Here is something you don’t see every day. Or, for that matter, any day. A writer from the National Review liked the sermon that Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori gave yesterday at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.
Michael Potemra wrote that yesterday’s readings were ripe for political exploitation. But, he said:
When texts like these fall by happenstance into a service on such a emotionally wrought civic occasion, the pewsitter has a reasonable fear that the preacher will draw a facile political lesson which — coincidence of coincidences — just happens to be the same conclusion the preacher would have drawn based on his or her own secular-political views. I am delighted to report that the preacher today — the Most Reverend Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church — did not do this. She made no explicit comment on Iraq or Afghanistan or Libya, or Iran, or the Arab Spring. Her sermon discussed matters of the human heart: What should the attitude of the Christian be, when faced with attacks or affronts? Bringing up affronts was a good idea: After all, most Americans live their lives blessedly free of physical assaults — we’re surely one of the safest countries, in that regard — but we all encounter insult and cruelty in other forms. Do we seek vengeance, or do we try to repair the broken bonds? ….
One part of her sermon that I found especially appropriate for 9/11 was her discussion of Joseph. The reason his brothers hated him, she reminded us, was that he was his father’s favorite: It was his brothers’ envy that possessed their hearts, and led them to conspire against him to slay him. Bishop Schori did not draw an explicit analogy to the seething resentment some people in the rest of the world feel toward the United States, which causes them to strike out with murderous intent against the innocent. I am not even 100 percent sure she had this analogy in mind. But to me, it was clear as day. Still, the next part was both clear and intentional: She quoted Joseph’s declaration of forgiveness to his brothers, What you have intended for evil God has turned to good. And she pointed out that, after Joseph forgave his brothers and provided for them in the famine, the brotherly bond connecting them all was stronger than it had been before the original thoughts of murder had entered their hearts.