FROM THE RECTOR: NEGLECTED TEXTS
Last week I came across two biblical narratives that I would call “neglected texts”—at least from the point of view of worship. I came across a reference to Judges 19. In a note, the editors of The New Oxford Annotated Bible: Revised Standard Version (1973) call this chapter, “The appalling crime of the Benjaminites” (pages 319–20). Judges 20 is “The punishment of Benjamin” (pages 320–23) and Judges 21 is entitled, “Two devices to secure wives for the Benjaminites” (pages 323–24). While reading through Judges 21, it suddenly occurred to me that I had learned about this narrative while reading Phyllis Trible’s Texts of Terror: Literary-Feminist Readings of Biblical Narratives [(1984), 65–92.] It’s a horrific tale of domination of women by men. It is never appointed to be read in worship. That’s why I would consider it a “neglected text.”
The other neglected text was in a note I had made for the Daily Office readings for Proper 9, this year, the week of July 21: “The structure of the lectionary makes it impractical to continue with Joshua 10:16–11:23, which recounts in some detail the cruelties of the conquest of Canaan.” We do hear some of this history, but there’s a lot more that we don’t hear. The problem of evil has always been, and until the end time will be, a companion in the journey of faith. We shouldn’t hide from it.
The first of Professor Trible’s “texts of terror” is the story of the slaveholders Abram and Sarai (later Abraham and Sarah) and their abuse of their Egyptian slave-girl Hagar when Sarai could not conceive (Genesis 16:1–16). It was Sarai’s idea to use Hagar in this way. In the RSV and the NRSV we read, “when [Sarai] saw that [Hagar] had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress” (16:4b). Trible and Alter argue for a less harsh translation: “[Hagar’s] mistress was lowered in her esteem” (Trible, page 12); “[Hagar’s] mistress seemed slight in [Hagar’s] eyes” (Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary , 68). Sarai, with Abram’s approval, “dealt harshly with [Hagar], and [Hagar] fled from [Sarai] her” (16:6b). Then, an angel of the Lord finds Hagar in the wilderness. She learns that all will be well for her and the son to be born. She returns to her masters. Trible writes, “As the first to receive an annunciation, Hagar the Egyptian is the prototype of special mothers in Israel” (page 17).
It’s worth noting that Ishmael and Isaac are mentioned together only twice in Genesis, first when Isaac is a little boy, he and Ishmael play—and that’s enough for Sarai, now named Sarah, to insist that Abram, now Abraham, send his son Ishmael away. The second time is when their father dies. His sons come together to bury him. Our Daily Office Lectionary omits (Genesis 25:1–18). The passage begins with Abraham taking another wife, his death, his blessing of Isaac, and then names the twelve sons of Ishmael and identifies his sons as “princes.”
More important, I think, are the neglected texts of the gospels that are now never appointed to be read on Sundays. One example from Mark would be the narrative of Jesus healing an epileptic boy. When Jesus was asked by a father if he could help his son, Jesus replied, “ ‘All things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, ‘I believe; help my unbelief’ ” (Mark 9:23–24). The option to include this was available the 1979 lectionary, but not in the new lectionary. Both lectionaries omit from Luke the passage where Jesus says, “Behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21). That said, we use the permission to lengthen lessons to include neglected texts of the gospels on Sundays whenever possible. —Stephen Gerth
YOUR PRAYERS ARE ASKED FOR Jason, Jessica, Matthew, Jonathan, Bryan, Dianna, Beulah, Cyrisse, Wendell, May, Willard, Alexandra, Karen, Susan, Carolyn, Ivy, Marilouise, Takeem, Carmen, José, Michael, Burton, Ridhima, Lakshmi, and William; for Horace, James, Gaylord, Louis, and Edgar, priests, James, bishop; for all the benefactors and friends of this parish; and for the repose of the soul of Joan Darrow . . . GRANT THEM PEACE: July 7: 1921 Grace Westerfield.
THE ORDINARY FRIDAYS OF THE YEAR are observed by special acts of discipline and self-denial.
THIS WEEK AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Sunday, July 7, The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Summer Worship Schedule: Morning Prayer 8:30 AM; Mass 9:00 & 10:00 AM; Solemn Mass 11:00 AM; Evening Prayer 5:00 PM . . . Wednesday, July 10, Sung Mass 12:10 PM, Ministry to the Homeless: Grab and Go, 2:00–3:00 PM, Narthex . . . Thursday, July 11, Noonday Prayer 12:00 PM, Mass with Healing Service 12:10 PM . . . Friday, July 12, Centering Prayer Group, 6:30 PM in the Atrium in the Parish House, Second Floor.
AROUND THE PARISH . . . Looking for Volunteers: Since Sister Laura Katharine returned to Mendham last September, the work of the sacristy has been restructured, but some work, of necessity, has been neglected. Brendon Hunter has organized a group of parishioners to care for candles on the altar and in the church. He has also done essential work with our vestments. Marie Rosseels and MaryJane Boland have been laundering linens, both large and small. All of these volunteers, along with Clark Mitchell and Father Gerth have been baking the altar bread. However, these hard-working volunteers clearly are in need of help. We invite all parishioners to consider working with our newly re-constituted Altar Guild. For more information and to get a tour of the chancel, sacristy, smoke room, and frontal room, please speak to Brendon, Marie, MaryJane, or Father Gerth . . . We hope to receive donations for altar flowers for the following dates: August 4, 11, and 18; September 1, 8, 22; October 13, 20, 27; and October 31 and November 1, All Saints’ Day . . . Stephen Rumpf agreed to play the service on short notice at noon on Wednesday, July 3. We are very grateful to him for his assistance . . . Parishioner Stephen Shull has been living in Barcelona for several years now. He teaches English there, and, we are told, he now speaks fluent Catalan. He was in New York recently and worshiped with us the last two Sundays. It has been good to see him and to hear that he is doing well . . . Attendance: Last Sunday 138.
FROM THE MUSIC DIRECTOR . . . Charlotte Mundy, soprano, is cantor for the Solemn Mass on Sunday morning. Mozart’s Exsultate jubilate, from which today’s Communion solo is taken, is categorized as a religious solo motet, and is sometimes considered a sacred solo cantata. It was composed in Milan for operatic castrato Venanzio Rauzzini (1746–1810) and premiered by him on January 17, 1773, at the Theatine Church of Saint Cajetan in Munich. Not surprisingly, the music bears an unmistakable resemblance to Mozart’s operatic concert arias and has become standard repertoire for female sopranos in our time. Tu Virginum is the elegantly lyric section which precedes the well-known and buoyant final Alleluia. The organ prelude and postlude on Sunday morning will be improvised. —David Hurd
OUTREACH AT SAINT MARY’S . . . Our next Drop-in Day will take place on Wednesday, July 17, 2:00 to 4:00 PM, in the Mission House basement. On those Wednesdays when a Drop-in Day does not take place, we continue to offer our Grab-and-Go days—from 2:00 to 3:00 PM, not 2:00 to 4:00 PM—in the former Gift Shop off the church Narthex. On those days, basic, even emergency, items can normally be provided—socks, underwear, toiletry articles, and, in the winter months, cold-weather clothing. Please contact Brother Damien if you would like to make a donation of cash, clothing, or toiletry articles, or to volunteer for this important ministry . . . We continue to receive donations of canned goods and other nonperishable food items for the Saint Clement’s Food Pantry. Donations may be placed in the basket next to the Ushers’ Table at the Forty-sixth Street entrance to the church.
AT THE GALLERIES . . . At the Morgan Museum and Library, 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street, New York, NY 10016, June 7 through September 15, 2019, Walt Whitman: Bard of Democracy. From the museum website, “Comrades! I am the bard of Democracy,” Walt Whitman announced in a notebook in 1859. Over his seventy-three years (1819–1892), he essentially made good on that claim. From humble origins in Long Island and Brooklyn, he earned a global audience that never stops growing. On the two-hundredth anniversary of his birth he continues to speak to new generations. The exhibition explores Whitman’s process of self-invention, from his early years as a journalist, through the early 1850s when Whitman began to write more privately and poetically, to his final years. Whitman not only sounded a “barbaric yawp” over the rooftops of the world, but he also helped his country to reconcile its famous contradictions through his inclusivity and his extraordinary body of work. Several of Whitman’s notebooks will be on display, as well as his portraitist’s copy of Leaves of Grass (1855) and the famous letter written to Whitman by Ralph Waldo Emerson commending that book. The exhibition will establish Whitman’s unblinking witness to the Civil War and display the great poems that he wrote in honor of the martyred president including “O Captain! My Captain!” Also on view are documents from Oscar Wilde, Hart Crane, Federico García Lorca and Allen Ginsberg, which trace the writer’s influence on the twentieth century as well. The exhibition draws on the Morgan’s own holdings as well as generous loans from the great Whitman collections at the Library of Congress.