St. Paul’s is a welcoming and inclusive community of about 280 members who come from all over the greater Milwaukee area.
We treasure the richness and diversity God has given our community, as it enhances our understanding of God.
We had begun the Bible study that evening when she walked in. I figured she wasn’t one of us. She carried a Bible, something Episcopalians normally don’t do. I assume you pay attention to the Collect of the Day – you have “marked, learned, and inwardly digested the Bible – in other words, you have memorized it. Thus you don’t need to carry a Bible with you. Well, she whips hers open, breaks into the conversation and reads from the Book of Revelation. She finishes and says, “The end is here. Accept Jesus now, so you can go to heaven.” I tell her, “We’re discussing the Gospel of Mark.” “Oh.” She sits down. As weeks go on, every passage we read, she interprets as a sign, “The end is here.” I silently pray, “Jesus, come quickly. Bring an end for this woman and make her, and us happy. Amen.” She means well, even if what she believes doesn’t square with the Bible.
Frankly Music continued its concert series here at St. Paul’s with a program of French Music by Emmanuel Chabrier, Maurice Ravel, Philip Lasser, and Gabriel Fauré. Appearing with Frank Almond were cellist Julian Schwartz and pianist Brian Zeger. The concert was enjoyed by a full church, and a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel review by Elaine Schmidt appears below:
Milwaukee’s Frankly Music series turned St. Paul’s Episcopal Church into a French salon Monday evening, with a program of French and French-inspired music.
Joined by cellist Julian Schwarz and pianist Brian Zeger, MSO concertmaster Frank Almond presented an evening of music by Emmanuel Chabrier, Maurice Ravel, Gabriel Fauré and Philip Lasser.
The program opened with two pieces from Chabrier’s Pièces pittoresque and his Habanera, all for written for solo piano. Zeger began with a charmingly beat-heavy take on the Dance villageoise movement from Pièces pittoresque, playing with one metaphorical foot in the past and the other in the Romantic era. He moved to a charmingly seductive take on Habanera before returning to Pièces for a musically free interpretation on Improvisation, which came across the footlights in a constantly shifting wash of lovely colors.
Almond and Schwarz followed with Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello. Their impassioned, expansive performance let the piece’s intricate musical details, technical effects and inventive form shine. Opening with delicate, ephemeral wisps of sound, the two gave vivid character to each of the sonata’s four movements, trading ideas and capturing easily its many moods. They opened the piece’s second movement with a spirited pizzicato conversation, moving to soulful cello lines and beautifully entwined passages throughout the third movement. And they brought energy and focus to a fourth movement that was full of musical surprises.
Almond and Zeger gave an elegant, expressive performance of Lasser’s lyrical Vocalise for violin and piano, playing as musical partners, not as soloist and accompanist, and combing smooth, legato lines with warm, enveloping timbres.
The evening closed with a fascinating performance of Fauré’s seldom-heard Piano Trio, Op. 120, written late in the composer’s life. The players used intimate musical gestures and tightly woven ensemble work to highlight the piece’s touchingly introspective elements. They brought a light touch to the first movement, leaving one a bit sad to see it end. They then offered a wistful, poignant take on the long, arced phrases of the second movement (with a bit much cello sound in spots), followed by a gentle, emotional tug of musical tension and resolution throughout the third movement.
Today, I’d rather not dress up like this – chasuble, long robe, stole. I’d like to sit with you in the pews, not up front in a comfortable seat. Did you catch Jesus’ words? I feel like I’m on the wrong side. He’s talking about religious authorities like me – wear long robes, push our way to the front at potlucks, take the cushy, prominent seats, grab power, expect adoration and be addressed properly, and devour widows – well, maybe not that one.
I doubt any of us with a sick loved one, would call the doctor and say, “Lazarus has taken ill,” and hang up. That’s essentially what Lazarus’ sisters do to Jesus, beloved friend, miracle worker – were they gently hoping for a house call? Jesus waits until Lazarus dies, then goes – but why then? When he gets there the sisters say: “If you’d come earlier, he wouldn’t be dead.” Everyone’s weeping by now. Jesus joins in with his tears, even though he knows what comes next. Remember that, next time you weep with grief. Jesus weeps and cares deeply for and with us. “But if he loves him, why didn’t he come and heal him – and spare us the grief?”
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus restores the sight to a blind man named Bartimaeus. His name means “the son of Timaeus”. Being blind in the first century meant he was not even entitled to his own name. Talk about being invisible.
With the technological advances of modern times, a blind person has so many options available to live a nearly normal life. The person who first came to my mind was Helen Keller, who was born blind and deaf in the late 19th century, but overcame great obstacles and became an author, political activist and lecturer. She was the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. What an amazing woman she was!
Are you familiar with the Episcopal Church Ad Campaign? It started decades ago. Tell people the benefits of following Jesus. They’ll storm down the doors, we hoped. We still do. One ad is a poster of a casket being carried, captioned: “Will it take six strong men to carry you back to church?” I guess that’s a warning, and an implied benefit – be in church before your last visit arrives. Or, “The Episcopal Church: Summer sermons will be shorter. Priests play golf too,” meaning, “Come to our church. We waste less of your time than other churches will.” And “After 2000 years Christianity’s biggest competition is still the Lions,” with a TV screen of a football game. Wrong – around here it’s only 96 years – and it’s the Packers. I’m yet to hear a church marketing campaign invitation, “Join us. We’ll make you into a servant and slave to all.”
He’s anxious to have a word with Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Many Christians think he’s asking Jesus for a roadmap to heaven. No – more precisely, he’s looking for the kingdom Messiah brings to earth, transforming now, not future life in heaven when you die, though I imagine he’d take it if offered.
Focus on the Family – I’ll bet you didn’t expect to hear me say that on Diversity Sunday. But families these days are diverse – nuclear families, adopted families, church families, unlike what Family Focus folks would have them be. We no longer live in the worlds of “Leave it to Beaver” and “Ozzie and Harriet.” Apologies to millennials who don’t know what that means, not those phones with dials, manual typewriters, or cheap gasoline.