From Father Beddingfield: The Gift of Tears
This article is revised from Father’s sermon at Evensong on September 8, 2005.
A few months ago Ohio Senator George Voinovich did an amazing thing during Senate confirmation hearings. His behavior was talked about on the radio and shown on television. The New York Post wrote, “Voinovich should be ashamed of himself.” What, you may wonder, was the radical, extraordinary, bizarre and “shameful” thing the Senator did? George Voinovich cried. He cried openly and he cried profusely. He showed emotion on international television, choked back sobs and shed tears.
Over the past few weeks we’ve watched a lot of people shed tears. Perhaps we’ve shed a few of our own. Tears flow as the war continues in Iraq. Tears flow in Baghdad where almost 1,000 Shia pilgrims died crossing a bridge because of a stampede of fear. Tears still flow for the some 200,000 people who died in December’s Tsunami. And tears freely flow with those who have lost possessions, loved ones, hopes and dreams in Mississippi, Louisiana and along the Gulf Coast. We have our more personal tears as well—shed for those we love, shed by those who wait for love, shed by those who look and long for God’s love.
Some in the Christian tradition have spoken about a “gift of tears.” Often this had to do with the idea of compunction, of feeling guilty for one’s sins and being able to show it and express it and shed it. But the gift of tears also has to do with something deeper, with a longing, an intimacy, and closeness to God.
We see the tears of God in Jesus Christ. Jesus cried over Jerusalem as he looked over the city. He saw it for its potential greatness, and yet saw through tears how it settled for being so much less that it might have been. Jesus shed tears when he heard that his friend Lazarus had died. In these human tears, Jesus shows how deeply he knows what we feel, what hurts us and what grieves us. In some ways, Saint John sums up a theology of the Incarnation in the simple words, “Jesus wept.”
Mary Magdalene wept, too. On that first Easter morning, she goes to the tomb and she stands outside weeping. But then somehow, through her tears, she sees angels. And then she looks even harder and she sees someone who speaks to her, who calls her by name, who seems to know her better than she knows herself. Through her tears, Mary sees Jesus.
That is the gift of tears—the ability to see life even in the midst of death, to see resurrection even while we’re still crying. The gift of tears allows us to believe that things are going to get better, that life is good and is going to continue being good, to trust in God that it’s all going to be all right.
A recent article in the New York Times shows how various people are dealing with the anniversary of September 11, 2001. Many are still nervous. Some are afraid. Others have tried to move on, but one man’s story, in particular, stays with me. It was four years ago that Leslye Noyes and Michael Slater were about to have their third child. On September 11 they watched the twin towers burn from the delivery floor of the hospital. After several hours, Leslye delivered a healthy little girl. Mr. Slater says that he later left the hospital to take the train back to Brooklyn and check on their other two children. “Everyone on the train was totally somber,” he says. “I am not the kind of person to do this,” he explains, “but something came over me and so I stood up and said, ‘Hey everybody, not everything that happened today was horrible.’ And I took out pictures of my daughter.” People began hugging him and clapping their hands. They passed the pictures up and down the car. Some were smiling— smiling through their tears.
This year the anniversary of September 11 falls on a Sunday. To me, this feels like an invitation. Every Sunday is a “little Easter,” a celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Resurrection does not deny death. Rather, it transforms death and changes it forever. The color on the altar at Saint Mary’s this Sunday will be green because it is the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost. Green may be the liturgical color for an ordinary Sunday but it is also the color of fertile and growing things, of life and creation and renewal. Green is a color for going forward.
May God use this September 11 to draw us a little closer toward healing. May the gift of tears allow us to see new life, possibility and resurrection. And may God give us faith to live into that day when “God will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and death shall be no more.” John Beddingfield
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for Richard who is hospitalized, Patty and Betty Ann who are gravely ill, Derek, Jeanette, Matthew, Kamil, Donna, Lloyd, Mikhail, Deborah, Anita, Erika, Rosemary, Rich, Lou, Michelle, Charlton, Virginia, William, Mary, Virginia, Tony, Ibo, Penn, Gilbert, Robert, Gloria, Marion, Mamie, Rick, Henry, Thomas, priest and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Marc, Joseph, Timothy, Christopher, David, Timothy, Nestor, Freddie, Derrick and Christina; and we pray for the all who suffer as a result of the hurricane and flooding, and especially for those who mourn.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Ecclesiasticus 27:30—28:7, Psalm 103:8-13, Romans 14:5-12, Matthew 18:21-35 . . . Father Smith will be the celebrant and preacher for the 9:00 AM; Father Gerth will be the celebrant and preacher at the 10:00 AM Sung Mass and the 11:00 AM Solemn Mass; Father Mead will be the celebrant and preacher for the 5:20 PM Mass . . . On Saturday, September 10, Father Gerth will hear confessions and on Saturday, September 17 Father Mead will hear confessions.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, played by Mr. Robert McDermitt, associate organist, the prelude is Lied from Vingt-quatre pieces en style libre, Opus 31/17 by Louis Vierne (1870-1937). The postlude is Präludium, Fuge und Ciacona C-dur, BuxWV 137 by Dietrich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707). The cantor this Sunday is Ms. Elizabeth Baber, soprano. The solo at Communion is I know that my Redeemer liveth from Messiah, HW 56 by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) . . . On Holy Cross Day at the Solemn Pontifical Mass, Mr. McDermitt will again play the organ and the cantor is Ms. Ruth Cunningham, soprano. The prelude is Adagio from Symphonie V, Opus 42/5 by Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) and the postlude is Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott by Johann Gottfried Walther (1684-1748). The anthem at Communion is Ms. Cunningham’s setting of Salvator mundi . . . ORGAN UPDATE . . . In addition to work on a Great division reservoir that was reported recently, a repair to the computer system that controls the organ console is currently underway. The problem may have been caused by heat and humidity in the church. These two repairs meant that just under half of the organ was operable this past Sunday, September 4. Thanks to the work of organ curator Lawrence Trupiano, we hope that most of the organ will again be playable by this Sunday. Robert McCormick
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Contribute to victims of Hurricane Katrina through the Saint Mary’s Hurricane Transition Fund or Episcopal Relief and Development at www.er-d.org . . . Parishioner Richard Theilmann is in Houston for a week to help with those displaced by Katrina . . . Pray for Homeless Connect NYC which will take place at Saint Mary’s this Tuesday . . . The Reverend R. William Franklin is to be ordained priest on Saturday, September 17, at 10:30 AM at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine. He will serve as celebrant and preacher at the Eucharist for the first time here at Saint Mary’s on Sunday, September 18, at 11:00 AM . . . The Gift Shop Renovation Sale continues this Sunday in Saint Joseph’s Hall during Coffee Hour . . . Flowers are needed for the church on Sundays, September 18, September 25 and October 10. The cost of providing flowers is $200.00. To reserve a date please contact the parish office . . . Progress continues on the renovation of Saint Benedict’s Study in preparation for the children’s Sunday School which will begin on Sunday, October 2 . . . Attendance Last Sunday 373.
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION CONTINUES . . . On September 13, Father Mead’s Tuesday Night Bible Study continues in the Gospel according to John, chapters 7 and 8. Parish House Third Floor Conference Room from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM . . . Poetic Devotion: Surveying the Christian Lyric in English, from the 17th century to the present, will be offered by Professor Rebecca Weiner on Thursday evenings September 8, 15 and 22. This class will focus on reading and reflecting upon the work of numerous poets such as Donne, Herbert, Vaughan, Blake, Rossetti, Tennyson, Browning, Eliot, Sitwell, Auden and many others. The class meets in the Parish House Third Floor Conference Room from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM . . . Join Father Mead at 1:00 PM in the Lady Chapel on Sunday, September 11 for An Introduction to the Daily Office. The class will discuss such questions such as, “How do we know what Psalms to recite each day? Why do we recite them ‘antiphonally’ – and what exactly does ‘antiphonally’ mean? Why do we recite particular canticles each day?” Come and learn with us.
A NEW VISUAL ARTS PROGRAM EXHIBITION . . . This Sunday through November 5 the Visual Arts Program at Saint Mary’s presents the work of artist Mel Ahlborn. The original triptych piece is an exploration of the “Taste and See” concept developed in the 4th century by Ambrose of Milan who with John Chrysostom and Cyril of Jerusalem taught about the sacraments of baptism and communion through “eyes of faith.” The process would guide new Christians in steps to help develop interior senses to complement the physical senses. Ms. Ahlborn is the Chairperson for the Episcopal Church and Visual Arts organization. For more information, see the Visual Arts section of the parish web site.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday John Henry Hobart, Bishop of New York, 1830
Tuesday Cyprian, Bishop and Martyr of Carthage, 258
6:00 PM Eve of Holy Cross
Wednesday HOLY CROSS DAY
Solemn Pontifical Mass 6:00 PM
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.