Holy Eucharist Rite II at 10:30 a.m. sung by the Adult Choir, sermon by the Rev’d William Eakins.
Guest organist/choirmaster: Douglas Johnson
Worship at Home:
Click here for the Service Bulletin; scroll to read full sermon text.
Full Service Audio:
Voluntary Aria; Pastorale from BWV 590 Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Processional Hymn 1 Father, we praise thee, now the night is over Christe sanctorum
Gloria in excelsis S278 William Mathias (1934-1992)
Sequence Hymn No saint on earth lives to self alone Song 1
Offertory Anthem Since by man came death (from Messiah) George Frederick Handel (1685-1759)
Sanctus S128 William Mathias
Fraction Anthem S166 Agnus Dei Gerald Near (b. 1942)
Communion Anthem Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)
Samuel Sebastian Wesley seemed destined for the life of a church musician, as his middle name was taken from Johann Sebastian Bach. He did not disappoint: in a time that English church music had become less than satisfactory, Wesley was largely responsible for raising this standard through his own work as a composer and organist. In all his music, Wesley strived for an expressive and accessible sound, as evidenced in the three works presented in today’s worship. The exquisite Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace remains one of the most-loved anthems in the repertoire.
Closing Hymn 493 O for a thousand tongues to sing Azmon
Voluntary Larghetto; Allegro moderato from op. 6, No. 2 Samuel Wesley (1766-1837)
The Wesley family contributed three generations of master musicians to British music. John the Anglican divine and reformer, his brother Charles, the “celebrated hymn writer” (per the Grove Dictionary), and his son Samuel Wesley, who in turn was the father of Samuel Sebastian Wesley, the composer of today’s communion anthem.
Full Sermon Text:
They were ten desperate people. They had leprosy, the incurable and dreaded disease of the ancient world. It separated them from their families and friends and turned them into outcasts and beggars. Then one day these ten lepers crossed paths with Jesus and were healed. Their skin suddenly became clear and whole, and they were outcasts no longer. All they had to do was show themselves to the priests, and they could return home. Imagine their joy and their relief. Life could begin again!
In the midst of the celebration, one of the former lepers leaves the party to fall at Jesus’ feet and say thank you. “Were not ten cleansed?” asks Jesus. “Why has only one returned to give thanks to God? Where are the other nine?”
What about us? Are we more like the thankful leper or are we more like those nine lepers who went on their way and never said thank you?
What was going on with the nine who were cleansed of their disease but did not return to give thanks? Why didn’t they return? Well perhaps they were simply swept away by the surprise and sheer joy of not being lepers anymore, giddy at the thought of not having to ring a bell and shout “unclean” wherever they went, free to return to their families and friends and resume their old lives. It was like being b born again or rising from the dead. Perhaps the nine said to themselves, “We’ll find Jesus later and say thank you. But first we’ve got to get to those priests in the temple and get certified as cured. Then we can go home and see our loved ones.”
And when the nine cleansed lepers had done all that, they just got caught up in one thing and another. In a while they forgot about Jesus in the midst of their new life at home. Maybe they began to think they’d just been lucky, that they were going to get well anyway and it was just a coincidence that Jesus had happened by. Or maybe they began to think that they never had leprosy in the first place, not real leprosy; they just had a skin problem that would have healed on its own.
Today’s Gospel story is a striking reminder of the ingratitude of which we are all capable. How often we fail to express our thanks to those to whom we owe so much – a friend, a teacher, a doctor perhaps. We thought we’d never forget what that person did and the difference it made in our lives; but we did forget, because it is all too easy as time goes by to take people’s kindness for granted. It is all too easy to forget how much we owe to others and thing we have done it all ourselves. The truth is that there are not really any self-made men or women: we have all got where we are because of the help we have received along the way.
We are also ungrateful to God. How easy it is to take God’s gifts to us for granted:
– every breath we take
– the wonderful intricacy of our bodies
– the splendor of autumn leaves
– the starry heavens above us
– the people we love and the people who love us
– the Good News of God’s faithful love in Christ.
All of these are gifts that God has given us. We have done nothing to earn them.
But without gratitude we miss the gift. If someone gives me a present and all I do is consider its face value – how it looks, how much it may have cost, what I am going to do with it – and fail to appreciate the kindness, the thoughtfulness, the generosity that lie behind the present, have I actually received the gift intended? So it is with God’s gifts.
In the Gospel story, the only leper to whom Jesus says, “Your faith has made you well” is the one who returns to give thanks and praise to God. All ten are cleansed of leprosy; only one is made whole. He is the leper who recognizes that God has touched him – not luck, not coincidence, but God. Bowled over by the wonder of it all, that he a leper and a Samaritan, a double outcast, should have been visited and been healed by God, he bows low at Jesus’ feet. The former leper can do no other because he knows that God has reached out and blessed him. He has been made whole.
Gratitude opens up a whole new way of looking at life.
If I take my existence for granted, never marveling at the mysterious complexity of my humanity, never wondering why I am here on this planet, have I ever truly lived? Gratitude, the sense of giftedness, opens the door to delight in the experience of living and to the discovery that life has immense value and that God has a purpose for me.
If I do not appreciate the beauty and wonder of creation, I could become a selfish exploiter of earth’s resources, but if I see the hand of the Creator in the world around me, a crisp fall day will fill me with joy and make me want to preserve earth’s beauty.
If I take my family and friends for granted, I will grow indifferent and selfish in my relationships. But if I see my family and friends as gifts of God’s love to me, gratitude will move me to cherish these relationships.
If I see my money as simply the result of my good fortune or my talent or my hard work, then I will consider my money as mine, all mine, to do with as I please. If I come to see that whatever I have is a gift, the result not just of my efforts but of opportunities, abilities, and advantages beyond my efforts, then my attitude will change. Gratitude will transform possessions into blessings and selfish indulgence into responsible stewardship.
This past week my wife and I were in Ireland exploring the origins of the Eakins family. We located the house in which my great-great-grandfather was born and from which he emigrated to New York in 1837. We met far-distant Eakins cousins still living in that part of Ireland. The whole experience has left me with a feeling of connectedness not only with my Eakins forbears but with all the people who have gone before me and are a part of me. I am particularly conscious of my parents and grandparents and a host of other people whose affection for me and whose good examples have shaped my life. I have been blessed by all these people, and I am grateful not only to them but to God.
Today’s Gospel reminds us that true gratitude requires action. The grateful leper doesn’t just feel grateful; he moves his feet, returns to Jesus, falls on his knees and says, “Thank you” and “Praise God” in a loud voice. We need to put our gratitude into action. When someone gives us a gift, we need to send an email, write a thank you note, make a phone call. We need to express our thanks to God by coming here to God’s house and offering our prayers and by singing out lustily. We need to offer our time and our abilities and our money to do God’s work in the world. We need to respond generously when our brothers and sisters need help, like our friends in hurricane devastated Haiti.
Don’t let today go by without thanking someone. Don’t let today go by without thanking God. But once we have caught a glimpse of the abundant generosity both human and divine that has gotten us where we are, it would be wise to keep on saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voices.