News from Saint Thomas Church: week beginning March 10

Dear Friends,

Lent has begun; this joyful season (yes, joyful because our Lenten journey should deepen our faith and bring us closer to God) is a journey to Easter.

During Lent, our weekly news will be a little different. We will remind parishioners of the following week’s activities, and, then, one of my colleagues will offer a Lenten meditation. I hope that you find them helpful.

I look forward to seeing you all on Sunday as we sing the Great Litany in procession.

With every blessing,

Your priest and pastor

Lent at Saint Thomas Church

This Lent, St. Thomas’s Church invites you to share in a rich array of opportunities to discover where God seeks to meet you through our Lenten worship program, study and education, as well as times for quiet reflection and pilgrimage at other churches in Midtown. Please join us as we make our way through the pain and sorrow of Good Friday to encounter the new life and sustained hope of the Easter dawn!

Here is a list of all of the special parish activities for the first full week in Lent:

The First Sunday in Lent, March 10

Sunday Theology Class: “Holy Week and Palm Sunday” with Fr. Moretz
March 10, 10am on the fifth floor

Sunday Sermon Series at 4 pm, “The One who Sings Prays Twice”
March 10 “Prayer as Rhythm,” Fr. Geoff Simpson

Healing Prayer and Anointing of the Sick
Sunday March 10, after the 11am Mass
Tuesday March 12, during and after the 12:10pm Mass

Devotional Study
Monday March 11, 12:45-2pm

Pilgrims’ Course Class: an Introduction to the Sacramental Life of the Church
Tuesday March 12, 6:30-8:15pm

Holy Hour
Wednesday March 13, 11am-12pm

Weekday Services in Lent
Monday March 11 to Friday March 15: 8am, 12:10pm & 5:30pm.

Shrine Prayers
Monday March 11-Saturday March 16, 12pm

Stations of the Cross
March 15, 6:30pm, at Church of the Transfiguration, New York City

Saturday March 16, 11am-11:45am, or by appointment

To learn more about the complete schedule of Lenten seasonal offerings, please follow this link.

Reflection on the First Sunday in Lent

What would it look like to encounter the devil and triumph? The only place we witness a complete victory is in the life of Jesus. In Sunday’s reading from Luke’s Gospel (Luke 4:1-13), we witness the first confrontation between Jesus and the mysterious figure of the devil (lowercase intended). Luke recounts that immediately after his baptism, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to the wilderness, where he fasted for 40 days. He became hungry. He became weak. And it was after those 40 days on those desert rocks that Jesus was confronted by the devil who challenged him with three epic temptations.

The first temptation was the encouragement to turn the stones in the desert to bread to satisfy that extreme hunger. But Jesus rebukes this, saying “one does not live by bread alone.” He was quoting Hebrew scripture here. And, it’s not incidental that this Scripture refers to the Israelite people of old when they were starving in their own wilderness, yearning to go back to the fleshpots, those amazing meat stews that they knew in their Captivity in Egypt. But it would mean that they would have to return to their chains, to go back slavery (a kind of deal with the devil). Yet it was not God’s will that they be enslaved. So God gave them manna to sustain them in the wilderness. In the same way, Jesus turns the devil’s bread away, acknowledging to the devil that God will provide, somehow.

The devil’s next temptation was to show Jesus all the realms of the world and to give Jesus authority over them. This is at its heart the temptation to be powerful. And indeed, many of Jesus’ disciples would agree with the devil. Many thought that Jesus, if he was really the Messiah, should overthrow the Roman empire, and that Jesus should be emperor of the whole world so that the world could be saved. Jesus knew, though, that God’s will for him was not power of that sort, but a power that looks like weakness and humility. It is power that is grounded in desiring good for the enemy, not their destruction. And so Jesus rebukes the devil by quoting scripture again, saying “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” This is decidedly not a will for power, not earthly power, at least.

Then the devil takes Jesus to the very place that he would be crucified, to Jerusalem, and asks him to throw himself off the top of the temple. And this time the devil quotes scripture. (Yes, as we know in our time, scripture can be used for evil: to destroy, kill, and ruin.) As a matter of fact, he quotes the psalm appointed for this Sunday, Psalm 91. The devil suggests that if Jesus were really God’s Beloved Child, then God “will command his angels concerning you, to protect you…” And the devil has a point. The Scriptures are full of accounts that say that God will protect those who are faithful and righteous. Jesus knows that God is good, and watches over him. Yet God’s goodness does not necessarily extend to answering every whim that he has, whether it be providing him with endless sunny days or saving him from leaps of faith (actually, in this case, a leap to show off). And also, Jesus is not called to prove himself with acts of derring-supernatural-do to the devil or to the crowds he will meet in his ministry. He is called to be faithful, which will end up serving the same purpose of proving himself. So, Jesus retorts with another piece of scripture, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

And so Jesus triumphs in the wilderness tousle with the devil. He triumphs by saying no again and again to the kind of power that would be similar to a kind of superhero, turning instead to a deeper power, a power grounded in goodness, truth, and love; nothing more.

Our own temptations can seem to take a life of their own. They know our every weakness. They respond deftly to our every defense, and they are just as clever as us. The struggle with evil in the world often begins with the struggle with evil in ourselves. And the Gospel writers map out for us some of the most difficult struggles that we could have.

The temptation of bread: the desire to secure our survival at any cost, not trusting in God for our daily bread. The temptation of ruling the kingdoms of the world: the desire to have control over our neighbors or to have power over a world that is truly God’s. The temptation to throw himself off the temple: the desire to claim our identity and prove our importance to others using reckless methods. These temptations threaten to turn us away from a life lived for God, and toward a life lived for our own glory and exaltation.

How can we live our lives trusting that God will give us our daily bread, rather than warping our integrity to get by? How can we love and serve others, rather than seeking to control them, like some tyrant? And how can we be confident that we don’t have to prove ourselves to anyone, able to rest in God’s love without chasing after the love and admiration and glory of others?

Whatever practice or improvement we take up in Lent to address these questions, we must acknowledge our limitations. Our Lenten practices are never a complete overhaul. We will not become a new house during Lent. But we will spruce up the broken house we have, preparing for our Lord to come with that true power of His to give our houses a true foundation. When Lent is at an end, may our houses be ready for this most wonderful guest.

Father Matthew Moretz
Associate Rector

Evening Theology Class with Jeremy Waldron

On Wednesday March 13 at 6:30-8pm in Andrew Hall, Professor Jeremy Waldron will conclude his popular series on “Biblical Justice,” focusing mainly on the concepts of judgment, justice, and social justice in the writings of the prophets. Everyone is welcome.

(The Saint Thomas Church Bookstore and Gift Shop has ordered the following books in relation to this course: Walter Houston, Justice: The Biblical Challenge and Enrique Nardoni, Rise Up O Judge: A Study of Justice in the Biblical World. These books are for background reading; the class will not assume familiarity with them.)

Introducing our Guest Preacher for Holy Week: the Right Reverend Richard Chartres

We look forward to welcoming Bishop Chartres to Saint Thomas Church as our guest preacher for several services throughout Holy Week.

Richard Chartres first visited New York in the early 1980’s as Chaplain to Archbishop Robert Runcie. At that time Canon John Andrew, of blessed memory (who was himself a former Archbishop’s Chaplain), was Rector of Saint Thomas.

Subsequently, Richard Chartres became the parish priest of St. Stephen’s Rochester Row in the Diocese of London. At the same time he served as Gresham Professor of Divinity and co-authored a history of Gresham College.

In 1992, he was appointed Bishop of Stepney, one of the areas of the Diocese of London and was later translated to the Bishopric of London itself in 1995. He served the Diocese during a period of substantial growth for 22 years until his retirement in 2017. He remains Dean of HM Chapels Royal.

During his tenure as Diocesan Bishop, he fulfilled various national roles. He chaired the Church Commissioners who administer the historic assets of the Church of England. He was also Chair of the National Church Buildings Division, and founding Chair of “Shrink the Footprint,” the Church’s environmental campaign. He has also been the Archbishop’s envoy to the Orthodox Churches.

Most significantly, twelve years ago he participated in the founding of St. Mellitus College, which has made a large contribution to the increase of the numbers of ordinands in training. The number entering training this year nationally in the Church of England exceeds the total for any year since 1963.

After retiring from Parliament as a member of the Lords Spiritual, he was, unusually, re-appointed as a Life Peer, and is currently active in the legislative work of the House of Lords.

Richard Chartres is now an Assistant Bishop in the Diocese in Europe, and in his home Diocese of Salisbury.

He is married to Caroline and they have four children.

Introducing our Guest Preacher for the Three Hours Devotion on Good Friday: the Reverend Elaine Farmer

The Reverend Elaine Farmer, our preacher for the Three Hours Devotion on Good Friday, April 19, 12pm – 3pm, is a priest of the Anglican Diocese of Canberra & Goulburn and an internationally active scholar, teacher, and author. She was ordained in 1993, among the earliest women ordained to the priesthood in the Anglican Church of Australia. She has served in several parishes, taught homiletics and ministry formation, and been Associate Editor of
St Mark’s Review, Australia’s oldest theological journal.

She has preached in Anglican dioceses in Australia, New Zealand and in the United States, and preached in 2018 at Westminster Abbey. She has been a keynote speaker at various Australian and international conferences.

A book of her sermons, …And the Angels Held their Breath. Sixteen Reasons for Exploring the God-Option (Australasian Theological Forum) was translated into Bahasa Indonesia by the Jesuits and given episcopal imprimatur. She was also a contributor to Don’t Put Out the Burning Bush, a book on preaching and worship also published by the Australasian Theological Forum.

Elaine now lives in Canberra with her husband, Bill, whose diplomatic career which included appointments as Ambassador to Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia and Indonesia. They have two children and six grandchildren.