FROM THE RECTOR: MORE SCRIPTURE
Joseph, the one with the coat of many colors, and his family were not the first Hebrews to sojourn in Egypt. After God led Abram, later Abraham, to leave his father's land to go to Canaan, there was a famine. So, he headed to Egypt. As they entered that country, he told Sarai, later Sarah, his wife and half-sister, to say to the Egyptians that she was his sister, but not his wife (Genesis 12:10-20). Later, Abraham does this again with other people. The second time, Sarah will be spared sexual relations (Genesis 20:1-18).
On Saturday, January 21, 2017, the eve of the Third Sunday after the Epiphany, we will hear the first of these two stories. The Daily Office Lectionary omits the second. Often one can just add an omitted story, but it would be very difficult to include the second, longer, story because of the length of the lessons on the days when it would be read.
New Testament scholar Derek Olsen has a special interest in the intersection of Scripture and worship. I've known him and his wife, the Reverend Meredith Kefauver Olsen, now rector of Saint Barnabas Church, Sykesville, Maryland, since she was a student at the General Theological Seminary. Derek also was a server and reader at evening weekday services while they were in New York, and until recently he served on the church's Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music. He begins his book Reading Matthew with Monks: Liturgical Interpretation in Anglo-Saxon England (2015) by writing about "hermeneutics," that is, the discipline that explores the "what, why, and how" and the "with whom" we encounter Scripture (pages 1-2). Olsen's words about "with whom" grabbed me. I know I think about Scripture differently because I hear it read by others at Daily Morning and Evening Prayer. I also know that I've become more comfortable with hearing Scripture that comes to us as "The Word of the Lord" but surely is not always a complete revelation of God's purposes.
It's wonderful to be with others when hearing something powerful like the story of the raising of Lazarus and Jesus' words at Lazarus' grave, "Unbind him, and let him go" (John 11: 44). Sometimes it is very hard to hear the stories of the Bible. One wonders, how many children did God have killed when the walls of Jericho came tumbling down (Joshua 6:1-27)? We read all of the New Testament at the Daily Offices at Saint Mary's, which is permitted, but not required, and a great deal more of the Old Testament than is required. The more one hears, reads, and studies Scripture, the greater its invitation is to honesty about what the Bible says and doesn't say-and the greater the invitation from God to be honest both with God and with others.
Let me give credit for one decision made by the committee that put together the Episcopal Church version of the new Revised Common Lectionary. On the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany-this year, February 12-the 1979 lectionary omits several verses from Matthew's gospel; and so we do not hear Jesus say the following words:
"It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery" (Matthew 5:31-32).
Why do so many Christians take the hard words of Matthew's Jesus about divorce and remarriage literally and respond with anxiety, while simply dismissing his hard words about cutting off a hand (Matthew 5:30)? Just this morning I heard a New Testament admonition for slaves to obey their masters well (Ephesians 6:5-8). My point is not that we should heed every one of Jesus' commands unthinkingly. It is that we should be honest about what we find in Scripture and take the work of interpretation seriously.
The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity closes with the Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle on Wednesday, January 25. Paul wrote, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1). I do not think there will be any progress in healing the significant divisions among Christians until the much harder words of Matthew's Jesus, addressed to the rule-bound Pharisees of his day, receive much more attention than they do today, "Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 9:13). Unity is a matter of hermeneutics and of truth. -Stephen Gerth
OUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Elsa, Paula, John, Jerry, Shawna, Andrew, Alexander, May, Claudette, Rocco, Krystal, Robert, Nicole, Heidi, Barbara, Jean, Catherine, Sharon, Donald, Linda, George, Burton, Takeem, Toussaint, Dennis, Abraham; Sidney, deacon; Horace, Hamilton, Gaylord, Harry, Louis, and Edgar, priests; all victims of war, poverty, famine, and disaster; the repose of the soul of Julie Sandri; and the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Mark . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . January 21: 1929 Jessie Chapman Stewart; 1937 Charlotte S. Willsie; 1977 Edward Parker Amos.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
MASS OF THE RESURRECTION . . . A Mass of the Resurrection for parishioner Julie Sandri will be celebrated in the church on Saturday, January 21, at 2:00 PM. A reception follows in Saint Joseph's Hall.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Saturday, January 21, 8:00 PM, Miller Theatre at Saint Mary's, New York Polyphony, Palestrina's "Marcellus Mass." Tickets may be purchased online . . . Adult Forum: The Adult Forum continues on Sunday, January 22, at 10:00 AM, in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. Dr. Charles Morgan will lead the class in the second part of his three-part series on anger . . . Wednesday, January 25, The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle, Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM. This is the conclusion of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on January 25 at 7:00 PM in the Nursery, following the Evening Mass. The class will not meet on Wednesday, February 1, the Eve of the Presentation of Our Lord.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The sisters have been away from the parish this week. They've been at the convent in Mendham, taking part in the Community of Saint John Baptist's "Long Retreat." The retreat has been led by Father John Beddingfield, former curate here at Saint Mary's. Father Beddingfield is the rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, Eighty-eighth Street. The sisters will have returned to New York on Friday, January 20 . . . The Rector will be away on behalf of the parish from Tuesday morning, January 24. He will return on Thursday, January 26 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 188.
SUPER BOWL PARTY . . . Super Bowl 51 will take place on Sunday, February 5, 2017, beginning at 6:30 PM EST. Once again, we will mark the occasion with a party in Saint Joseph's Hall. Beverages will be provided. Dinner is potluck. Please contact Father Smith or Grace Bruni if you are planning to come to the party and are able to bring a dish to share. We will not have an oven available for warming dishes up, so we would ask you to plan accordingly. Cash donations at the door will be accepted in order to cover the costs of food and beverages. Please be generous! The hospitality budget needs your help! Remember: you don't need to know anything about football to come to the party. Come for the fellowship, the comfort food, and the half-time show!
HOSPITALITY MINISTRY . . . The Budget Committee and the Board of Trustees expects that we will need to raise around $4,000.00 in 2017 in order to supplement the funds allotted in the budget for hospitality. Our hospitality efforts include Sunday Coffee Hours and Evensong receptions, holy-day receptions, and special events such as Quiet Days, Oktoberfest, the Super Bowl Party, and birthday and anniversary celebrations. Since we welcome so many visitors to the parish, the hospitality ministry is crucial to what we do and who we are. If all our members and friends were to make a regular donation to this ministry, we would easily cover our shortfall. No donation is too small! If you make a donation by check, please include the words "Hospitality Ministry" in the memo line. We are grateful to all those who continue to support this ministry.
OUR ALTAR SERVERS . . . January 22 is the feast of Saint Vincent of Saragossa. For somewhat arbitrary reasons, Saint Vincent is the patron of this parish's Guild of Acolytes. As all who worship here soon realize, the ministry of acolyte is an essential one here at Saint Mary's. The expertise of our acolytes and the care with which they fulfill their ministry helps us all to worship. Take a moment and thank your local acolyte this month! And please keep our acolytes in your prayers. If you think you might like to serve at the altar, please speak to Father Gerth.
FROM DR. DAVID HURD . . . The setting of the Mass on Sunday morning is Missa Tu es Petrus by Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525-1594). Palestrina, like J. S. Bach (1685-1750) at a later time, is a composer who is regarded today more as source and inspiration for what came later than as the product of already established musical practice. However, it may be said that Palestrina stood on foundations largely laid by the Netherlandish composers Guillaume Dufay (c. 1397-1474) and Josquin des Prez (c. 1450-1521). Palestrina is responsible for setting the canons for Renaissance polyphony and the standard for Catholic liturgical music that pertains to this day. Among his hundreds of compositions are 105 Masses, most of which were published in thirteen volumes between 1554 and 1601. The Missa Tu es Petrus is based upon a motet of the same name, for the feast of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, from Palestrina's motet collection of 1572. Both the motet and the Mass that evolved from it are set for six-voices (SSATBB) and convey a bright energy.
The French composer and organist Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986) was steeped in liturgical chant from his childhood as a chorister at the Rouen Cathedral choir school. He first entered the Paris Conservatory in 1920, becoming Professor of Harmony in 1943, a position he retained for nearly thirty years. He is remembered for his lifelong association with the stunningly beautiful church of St. Étienne-du-Mont, Paris, where he was named titular organist in 1929. The first of his Quatre motets sur des thèmes grégoriens (1960) is his setting of the Maundy Thursday antiphon Ubi caritas, sung today during the Administration of Communion. This setting, elegant in its expressive simplicity, has become the virtual default choral setting of this text in our time.
Sunday's organ voluntaries also are both compositions of Maurice Duruflé. Prélude sur l'introït de l'epiphanie quotes the plainsong introit chant for Epiphany and dates from 1961. The Fugue, Opus 12, dates from 1962. These two pieces, released later than the large organ works for which Duruflé is best remembered, are both finely crafted works exhibiting the composer's textural refinement and conservatively distinctive harmonic pallet. -David Hurd
ADULT EDUCATION. . . The Adult Forum continues on Sunday, January 22, with Dr. Charles Morgan leading a three-part series (January 15, 22, and 29), Dealing with the Hard Stuff: Talking about Anger. Charles is a member of the parish and a practicing psychiatrist. Last season he led several sessions on dying, death, and grief in the "Dealing with the Hard Stuff" series . . . Coming Up: On February 5, Father Smith will lead a session, following up on Dr. Morgan's series on anger. After that, Dr. Matthew Jacobson will teach a series of classes on the development of hagiography-the lives of the martyrs and other saints-in the early church. In Lent, Father Pete Powell will continue his class on the Acts of the Apostles; and, during Eastertide, Deacon Rebecca Weiner Tompkins will present a series of classes entitled "Rising/Rose/Risen: Readings on Resurrection from Scripture into Poetry" . . . Wednesday Night Bible Study Class . . . The class will meet on January 25 at 7:00 PM. The class will not meet on February 1, the Eve of the Presentation. The class will meet on February 8 at 6:30 PM. The class will not meet on February 15, when Father Smith is away from the parish. The class will meet on February 22 at 6:30 PM.
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . Retreat at Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, New York, Friday, February 3-Sunday, February 5, 2017. Led by Masud Syedullah, TSSF, & Garrett Mettler. From the monastery website, "In these days when hate speech and acts of violence are all too common, many find themselves fearful and with a sense of helplessness. We don't have to be. As followers of Christ, Jesus calls us to be peacemakers and reconcilers, just as he was. This retreat aims to reinforce our trust in and dedication to the peacemaking work of Christ. Through prayer, reflection on scripture, and times of silence, participants will have opportunities to personally tap into that 'peace that surpasses all understanding.' Furthermore, they will consider ways to create safe and constructive dialogue among those who have not had much positive conversation with each other regarding race, politics, class, or religion. And to help put faith into practice, they will be empowered with methods to use in their relationships and communities for positive responses to violence. Cost: $300; deposit: $80. West Park is on the west side of the Hudson River, across from Hyde Park, about a 10-15 minute drive from Poughkeepsie, New York, the last stop on the Metro-North's Hudson line. More information can be found online.
LIFE IS A CABARET. . . Chris Howatt is our parish business manager. He is also a member of the parish choir and a very talented musician. Last fall, Chris performed his cabaret show, "Hear My Song," at Don't Tell Mama, right here in the Times Square neighborhood. From the show's flyer: "Long known as a music director for theater and cabaret, Christopher Howatt steps out from behind the piano and into the spotlight in this hour-long show, including the music of Stephen Schwartz, Steven Sondheim, Jerome Kern, Jason Robert Brown and others." Chris has been asked back to do an encore of the show on Sunday, January 22, at 3:00 PM. Don't Tell Mama is at 343 West Forty-sixth Street, between Eight and Ninth Avenues. The cover charge is $15.00, with a two-drink minimum. Cash only. A review of the show is available online.
CONCERTS AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Saturday, February 4, 7:30 PM (doors open at 7:00 PM), The Trident Ensemble presents "Crossroads: Music from Georgia." From the ensemble's website: "Surrounded by the Black Sea, situated between Europe and Asia, the nation of Georgia lies at a meeting point between West and East. Having survived occupations by the Mongols, the Ottoman Empire, Iran, and even annexation by Russia in the 1800s, the country maintains a completely unique language, alphabet, culture, and musical practice. Join Trident as we explore the rich history and polyphonic tradition of Georgia, from folk music to contemporary classical a cappella repertoire." Tickets may be purchased online . . . Saturday, February 11, 8:00 PM, New York Repertory Orchestra. Program includes music by Pfitzner, Ravel, and Bruch. Admission is free. A donation at the door is encouraged. More information is available online.
ORGAN RECITALS AT SAINT MARY'S . . . Thursday, February 2, 5:30 PM, Gregory Eaton, All Saints' Episcopal Church, Austin, TX; Friday, March 24, 5:30 PM, Richard Robertson, Church of the Holy Ghost, Denver, CO; Sunday, April 16, 4:30 PM, Timothy Pyper, Williamstown, MA; Thursday, May 25, 5:30 PM, David Hurd, organist and music director.
LOOKING AHEAD . . . Wednesday, January 25, The Conversion of Saint Paul the Apostle. The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity ends . . . Wednesday, February 1, Eve of the Presentation, Solemn Evensong 6:00 PM . . . Thursday, February 2, The Presentation, Mass 12:10 PM, Organ Recital 5:30 PM and Solemn Mass 6:00 PM . . . Friday, February 3, Saint Blase, Blessing of Throats 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . March 1, Ash Wednesday . . . Sunday, March 12, Daylight Saving Time begins . . . Fridays in Lent, Stations of the Cross 6:30 PM.
Click here for this week's schedule