From the Rector: Bread and Truth
I returned on Monday, July 17, from a ten-day trip with friends to Israel and Jordan. We were mostly in Jerusalem but we did spend one night in Tiberias just a couple days before it was shelled. This was my first trip to the Holy Land. I hope it won’t be the last. The present escalation of the conflict was beginning when we left for Israel. It got worse as we approached our departure. I confess I was very anxious during the last few days, and only relaxed after the plane was in the air and well away from Tel Aviv.
It will be a while before I can sort through the richness and the tragedy of the Holy Land. Both of these things, the richness and the tragedy, are beyond words. But the experience of being there was so powerful that I want to share a few things today.
I was deeply moved just by seeing, as the psalmist says, the hills “standing about Jerusalem” (Psalm 125:2). I walked on Mount Zion and in the Garden of Gethsemane. We attended Vespers on the close of the Armenian Cathedral. I was overcome with emotion at the Western Wall. We walked on stones that were a roadway when Jesus lived. The worship at the Anglican cathedral, Saint George’s, made me feel right at home. More than once I thought of the vision of Saint John the Divine,
And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband; and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:2-4)
A member of the parish sent me an email before I left about a new exhibit at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, “Bread: Daily and Divine.” I’m very glad he did because from what I saw in the rest of the museum and what I experienced elsewhere, it was an unusually inclusive presentation. There was an equally balanced presentation about the role of bread in the life and religion of Christians, Jews and Muslims.
“Bread: Daily and Divine” was the last exhibit I saw at the Israel Museum that day. And it redeemed the experience of visiting the museum for me. This exhibit suggested to me that there are people working there who, though constrained by pressure to present a particular point of view in the permanent exhibitions, when given the chance, can and will do better. I know I was only in Israel for a short time but at site after site the roles of Christians and Muslims and the role of religion were obscured by an editing of history by those who now rule. I experienced a deep sense that not enough truth was being told in Israel and Palestine today on all sides.
It reminded me of what I have read about new school textbooks in Japan that eliminate any mention of the atrocities committed by the Japanese during World War II. It put me in mind also of the controversy in our own country not so many years ago about how the history of the Enola Gay was to be presented at one of our national museums in Washington. I’m saddened every year at Thanksgiving when people forget the role of religion in American history. Is it possible to tell the truth?
I don’t begin to have any great wisdom to add to the tragedy that continues to unfold in the Holy Land between Jews and Muslims and the increasingly forgotten Christians. (One would be hard pressed to find in the Israel Museum the fact that Christians were the majority community in Jerusalem when Israel was established in 1948.) I do think that a lot of leaders and people generally aren’t telling the truth, all of it, about the past and their agendas for the present. But it is wonderful that in an exhibit on bread I think I found a reminder of truth in the midst of it all.
Jesus described himself as “Truth” and as “Bread.” In the centuries since he lived and died for us, Christians have continued to ask the questions the disciples and others first posed to Jesus, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” “What is truth?” Not all of the answers have been as generous, nuanced and as useful as the answers Jesus himself gave.
At a table Jesus said, “This is my body which is given for you” (Luke 22:19). When Thomas asked Jesus, “’Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me’” (John 14:5-6). When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), John records no reply for Jesus.
One of my mentors remarks about the present tensions in our own Episcopal Church that the problem is not that we are too far apart from each other but rather that we are too close. He thinks we are not as comfortable with differences. It’s easier for some to walk away from the table than to remain in relationship. In some real sense, we Episcopalians struggle with the same tension of being in relationship with each other that Genesis records of its first families.
For my part and without suggesting any heresy, I don’t think Adam and Eve are the primary problem couple in Genesis. For me, the real problem couple is Abraham and Sarah. Abraham had two sons. A first son, Ishmael, at his wife’s request, was mothered by her servant Hagar. Isaac was Sarah’s own son. Sarah insisted that Abraham send away his son Ishmael. She wanted to get rid of a child. Abraham did not have the character to stand up to her. For 3,000 years these sins have framed human history until Jesus brought something new to eat, his bread and something new to say, his truth.
There are many laments over the tragedies of Jerusalem in the Bible, of the city and of its people. I don’t begin to know the answers to so many questions life presents for humankind, but I do believe bread and truth are part of God’s answer. As the psalmist says, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6). Pray for bread and truth. Stephen Gerth
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked especially for Robert and Gloria who are hospitalized, for Sandra, Anthony, Daniel, Gloria, Roxanne, Grace, Tony, Michelle, Ray, Isa, Joy, Christine, Danny, Ann, William, John, Laura, Gabriela, Eve, Roy, Deborah, Virginia, Mary, William, Ana, Gilbert, Marion, Jeanne, Joseph, Rick, Thomas, priest and Charles, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Fahad, Joseph, Patrick, Bruce, Brenden, Jonathan, Christopher, Timothy, Nestor, Freddie, Dennis and Derrick; and for the repose of the soul of MaryAnne and Carmen
CONFESSIONS . . . Please note: Father Mead and Father Gerth have switched Saturdays. Confessions now will be heard on Saturday, July 22, by Father Mead and on Saturday, July 29, by Father Gerth.
CLERGY NOTES . . . The Board of Trustees and I have nominated Rebecca Weiner Tompkins for ordination to the diaconate. The Bishop has accepted the nomination and made her a postulant for Holy Orders. She will begin participation in our diocesan Diaconal Formation Program, a four-year course of study. Rebecca, congratulations! . . . The Reverend Dr. Ryan Lesh will become vicar of Christ Church, Red Hook, on August 1. Many know Father Lesh was nominated for ordination by Saint Mary’s. He will be ordained priest on Saturday, September 23, at 10:30 AM at the Cathedral. Mark your calendars. S.G.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Reminder: Movie Night in July will follow the Said Mass on Friday, July 21 at 7:00 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . The Spirituality and Reading group continues with the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The next meeting, on Sunday, July 23, will continue with its discussion of The Cost of Discipleship and will also begin to discuss Letters and Papers from Prison . . . Father Beddingfield is on vacation through July 30 . . . Flowers are needed for the remaining Sundays in July. Please contact the parish office if you wish to give them . . . Attendance Last Sunday 263.
CHILD CARE & SUNDAY SCHOOL . . . Child care is offered from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM each Sunday and during Solemn Masses celebrated during the week. Sunday School is offered October through May from 10:00 AM to 10:45 AM. Please contact Father Mead for more information.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . This Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude is an improvisation on ‘Rendez à Dieu’ (hymn 302, Father, we thank thee who hast planted), and the postlude an improvisation on ‘Aurelia’ (hymn 525, The Church’s one foundation). The cantor is Ms. Ruth Cunningham, soprano. The anthem at Communion is Ms. Cunningham’s setting of Tar a thighearna (“Come, Lord”), the text of which is a fonn (Gaelic for song). Robert McCormick
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Thomas a Kempis, Priest, 1471
Eve of Saint James the Apostle
Tuesday Saint James the Apostle
Wednesday The Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Thursday William Reed Huntington, Priest, 1909
Friday Weekday Friday Abstinence
Saturday Mary and Martha of Bethany
Sunday: 8:30 AM Sung Matins, 9:00 AM Mass, 10:00 AM Sung Mass, 11:00 AM Solemn Mass,
5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Said Mass. Childcare from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
Monday – Friday: 8:30 AM Morning Prayer, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass,
6:00 PM Evening Prayer, 6:20 PM Mass. The 12:10 Mass on Wednesday is sung.
Saturday: 11:30 AM Confessions, 12:00 PM Noonday Office, 12:10 PM Mass, 4:00 PM Confessions, 5:00 PM Evening Prayer, 5:20 PM Sunday Vigil Mass