FROM THE RECTOR: ISHMAEL AND ISAAC
Over the years we have altered the lessons we use at Daily Morning and Evening Prayer so that we omit none of the New Testament in our worship at Saint Mary’s. It makes a few services a little longer than usual, but I think it’s worth hearing it all. Occasionally I still hear things almost as if for the first time—and I can assure you I have read every word of the New Testament many, many times.
The structure of our lectionary for readings from the Old Testament makes a similar exercise entirely impractical. From time to time one can add a short passage—for example, one about King David and his nurse:
Now King David was old and advanced in years; and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm. Therefore his servants said to him, “Let a young maiden be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait upon the king, and be his nurse; let her lie in your bosom, that my lord the king may be warm.” So they sought for a beautiful maiden throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The maiden was very beautiful; and she became the king's nurse and ministered to him; but the king knew her not (1 Kings 1-4).
There are passages I wish were included—especially passages that detail what for us are marriages that are no longer normative. Last week, quite by accident, I discovered another passage that is never read in our services that has caused me to reflect on relationships and reconciliation:
Abraham breathed his last and died in a good old age, an old man and full of years, and was gathered to his people. Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron the son of Zohar the Hittite, east of Mamre, the field which Abraham purchased from the Hittites (Genesis 25:8-10).
It’s common to speak of the ancient conflict between Jews and Muslims as the conflict between the descendants of Abraham’s sons, his first-born, Ishmael, the son of Sarah’s slave Hagar, and Isaac, the son of his wife, Sarah. Sarah was not a kind, generous person. Abraham was a weak, fearful man.
Abraham sent Hagar and their son Ishmael away after Sarah saw Ishmael playing with her son Isaac. She was jealous and didn’t want the son of her slave to have any of Abraham’s money and property as his inheritance. God himself approves of this and tells Abraham it is okay to do this because God himself will make a great nation of Ishmael and his descendants. (Genesis 21:9-12). Abraham also had a second wife after Sarah’s death by whom he had more sons. Genesis says he gave the sons of his concubines gifts during his lifetime, but “Abraham gave all he had to Isaac” (Genesis 25:5). He gave Hagar and Ishmael only bread and water when he sent them away (Genesis 21:14).
In her Wall Street Journal column “Bonds”—the personal, not the financial kind, Elizabeth Bernstein wrote about the work of a Florida State University professor James McNulty, “Studies show people who forgive are generally happier and healthier. . . But research shows forgiveness has a dark side . . . At first it may help the person who has been hurt to let go of anger, resentment and desire for revenge. But forgiving also may encourage the transgressor to do it again. Experts say reaching true forgiveness is a journey that may take years. And it is best not to forgive too soon” (November 1, 2012). That seems completely wrong to me.
Forgiveness is not about changing someone else. It’s about how I am going to act in relationship with someone in the future. That doesn’t mean I’m going to permit myself to be used or naïve if at all possible. It does mean, I think, I can be clear that I can’t change the past or manipulate the future. I can try to do what Jesus urged his disciples to do, to believe the power of God was at hand and to act differently, to choose how I will be in the future towards another person—whether that person changes or not.
Whatever wrongs may have separated Isaac and Ishmael in their lives, whatever came to separate their descendants from each other, Genesis tells us Ishmael and Isaac played together as brothers when they were young. As adults, together they buried their father. Genesis contains no story about them fighting over anything, just the fears and jealousies of their mothers and the weakness of their father. I hope Ishmael and Isaac chose to be generous and loving to each other, even if those around them were not. Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Emil, Krisleah, Sharon, Michael, Cheryl, James, Cheryl, Robert, Errol, Diana, Tiffany, Wendy, Stephen, Dolores, Donna, Judy, Philip, Barbara, Eileen, Linda, Arpene, Joshua, Rowan, priest, and Paulette, priest; and for the members of our Armed Forces on active duty, especially John, Elizabeth, Nicholas, and Matthew . . . GRANT THEM PEACE . . . February 17: 1923 Margaret Elise Salabert; 1936 Howard Irving Johnson, priest; 1983 Helen Peterson Harrington.
THE WEEKDAYS OF LENT are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial in commemoration of the crucifixion of the Lord. The Fridays of Lent are also traditionally observed by abstinence from flesh meats.
STATIONS OF THE CROSS are offered on all Fridays in Lent at 6:30 PM, which follows 6:00 PM Evening Prayer.
2013 STEWARDSHIP CAMPAIGN . . . As of February 5, we have reached 90% of our goal of $450,000.00. We still very much hope that we will receive pledges from those who are new to the parish or who have never pledged before. We invite all friends and members of the parish to make a pledge for 2013. We invite all the readers of the newsletter to join our efforts to balance our budget and fulfill our mission. If you have questions, or if you would like to receive a pledge card, please contact the parish office.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Church School for younger children meets this Sunday at 9:45 AM in the Parish House . . . The Adult Forum continues this Sunday at 10:00 AM, in the Mission House . . . The parish office will be closed on Monday, February 18, in observance of Washington’s Birthday Federal Holiday. The church will be open from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM. The noonday services will be offered . . . The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class will meet on Wednesday, February 20, at 6:30 PM in Saint Joseph’s Hall . . . Friday, February 22, 6:30 PM, Stations of the Cross . . . Father Jay Smith will hear confessions on Saturday, February 16. Father Jim Pace will hear confessions on Saturday, February 23.
LITURGICAL NOTE ABOUT LENT . . . During Lent our sung and solemn Masses are marked by silence and very little use of the organ. There are also no preludes and postludes—and no recitals. Organist and Music Director James Kennerley reminds us, “The organ will next be heard in its full majesty at the Easter Vigil.” For some this restraint will be new, but I think you will look forward to it, as I do, every year. This restraint gives Lenten services a marked and appropriate simplicity, in great contrast to the richness of the rest of the year. S.G.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Many thanks to all who helped with Ash Wednesday ministries! . . . The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold, XXV Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, will be celebrant for the Great Vigil of Easter, Saturday, March 30, 7:00 PM . . . The Rector will be away beginning Friday, February 15. He returns to the parish on Sunday, February 24 . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 196, Ash Wednesday Masses 365.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . The setting of the Mass ordinary on Sunday is Missa Quarti toni by Tomás Luis de Victoria (1548–1611). Spanish by birth, Victoria, one of the greatest composers of the late Renaissance, lived and worked for many years in Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1575 by the last surviving English Roman Catholic bishop. One of the composer’s best–known masses, this setting is named for the mode (the precursor to our modern day major and minor keys) in which it’s set: the fourth mode, or so–called “hypophrygian.” At the ministration of Communion, the choir sings the motet Versa est in luctum by Victoria. It was published as part of his 1605 Officium defunctorum, which provided settings of the Latin Requiem texts, as well as other motets, such as this one, suitable for related liturgies. James Kennerley
ADULT EDUCATION . . . On Sunday, February 17, the First Sunday of Lent, Father Peter Powell will resume his series on Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans . . . On Wednesday, February 20, at 6:30 PM Mother Mary Julia Jett will take over the leadership of the mid-week Bible Study Class. This class will begin a discussion of the Book of the Prophet Zechariah . . . The Sunday-morning Adult Forum takes place in the Arch Room on the second floor of the Mission House. The Wednesday Night Bible Study Class is held, when possible, in Saint Joseph’s Hall. Newcomers are always welcome at all of our adult-education classes. James Ross Smith
AWAY FROM THE PARISH . . . The Metropolitan Japanese Ministry invites you to a Silent Auction and Concert to support the Wakamatsu Sei Ai Kindergarten and the victims of Hurricane Sandy. Sunday, March 10, 3:30-6:30 PM, the Church of Saint James the Less, 10 Church Lane, Scarsdale, NY. Admission $20.00. For more information: 914-723-6118 or email@example.com.
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . We continue to gather warm clothing—socks, coats of all sizes, sweaters, and sweatshirts—and blankets for distribution to the homeless in our neighborhood. Some of those items, as well as non-perishable food items, will be sent to the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Please contact Sister Deborah Francis for more information about the Pantry’s work . . . The Book Sale continues on Sunday. All proceeds benefit those in need. Thank you to all those who have donated books for the sale. Your generosity is most appreciated.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR . . . Monday, February 25, Saint Matthias (transferred), Mass 12:10 PM and 6:20 PM . . . Sunday, March 10, Daylight Saving Time begins.