FROM THE RECTOR: HIS ABSENCE AND OUR JOURNEY
A footnote (and the wonders of the Internet) led me to read an article that I don't think I had seen before, "The Real Absence: A Note on the Eucharist" by Canon Donald Gray, a retired and distinguished senior priest of the Church of England (Worship 44 [January 1970, 20-26]). Concerning Christ's eucharistic presence he writes, "The real presence is accompanied by a real absence which summons the people of God into the future and to definitive presence in the ultimate future" (page 26). Gray suggests that our worship is more shaped by our faith in the final destiny of individuals and of humankind than by our past.
Matthew is all about the future, too. Matthew shapes his narrative around five sermons, the longest and best known is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29). The gospels for last Sunday and this Sunday, July 2, are taken from the second sermon in Matthew, the Mission Sermon, Matthew 10:5-42. In Matthew, Jesus' twelve apostles have the same mission as Jesus himself has had since his baptism. They are to preach that "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 10:7). They are to, "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons" (Matthew 10:8). They are to be poor, have no possessions except for the clothes and sandals they are wearing. They will not bring peace. They will suffer. Jesus declares his presence with them on their mission. He says, "He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me" (Matthew 10:40).
When Matthew was writing, he and his community of faith knew Jesus' presence and Jesus' absence. The urgency one senses in his narrative about mission, as well as an urgency about keeping God's commandments, reflects the expectation of the first generation of Christians that Christ would come soon to bring believers to the life of the world to come. In Matthew the present is very much shaped by an awareness of the future and of the judgment to come to all people.
What awareness is God calling us to as individuals and as Episcopal Christians? I don't expect the parousia (the return of Christ-from the Greek meaning "presence" or "arrival"). I do know I will die. For the moment, I want to look more to the future than to the past. I want my experience of the Eucharist
to be much more focused on the bread of life than on Calvary. The longer I live, the last words of the Nicene Creed, "the life of the world to come," mean more to me than they did when I was younger. Faith draws me into awareness of the real absence and the real presence in my life of deceased parents, family, friends, and people for whom I have had the privilege to serve as a pastor.
For all of the problems I find in Matthew (subjects for another day), there are passages unique to this gospel that have been important for me through my adult Christian life. My very favorite parable is that of the merchant in search of fine pearls, who on finding one of great value, goes and sells all that he has to buy it (Matthew 13:45-46). I'm still looking for treasure that is new and old (Matthew 13:52). Thank you, Jesus. -Stephen Gerth
OUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Pearl, Brian, Michael, Eugenia, David, Sandy, Leroy, Dick, Mary, Adam, Caryn, Cookie, Irene, Brian, Karen, Ivy, Pat, Peggy, Vera, Cathy, Grady, Mike, May, Marahl, Heidi, Takeem, Barbara, Jean, Dennis, and George; for Horace, Mitties, Ross, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, and Edgar, priests; for all victims of war, persecution, poverty, famine, violence, and disaster; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . July 2: 1941 Estelle Amanda Masles; 1974 Laura H. Malone.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Tuesday, July 4, Independence Day, Federal Holiday Schedule. The church opens at 10:00 AM and closes at 2:00 PM. Only the noonday services are offered. The parish offices are closed. Only the noonday twelve-step meetings will take place . . . Friday, July 7, 6:30 PM, Centering Prayer Group, Atrium, Parish Hall, Second Floor.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The parish choir of All Saints' Church, Austin, Texas, directed by Gregory Eaton, sang the service last Sunday, June 25. The choir sang beautifully. Gregory has played recitals here in the past, but this was the first time that he'd played a service. We are very grateful to him and to the choir of All Saints' . . . Many thanks to the servers who were able to be here for the Evening Sung Masses for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist and the Feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul . . . Father Jay Smith will be on vacation and away from the parish until Tuesday, July 25. During that time, for administrative issues and to make additions to the prayer list, please call the parish office. For pastoral issues, please contact Father Gerth or Father Jim Pace . . . Reminder: the summer high altar frontal is out for conservation . . . Attendance: Nativity of John 46; Last Sunday 157; Peter and Paul 47.
A FRIENDLY REMINDER . . . We urge all members and friends of the parish who have made a pledge for 2017 to try to remain current on their pledge payments, since we often experience cash-flow problems during the summer months. We are grateful to all those who continue to support Saint Mary's so generously.
SAINT MARY'S CENTERING PRAYER GROUP. . . A new Centering Prayer Group h as begun here at the parish. The Group meets on Fridays from 6:30-8:00 PM, following Evening Prayer, in the Atrium on the second floor of the Parish House. (Entrance is via Saint Joseph's Hall or 145 West Forty-sixth Street.) Centering Prayer, "prayer without words," is a contemplative-prayer method that is intended to develop one's relationship with God. No experience is required to begin; if interested, individual instruction can be provided-simply contact one of the Group's coordinators. An introductory workshop will be held in the fall. If you do have questions or would like more information, contact co-coordinators Ingrid Sletten or Blair Burroughs.
ABOUT THE MUSIC . . . On Sunday, July 2, we begin singing Glory to God in the highest, Holy, holy, holy Lord, and Jesus, Lamb of God from Communion Service, Opus 72 (London, 1976) by William Mathias (1934-1992). Mathias was professor of music and head of the music department at the University of Wales from 1970 to 1980. One of the notable composers of his generation, he was asked to compose an anthem for the 1981 wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. He retired from teaching in 1988 to work fulltime as a composer. He was widely acclaimed for his compositions for church and for his secular works. He died at the age of 57, survived by his wife, his daughter, and an acclaimed body of work. During the ministration of Communion cantor Chris Howatt will sing a setting by Richard Hundley (b. 1931) of a passage from the Song of Songs, "Arise my love."
HOMELESS MINISTRY. . . Drop-in Days are now being planned for July 28, August 18, and September 8. If you would like to volunteer, please contact Marie Rosseels, José Vidal, or Father Jay Smith . . . Our new Clothes Closet for the homeless and others in need has been quite successful, so successful in fact that we hope to receive donations of new or lightly used clothing items for distribution. Warm-weather items are particularly needed at the moment, but we are happy to receive winter clothing as well. We also welcome donations of the following items: toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant, hand wipes, wash cloths, blankets, socks, and unopened packets of underwear for both men and women. Thank you so much to all those, both near and far, who have been supporting this ministry . . . We continue to received donations of non-perishable food items for our outreach partner, Saint Clement's Food Pantry. Please leave those items in the basket near the ushers' table in the back of the church before Mass. We will deliver them, and some clothing items, to Saint Clement's. -Sister Monica Clare
DONATIONS FOR ALTAR FLOWERS . . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowers for the following Sundays and holy days: July 9 and 23, August 6 (Transfiguration), August 20 and 27, and all the Sundays in September. If you would like to make a donation, please contact the parish office at 212-869-5830 or by e-mail. We are grateful to all those who support the ministry of the Flower Guild so faithfully.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Tuesday, July 25, Saint James the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Sunday, August 6, The Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Mass 9:00 AM and 10:00 AM, Solemn Mass 11:00 AM . . . Tuesday, August 15, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Morning Prayer 8:30 AM, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM, Solemn Mass 6:00 PM, Reception 7:30 PM.