Evil Is Not Greater Than Life
A sermon preached by the Rector on Tuesday, September 10, at Solemn Evensong offered for the employees of Citibank, N.A. who were killed on September 11, 2001.
There is something profoundly unnatural and evil in the death of any human being by violence. There are no words that can begin to express the enormity of the evil done to those who were killed on September 11 and the enormity of the evil done to their families, colleagues and friends. And I will not make any attempt to do so. Evil was done on September 11 by people who chose to stand apart from humanity, people who embraced evil and became evil by doing evil. I do not understand.
I do not understand evil any more, I confess, as a person of faith, than I understand any type of death or disease or hunger or sickness or any of the pains that crush the human spirit, the hearts and souls of men and women in this life. I don’t know if I ever shall understand. Rage and anger over the evil of September 11 are still very close to the surface of my heart. I hope and trust God one day may be able to explain to all of us why there has been evil in our lives, in this creation.
I also want to say to you that I believe there is much more to life, to creation and to our humanity than the possibility and reality of pain and evil. Almost all human communities confess an awareness, a belief, a hope, of greater life after this life. The Christian expression for mystery of death and life is the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I for one deeply respect all who are for life and love and against evil – and for those of you who do not know the traditions of the Episcopal Church, I want you to know that we, as a community of faith, profoundly respect the religious experience of other people and other communities. We know there is truth and joy and hope and love in the way in which all human beings touch each other’s lives.
Those who died on September 11 were born and nurtured in love. Despite whatever challenges or shadows marked individual lives, all ordinary human lives are marked by love -- from parents, spouses, partners, children, colleagues, friends – and by all the happy and sad and ordinary circumstances which enrich the mystery of this life. Every life, every true love, is precious.
This evening, a community of colleagues gathers with families to remember those who were lost. Each of us lives his or her life in a progression of communities across the course of our lives, from our families, from pre-school and childhood sports teams, junior high, high school, all the summer jobs we have, all the embarrassing and joyful moments of life, and all of the different jobs and people and families that become part of our lives. Life is never lived by ourselves as individuals. It is lived in communities. And it is very right that we gather here this evening to remember those we lost and to comfort those who will always mourn.
And there’s one more thing I want to say, and that is to remind myself and you, that life is always the sign of life. Just as death is always ultimately a sign of life. We honor the lives of those who are no longer with us. We honor all who mourn and we honor those who this day their lives are at risk lives at this moment are at risk to defend us, by loving life, loving the future.
It seems humankind will always live near the shadows of evil in this life. But we do not have to surrender to those shadows or to despair. We can live our own lives and carry the memory of the lives and voices of those we have known into the light of the future. We do know there will always be more light than darkness in this world. There will be more life and more love than we will ever know. And communities of people like us will always gather because life will always be greater than evil and death . X In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
PRAYER LIST . . . Your prayers are asked for John who is hospitalized, and for Kathy, Sarah, Grover, Annie, Robert, Angel, Peter, Michael, Elenita, George, Eileen, Gloria, Jerri, Myra, Tessie, Margaret, Marion, Olga, Rick and Charles, priest. Pray for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially Patrick, Edward, Christopher, Andrew, Robert, Joseph, Mark, Ned, David and John . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . September 21: 1976 Harold E. Pim.
LITURGICAL NOTES . . . The Sunday Proper: Ecclesiasticus 27:30-28:7, Psalm 103:8-13, Romans 14:5-12, Matthew 18:21-35 . . . Confessions will be heard on Saturday, September 14, by Father Weiler and on Saturday, September 21 by Father Smith.
NOTES ON MUSIC . . . On Friday, the Eve of Holy Cross Day, we welcome the Choral Scholars from Princeton, New Jersey, as our visiting choir. Mr. Geoffrey Williams is director. They will sing a choral recital at 5:30, featuring works of Lassus, Josquin, Sheppard, Tavener and Taverner. The Mass ordinary is Missa ‘Osculetur me’ by Orlande de Lassus (1532-1594) and the motets at Communion are Crucifixus à 8 by Antonio Lotti, and Salvator mundi by Thomas Tallis (1505-1585). The postlude is Carillon du Longpont by Louis Vierne (18703-1937). On Sunday at the Solemn Mass, the prelude will be Vater unser im Himmelreich (Op. 67, no. 39) and the postlude will be Nun danket alle Gott (Op. 67, no. 27), both by Max Reger (1873-1916). The soloist is Michael Ryan-Wenger, tenor, and the anthem at Communion is The lone, wild bird arranged by David N. Johnson (1922-1988), a setting of the American folk tune ‘Prospect.’
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks for those who made possible the special services this past week . . . Peter Anthony, our British intern, returns to England on Thursday, September 19. It has been wonderful having him here this summer. Many thanks to Penny Byham for making our new vimpas . . . He has done a great deal of work on our lectionaries and has been faithful at Offices and Masses. He begins an internship on Sunday, September 22, at Saint Paul’s, Tottenham, London. And we look forward to welcoming him back to Saint Mary’s in the future . . . The Rector leaves for continuing education on Sunday, September 15, following the Solemn Mass. He continues his attendance at “Leadership in Ministry,” a course he attends twice each year. It is held in Lost River, West Virginia. He returns to the rectory on Friday afternoon, September 20 . . . Attendance last Sunday 181, September 10 Evensong 375, September 11, 566.
MEET OUR NEW SEMINARIAN . . . Noah Evans is a second year Master of Divinity student at General Theological Seminary and is a postulant from the Diocese of Massachusetts. He grew up in East Lansing, Michigan and received his undergraduate degree in Economics from Washington University in St. Louis in 2000. He is interested in gardening, jazz music, travel and liturgical theology. Noah's fiancée, Sara Irwin, is also both a middler at GTS and a postulant from the Diocese of Massachusetts. Noah says that he is particularly looking forward to getting to know the rich liturgical and spiritual life of Saint Mary's. Welcome Noah warmly (and Sara too, when you see her!)
NEW TO SAINT MARY’S? . . . Beginning with dinner in the rectory on October 7, we will offer a special series for those wanting to learn more about Saint Mary’s and the Christian faith. This series continues on October 14, 21, and 28, and will be particularly helpful for those wishing to be baptized or confirmed, as well as others who desire to join the parish. Confirmation will be celebrated on Friday, November 1, All Saints' Day, at the Solemn Mass at 6:00 PM. We will offer another series for newcomers in the spring, with confirmation to be celebrated at the Easter Vigil.
READING WITH SAINT MARY’S . . . For years, groups of parishioners and friends at Saint Mary’s have read or studied a particular book, sometimes this as a part of a Christian Formation class or during a particular liturgical season. “Reading with Saint Mary’s” is meant as a way to invite people near and far to spend a month reading the same book. In some ways it will work as a “virtual” reading group, in that the group will only meet together once. However, during the month of reading, comments, questions and discussion can happen by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. These thoughts will then be posted in the Christian Formation part of the Saint Mary’s internet website. At the end of the month, there will be an evening for discussion and conversation about the book. This fall and winter, we will read our first book together during the month of October, with the discussion and a simple dinner held on Wednesday, October 30 at 7:00 PM in Saint Benedict’s Study. The book that we will be reading is Writing in the Dust: After September 11, by Rowan Williams. Our next book will be read during the month of December, with the discussion and dinner to be held on Wednesday evening, January 8. John Beddingfield will serve as moderator of the virtual discussion on the web page and will coordinate the discussions for the Wednesday evenings.
The Calendar of the Week
Sunday The Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
Monday Ninian, bishop
Wednesday Edward Pusey, priest
Thursday Theodore, archbishop
Friday John Patteson, bishop & martyr, and his Companions, martyrs Abstinence
Eve of Saint Matthew’s Day 6:00 PM
Saturday Saint Matthew, Apostle and Evangelist
The Parish Clergy
The Reverend Stephen Gerth, rector,
The Reverend Matthew Weiler, curate, The Reverend James Ross Smith, assistant,
The Reverend Amilcar Figueroa, The Reverend Rosemari Sullivan, assisting priests,
The Reverend Canon Edgar F. Wells, rector emeritus.