). God himself hears the cry of the child. Suddenly there is water for them and the promise that the boy will be the father of a great nation (Genesis 21:18).
Twice in the Revelation to John we read that God himself will wipe away the tears of those he brings into the heavenly city (Revelation 7:17; 8:21:4). In the first and last books of the Bible, tears are real. They spring from love. The revelation of eternal life in Jesus Christ does not tell us why there must be tears and, worse, evil in this world; but it takes us to a reality beyond time where the question does not need or want an answer. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Gerald, who is gravely ill; and Penny, David, Clark, Dennis, Angel, Anna, Dee, John, Sean, Emily, Ben, Charlie, Vera, Abalda, Linda, Eric, Barbara, McNeil, Takeem, Arpene, Paulette, priest, Patrick, priest, and Harry, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty; and for the repose of the souls of Margaret Powers and Keith Johnson, priest . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . March 8: 1916 Julia Allen Draper Kent; 1947 Howard Noble Place.
THE ORDINARY WEEKDAYS OF LENT are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial. The Fridays of Lent are also observed traditionally by abstinence from flesh meats. Abstinence is not observed on Sundays in Lent (or on the Feast of Saint Joseph, March 19, or the Annunciation, March 25).
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Friday, March 6, Evening Prayer 6:00 PM & Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM . . . Sunday, March 8, Daylight Saving Time begins . . . Sunday, March 8, 10:00 AM, Adult Forum: Father Peter Powell continues his class on the Gospel of John . . . TheWednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on March 11 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, March 7, by Father Stephen Gerth, and on Saturday, March 14 by Father James Pace.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Parishioner Gerald McKelvey has been in Mount Sinai hospital for many weeks now, following surgery at the end of 2014. He is gravely ill. Please keep him and his wife, Maria-Liisa in your prayers . . . Flowers are needed for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 15. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office . . . The Flower Guild is beginning to make plans for Holy Week and Easter. If you would like to volunteer to help decorate the church for Easter, please speak to Marie Rosseels or Chris LaCass . . . Father Jay Smith will be away on vacation from Monday, March 2, until Sunday, March 8. He returns to the office on Monday, March 9 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 190.
CONCERT AT SAINT MARY’S . . . The new Saint Cecilia Chamber Music Series in Saint Joseph’s Hall has been a great success this year. We’ve discovered the acoustical qualities of the room. We’ve been able to use our beautiful new piano; and we’ve been able to hear a wide range of music, both vocal and instrumental, serious and light-hearted, old and new, and all in an intimate setting before enthusiastic audiences. Please join us on Monday, March 16, at 7:30 PM, for the next offering in the series: Music for Two: Robin Frye & Robert Motsby, with Douglas Drake at the piano, in a program of music by Schumann, Finzi, Montsalvatge, and selections from the musical Carousel. A donation at the door to support our music program is encouraged. For more information, please contact Mark Peterson.
MUSIC THIS WEEK . . . Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548–1611) has provided the splendid Mass settings for many of the feast days we’ve celebrated here at Saint Mary’s, but this amazing priest-composer was equally adept at providing simpler, “ordinary” settings for the Mass, such as his Missa Quarti toni, which we hear this morning. There is a compactness and completeness to his work that suits our style of liturgy. There is an understanding of vocal line and interior construction that particularly suits our type of choir. But there is also a specialization to this music which is strictly liturgical and completely devotional in character, making it perfectly suited to its purpose and totally in accord with the requirements of the Tridentine Rite. Since Victoria was by profession both priest and musician, it is not surprising that he wrote only sacred music, but it should never be thought that all of his music was somber. Here is music which is at once joyful, passionately expressive and engaging, yet completely indicative of a mature faith. At the ministration of Holy Communion, we will hear a lovely motet, O let me tread in the right path, by Englishman, John Ward (c. 1557–1643), a little known composer sometimes confused with a later John Ward, one-time chorister at Canterbury Cathedral. —Mark Peterson
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class: The class resumes on March 11, and we will begin our reading at Isaiah 23 . . . On the remaining Sundays in Lent (March 8, 15, 22 & 29) Father Pete Powell will continue his series on The Gospel of John. Part of the discussion in the class will focus on discipleship and the ways in which the Gospel of John helps one to understand the life of the disciple . . . During Eastertide (April 19, 26, and May 3), Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will be leading the class, once again, in a discussion of the links between theology and the arts: “And the angel said, ‘Be not afraid’ ”: God’s Ministering Messengers, From Scripture through the Arts and Literature. All the Sunday-morning adult-education classes begin at 10:00 AM and are held in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. —Jay Smith
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Thursday, March 19, Saint Joseph, Mass 12:10 and 6:20 PM . . . Wednesday, March 25, The Annunciation, Sung Mass 12:10 PM; Solemn Pontifical Mass 6:00 PM, The Right Reverend Allen K. Shin, bishop suffragan of New York.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . At the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA), 1865 Broadway at 61st Street, Renaissance Masterpieces from Florence Cathedral, February 20–June 14, 2015, Sculpture in the Age of Donatello. “Twenty-three masterpieces of early Florentine Renaissance sculpture—most never seen outside Italy—will be exhibited at MOBIA as the centerpiece of the Museum’s tenth anniversary season. MOBIA will be the sole world-wide venue for this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition. These works—by Donatello, Brunelleschi, Nanni di Banco, Luca della Robbia and others—were made in the first decades of the fifteenth century for Florence Cathedral (Il Duomo), which was then in the last phase of its construction, and are figural complements to Brunelleschi’s soaring dome, conveying an analogous sense of courage and human potential. Like the dome, these statues of prophets and saints express the spiritual tension of a faith-driven humanism destined to transform Western culture.” The American Bible Society has sold the building where MOBIA is located, and the museum will be closing at the end of June, at least temporarily. The Museum has not yet announced when or where it might reopen. A review of the show recently appeared in the New York Times.