The Rector's Message for the Week of January 30, 2022

Rector Turner
The Rev. Canon Carl Turner, Rector of Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue

Dear Friends,

Please join us for the Feast of Candlemas on Wednesday, February 2, at 5:30 p.m. which will begin with the traditional blessings of candles and procession. The Choir will sing Evensong on the Eve at 5:30pm also.

The great Feast of Candlemas is when we remember the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Mary and Joseph. Mary continued to reveal her vocation as the God-bearer by carrying Jesus to the Temple and, as had happened 40 days before, there were unexpected encounters; first the Shepherds, then the Magi, now the child meets the old man Simeon and the even older prophetess, Anna. Simeon and Anna had been waiting; waiting, not just for a long time…waiting all their lives for this moment.  And, significantly, in this Gospel story, this child whose name means Savior is found at the heart of the Temple, that is, God’s House, where his glory abided. Thus, the paradox of the scene – God becoming a child; the Creator becoming the dependent; the Word of God who, as a baby, has no words to utter to the old man.

If you think about it, the Temple was probably not a particularly nice place to bring a baby, with the sacrificing of animals – the blood, the smell, the noise, and the ritual. Then there are the prophetic words spoken about Jesus to Mary and Joseph; Simeon sings his Nunc Dimittis but also gives the chilling prophecy that a sword will pierce Mary’s soul, predicting her own ‘martyrdom’ as she stood at the foot of the Cross.

And then there is Anna; 84 years old, she has been waiting, like Simeon, all her life. Waiting. The more I read this story the more I am left marveling – “At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.” And that’s it. The story is finished. But wait a minute, what did Anna actually say? Has it ever crossed your mind that Luke has not recorded the words! That also gives us something to ponder on. Perhaps Anna’s words, lost in time, need to be replaced by our own words, our own stories, presented to God this day and each day until the waiting is over.

The January sun is low in the sky and I took that picture of the remarkable effect of the sun streaming through the small stained-glass window of the Christ Child on the Fifth Floor of the Parish House; may Jesus, the ‘light to enlighten the gentiles and the glory of his people, Israel’ bring his light in the midst of this dark and cold month.

Concerts at Saint Thomas

Nico Muhly, composer

I hope that many of you will attend in-person or on-line our amazing concert featuring the music of Nico Muhly.One of the rising stars of the musical world, he has been commissioned to write a number of pieces for our own choir since the time of John Scott, but his recent compositions of song-cycles and opera are extraordinarily exciting. I attended a master-class with some young singers and pianists at Carnegie just before the pandemic at which Nico was joined by Renée Fleming. The texts of some of his song-cycles were mesmerizing and exquisitely performed.

Commemorating Martin Luther King Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. preaching

Finally, if you were unable to attend the Celebration commemorating the witness of Martin Luther King Jr, last week, you can watch the service online and read Bishop Dietsche’s sermon. At our Pilgrims’ class last Wednesday, as we reflected on why Jesus came, we listened to a sermon by Dr. King in which he talked about the sacrificial love that Jesus brought with him and the contrast with the way that some people prefer hate. He said,

We usually think of what hate does for the individual hated or the individuals hated or the groups hated. But it is even more tragic, it is even more ruinous and injurious to the individual who hates. You just begin hating somebody, and you will begin to do irrational things. You can’t see straight when you hate. You can’t walk straight when you hate. You can’t stand upright. Your vision is distorted. There is nothing more tragic than to see an individual whose heart is filled with hate. He comes to the point that he becomes a pathological case. For the person who hates, you can stand up and see a person and that person can be beautiful, and you will call them ugly. For the person who hates, the beautiful becomes ugly and the ugly becomes beautiful. For the person who hates, the good becomes bad and the bad becomes good. For the person who hates, the true becomes false and the false becomes true. That’s what hate does. You can’t see right. The symbol of objectivity is lost. Hate destroys the very structure of the personality of the hater.

Sermon preached at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, November 17, 1957

Your Priest and Pastor,