From the Rector: Matthew’s Gospel
It’s easy for me to have lots of arguments with Saint Matthew’s Gospel. I have particular difficulties with “Ask, and it will be given you” (Matthew 7:7) – people still pray daily for innocents to be spared suffering and these prayers go unanswered – and “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:28) – perfection is not possible. I’m not a biblical scholar but it seems to me that Matthew is never able to resolve the plain contradiction between his recounting of many of Jesus’ words and the reality he, Matthew, knew. Finally, Matthew just leaps to the most important thing that he did know, Jesus died and is risen.
This liturgical year (Year A) we read Matthew’s Gospel. (We have a three-year cycle. Mark is read in Year B, Luke in Year C. John is read in Eastertide, Good Friday, some great festivals and fills out Year B – Mark being shorter than Matthew and Luke.) Even our very questionable custom of celebrating the first Sunday in October as a Feast of Dedication (convenient for the choir season – questionable if not a little ridiculous because the church was dedicated on December 12, 1895; historically, this provision for the first Sunday in October was for parishes so ancient that they don’t know when their buildings were consecrated) will not free us from Matthew this year. In the middle of so much that doesn’t make sense, there is another leap, if you will, that holds it together for me. Matthew believes God is present and active always in human lives, even to the end of the ages.
I deal with Matthew by associating us human beings directly with the suffering and rising Christ. Reality: Everyone is not clothed and fed in this world by the Father, then or now. Even Matthew knows that God doesn’t always act to care for children. Jesus would not have had to warn adults not to cause children to sin if the Father were taking care of it all (Matthew 18:5-6). Reality: People murder other people, then and now. Reality: Governments have not changed so very much from the time when the people of Israel rejected God as being their king and told Samuel they wanted a king like other nations (1 Samuel 8). I do believe that I live in Christ and Christ lives in me through the power of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 2:1).
Curiously, much of Matthew’s Gospel has had a powerful hold on me since childhood. But the Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers who taught me a great deal of the Bible were never much help in resolving its contradictions. My best memory: When I was in ninth grade I remember one teacher being rather upset when I asked (truly in innocence) what did us Baptists use for communion before Thomas Bramwell Welch invented grape juice. The teacher told me she thought I might be happier going to another church – and indeed she was right! (Another curiosity is that grape juice was in fact invented for communion. This use did not take off quickly – his own congregation famously rejected it – but grape juice communion spread with the temperance movement until it has become standard among almost all American Protestants, Episcopalians being a notable exception).
Matthew did speak to me of the way the world was supposed to be. We were made for a world where all are fed and all are welcome. We were made for life not for suffering, for communion and community not to be alone. It is often observed that Matthew’s Gospel is shaped by a Hebrew context. He includes many passages from the Hebrew Scriptures to tell the Good News. Perhaps more than this, Matthew tries to address the same issues that have been so hard for us human beings since the beginning. This gospel is another run at the truths that occupied the account of Adam and Eve.
If it’s been a while since you’ve read Matthew’s Gospel or if you have never read it, take an hour and read it. There’s nothing wrong at all with using a short book of the Bible as summer reading. There are lots of translations available. I recommend using the one we use for the liturgy at Saint Mary’s, the Revised Standard Version. (It’s not a perfect translation but that’s a subject for another newsletter.) The edition you should buy is “The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha” from Oxford University Press. Again, I think you want the “Revised Standard Version” and not the “New Revised Standard Version”.
I invite you to try to discover what touches your life most when you read Matthew. Is it the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:27) or the Great Judgment when Jesus says to his own, “I was hungry and you gave me food” (Matthew 25:25a)? Or is it Jesus’ Summary of the Law, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40)? Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for William and Maggie who are hospitalized and for Lloyd, Mikhail, Deborah, Henry, Charlton, Virginia, William, Mary, Virginia, Tony, Ibo, Penn, Gilbert, Robert, Gloria, Marion, Mamie, Rick, Hobart, priest, Thomas, priest and Charles, priest; for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Joseph, Timothy, Christopher, David, Nestor, Freddie, Derrick, Christina and Barbara. . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . June 26: 1985 Kenneth Mealy.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Zechariah 9:9-12, Psalm 145:8-14, Romans 7:21--8:6, Matthew 11:25-30. . . Father Beddingfield will be the celebrant and preacher for the 9:00 AM and the 5:20 PM Masses. Father Gerth will be the celebrant and preacher for the 10:00 AM Sung Mass and the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass . . . On Saturday, July 2 Father Gerth will hear confessions . . . On Saturday, July 9, Father Beddingfield will hear confessions.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS of the year are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord.
CLERGY & STAFF NOTES . . . Father Beddingfield is back! . . . The Rector will be away Thursday evening, July 7 and Friday evening July 8 . . . Father Mead will be on vacation Sunday, July 3 through Saturday, July 30 . . . Robert McCormick will be away 7/3 PM - 7/18 in preparation for his participation in the semi-finals of the St. Albans International Organ Festival Improvisation Competition (www.organfestival.com), held in St. Albans, England. Sunday, July 3, Robert begins his fifth year as music director and organist at Saint Mary’s.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is an improvisation on Matthew 11:25-30, the Holy Gospel appointed for the day. The postlude is an improvisation on the hymn tune ‘National Hymn’, our final hymn at Mass. The cantor this Sunday is Ms. Mellissa Hughes, soprano. Ms. Hughes currently is in the second year of a graduate program in early music at the Yale University Institute of Sacred Music, principally studying under Simon Carrington. She also is an alumna of Westminster Choir College, Princeton, New Jersey. At Communion, she will sing David N. Johnson’s (1922-1988) arrangement of the American folk hymn ‘Prospect’, The lone, wild bird. Robert McCormick
AROUND THE PARISH . . . The parish office will be closed on Monday, July 4, in observance of Independence Day. The church will be open from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. The Noonday Office will be offered at 12:00 PM. The Independence Day Mass will be offered at 12:15 PM . . . Brother William Jones, B.S.G. is home from the hospital. Please keep him in your prayers . . . Many thanks to those who contacted the Rector to give the new credence cloth and the new microphone pre-amp. Orders are in now in progress! . . . Flowers are needed for Sunday, July 10, Sunday, July 24, and Sunday, July 31. The cost is $200.00. Please contact Sandra Schubert in the parish office if you would like to give them for one (or more!) Sundays . . . Attendance: Nativity of Saint John the Baptist 107, Last Sunday 207, Saint Peter & Saint Paul 115.
SPIRITUALITY AND READING GROUP . . . Coordinated by Rosemary Kulp, this group will meet next on Sunday, July 17 from approximately 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM, in Saint Benedict’s Study. Participants are asked to bring a little something to eat and some to share, if possible. The books to be discussed are Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time and A Wind in the Door. For more information, see the Spirituality and Reading Group flyer in the back of the church or the summer edition of Life at Saint Mary’s.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Independence Day – Federal Holiday Schedule
Friday Weekday Abstinence
Saturday Of Our Lady
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend John Beddingfield, The Reverend Matthew Mead, curates,
The Reverend Ian Bruce Montgomery, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.