Sermon for October 16, 2022 Nineteenth after Pentecost “We gather thankful People”
We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing was penned sometime in 1597 to celebrate Holland’s freedom from Spain. An unknown Dutchman was full of thanksgiving that his people were finally free from Spanish tyranny and free to worship as they chose. It is based on Psalm 102:15 which says: “So the nations shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory”.
For the people of the Netherlands and sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were doused in anguish and religious bloodshed as the King of Spain sent the dreaded Duke of Alba to bring the people back into the Pope’s fold. The people had embraced the Reformations and the leanings of Calvin and the Pope was not happy. Alba ruled by the counsel of Troubles but was better known as the Blood Counsel as ”the bodies of thousands of people were hung in the streets and on the doorposts of houses and whole cities of people were massacred”.
Eventually the people of the Netherlands were free to worship as they pleased and this unfortunate time in the history of the church came to an end. The original words had phrasing like: ‘the wicked oppressing, now cease from distressing…so from the beginning the fight we were winning, Thou Lord was at our side, all glory be Thine.” Gave emphasis to the plight to worship with freedom, even from other forms of Christianity.
The words have been nuanced to fit 20th and 21st century mindset and theology but the passion of the words ring true. “we gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing, He chastens and hastens His will to Make known…Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!”
From a place of long held hope for freedom to worship, and a strong desire to be faithful to God, gave way for these profound verses to be penned. It is a trait well holding onto as we hope and pray in our day and in the days to come that we will constantly seek the guidance of God and be led by God’s wisdom.
At some point in the early 19th century Henry Alford penned words that would echo his deep commitment to God and to serving God. Written for the British Thanksgiving ‘Come Ye thankful people come’ has long been a standard for thanksgiving celebrations in Canada and around the world.
When Henry was sixteen he wrote in his bible “I do this day in the presence of God and my own soul renew my covenant with God and solemnly determine henceforth to become his and to do his work as far as in me lies”. He later studied at Cambridge and was Ordained a priest and spent most of his career as a parish priest in Wymeswold.
You will notice the dual meaning of many of the verses. They refer to harvest of crops and also the larger image of God gathering God’s own people.
We are at the end of the harvest season in Canada and for the abundance we gather in worship and around dinner tables as thankful people.
We are also reminded to gather our intentions to serve God and Jesus in more deliberate and meaningful way and put those to action.
Since we humans have been able to understand God, we have braided scripture and prose and music to better enable us to understand our deepest woes and sorrows, our heart break, our joy, our ecstasy and our overwhelming love for and hope in God. My prayer is that we continue to make music that gathers us as thankful people.