September 25, 2016 + The Ninteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Holy Eucharist Rite II at 10:30 a.m. sung by the Youth and Adult Choirs, sermon by the Rev’d Helen Moore.
Worship at Home:
Click here for the Service Bulletin; scroll to read full sermon text.
Full Service Audio:
Voluntary Prelude on Forest Green Richard Purvis (1917-1992)
From 1947 through 1971, Richard Purvis held the position of Organist and Master of Choristers at Grace Cathedral, where he helped to form a cathedral school for boys. Upon his retirement from Grace Cathedral, he continued to compose, teach and give recitals into his 70’s. He died on December 25, 1994 at the age of 81. He left a legacy of over 200 works and an uncounted number of choristers, students and satisfied listeners. He served in the U.S. Army during World War II, and his 7 Choral Preludes, including this work, were composed while he was in a foxhole under enemy fire.
Processional Hymn 438 Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord! Woodlands
Gloria in excelsis S278 William Mathias (1934-1992)
Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 Anglican Chant by Thomas Pavlechko (b. 1962)
Sequence Hymn 705 As those of old their first fruits brought Forest Green
Offertory Anthem Zion’s walls Aaron Copland (1900-1990)
In the 1930s and ‘40s, Brooklyn-born and Paris-trained Aaron Copland produced orchestral ballets such as
Billy the Kid, Rodeo, and especially Appalachian Spring, which illustrated his firm belief that American composers should write on American themes. To aid him in fashioning a uniquely “American” sound, the
definition of which is still argued by musicologists today, Copland extensively researched nineteenth-century musical Americana such as minstrel-show songs, traditional ballads, children’s songs, political campaign tunes, and Revivalist hymns such as Zion’s Walls. Copland sets Zion’s Walls—a gathering-song which first appeared in the 1855 tune-book Sacred Harp—as alternately raucous or contemplative, but always heartfelt.
Sanctus S128 William Mathias
Fraction Anthem S166 Agnus Dei Gerald Near (b. 1942)
Communion Anthem Teach me, O Lord William Byrd (c. 1540-1623)
Closing Hymn 552 Fight the good fight with all thy might Pentecost
Voluntary Procesión Algre Garry Cornell (b. 1940)
Full Sermon Text:
“Help us, Lord, to be masters of ourselves that we may become the servants of others. Take our minds and think through them; our lips and speak through them; and our hearts and set them on fire for Thee.” Amen. (Theodore Parker Ferris)
Do you remember The New York Times best-seller entitled Tuesdays with Morrie? Written by Detroit sports journalist, Mitch Albom, the story reveals the author’s own radical shifts in life attitudes and habits by way of Tuesday visits with his former Brandeis University sociology professor, Morris Schwartz. In his last days suffering from ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Morrie Schwartz should have been a barely-whispering shell; instead his was the strong voice of a prophet, for in learning how to cross death’s chasm, Morrie was gaining new-life in double-time to his painfully losing earthly life minute-by-minute. Widely interviewed by the international media, Morrie explained his fame and the millions impacted by his philosophy: “I’m on the last great journey here”, he exclaimed, “and people want me to tell them what to pack.”
St. Luke’s Gospel could not be more definitive about what God expects US to pack for OUR last great journey. Jesus’ parable highlights two dueling dimensions: on one side, there’s Dives’ tormented existence WITHOUT God. On the other side, there’s Lazarus’ heavenly life WITH God. And what did Dives pack for the journey? Worldly icons: access to the material, not the heart; character formed by shallow sound bites; spiritual values jettisoned for comfortably expedient ones. Dives and his five brothers, indulging themselves in the protective environment of their life station, were totally unconscious to God’s mission right at their very feet: LAZARUS. God’s eternal principles weren’t on their minds, The Dives Company was…set for life but not eternity. What are you and I packing for the journey?
Shedding some wisdom on this what-to-pack question, NPR and PBS commentator David Brooks distinguishes between “resume virtues”, talents developed for external success, and “eulogy virtues”, the deeper ones formed at our core. “Resume virtues” start with the self and end there; “eulogy virtues” reverse our typical self-questioning: “What do I want from life?” with “What does life want from me?” (“The Road to Character”) Life, as Morrie Schwartz proclaimed, is a morality play, and we each have a part. What is yours? Mine?
Startling, Jesus’ parable illustrates there IS continuity between our lives now and our lives on the other side. No, we can’t take the proverbial “it” with us, but Jesus warns we DO take ourselves. If we choose not to do inner, “eulogy virtues” work; develop spiritual practices that strengthen relationship with the Lord; discern the spirits as to whether presenting values are of God or “resume virtues”; we too shall be stuck on the dark side of fleeting, earthly mediocrity. What ARE we packing for the journey?
We live in a tumultuous time; lightning-fast shifts are blowing our minds; it’s as if we’re straddling the San Andreas Fault, paralyzing us as either the powerless victim or the passive observer but NOT victors in Christ Jesus. It seems we’re caught in secular demise, a slow-death dilemma that really necessitates deep inner change. Deep Change means stepping outside human-made safety nets and humbly surrendering control to the Lord God Almighty. Deep Change frightens; yet God’s promise of steadfast presence can enable us to overcome habitual resistance and stagnation to walk naked into what feels a land of uncertainty but is, in fact, the land of promise. Deep Change by the Holy Spirit of God removes the old layers, revealing the divinely-created-resume, the potential to transform our little corner of God’s Vineyard…prayer, humility, and vulnerability…all keys to The Kingdom. What ARE we going to pack for the journey?
Jesus strongly warns that what we stake out, we live out. Even in a punitive after-life, Dives will not bend. Dives. Dives: resume hubris in tact, STILL demanding: “Father Abraham, send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in agony in these flames.” But Father Abraham forces Dives into eternal truth “… between you and us a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who might want to pass from here to there cannot do so, and no one can cross from there to us.” Salvation, God’s transformational cycle, only comes through real repentance and the fruit of our actions, never from ancestral or earned privilege.
“I’m on the last great journey here,” exclaimed Morrie, “and people want me to tell them what to pack.” You and I need to prayerfully live life now in a way that is on good speaking terms with the life-to-come. Dying to self is the gateway to rising. But, no matter what’s in our suitcases today, our loving God awaits, enabling us to re-pack with unending grace and mercy. You and I are called into the dynamic process of God’s gift of eternal Salvation in Christ Jesus. Whatever fills us, controls us; but through the power of the Holy Spirit, by Grace, we can store up within our souls eternal virtues…set for earth or set for eternity? So, St. John’s Church, what shall we pack for the journey? Amen.