shepherd sounds: Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving Day

24 November 2011

Mass, Rite II

Dt 8.7–18
2Co 9.6–15
Lk 17.11–19

Opening voluntary
Prelude on ‘Now thank we all our God’
J.S. Bach [based on Hymn 397]

Introit hymn 705
‘As those of old their first fruits brought’
 Frank von Christierson
‘Forest Green’
 English melody
 adapt. & harm. Ralph Vaughan Williams

Psalm hymn
‘To you, O Lord, we pay our vows’
 Psalm 65
 para. Christopher L. Webber
‘The Eighth Tune’
 Thomas Tallis

Sequence hymn 288
‘Praise to God, immortal praise’
 Anna Laetitia Barbauld
 mel. Conrad Kocher
 arr. Wm. Henry Monk
 harm. The English Hymnal, 1906

Offertory voluntary
‘A Carol of Thanksgiving’
Russell Schulz [based on Hymn 433]

Communion voluntary
Prelude on ‘Now thank we all our God’
G.F. Kaufmann

Postcommunion hymn 397
‘Now thank we all our God’
 Martin Rinckart
 tr. Catherine Winkworth
‘Nun danket alle Gott’
 mel. Johann Crüger
 harm. Wm. Henry Monk, after Felix Mendelssohn

It’s interesting that those who Jesus often lifts up as exemplary are people found at the margins, the marginalized. In the case of today’s Gospel lesson, the one who bothers to give thanks is a Samaritan, a representative of a minority group that is rejected and condescended to by the Jews. Why is this? Why did the Samaritan bind up the wounds of the man who fell among thieves? Is Jesus trying to make a point with his hearers, or does it tend to be true that those who are disenfranchised often have a deeper need to respond positively than those who have so much that they feel nothing at all?

Today’s texts explore these questions and attempt to help us sing our answers together.

The Introit hymn, ‘As those of old their first fruits brought’, sings ‘In gratitude and humble trust, we bring our best today’. The words encourage a response to the blessings we often fail to count. The text is one of many written by Frank von Christierson (1900–1996), who was born in Lovisa, Finland, but grew up in California. Ordained as a Presbyterian minister, Christierson served in a number of California congregations. The tune, ‘Forest Green’, is an English folk tune adapted and harmonized by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

The Sequence hymn, ‘Praise to God, immortal praise’, was written by Anna Laetitia Barbauld (1743–1825), a literary critic and poet who was almost forgotten for some surprising reasons. Although she acquired a prominent reputation for her essays and poetry at a time when women were not known for their literary output, she was denounced by many because she attacked in her essays Britain’s involvement in the Napoleonic wars and in the slave trade. Only in more recent years has her voluminous output been reexamined. The tune, ‘Dix’, was originally a German chorale tune, but William Monk applied it to ‘As with gladness men of old’, a text by William Dix (hence the tune name). Dix himself was not happy with this text/tune marriage, but it has not only made the hymn very popular (a favorite Epiphany hymn), but has been used with other texts, such as this one by Barbauld.

The Postcommunion hymn, ‘Now thank we all our God’, by Martin Rinkart (1586–1649), is one of the great hymns of praise used not only for Thanksgiving but for weddings and funerals as well. It celebrates the greatness of God’s mercy even when troubles in life seem to be overwhelming. Because of the story of Martin Rinkart, it is a moving hymn for Thanksgiving. Rinkart was one of four pastors in Eilenburg, Germany, who served at the height of the plague that resulted from the Thirty Years’ War. One pastor fled and Rinkart buried the other two. As people continued to die from the plague, Rinkart buried them and others, sometimes 40 to 50 a day, until he had buried 4,480. Among them was his wife. Astonishingly, Rinkart wrote this hymn to teach his children how to give thanks in spite all that they had lost together as well as for a great celebration at the end of the war. The tune, ‘Nun danket alle Gott’, was written by Johann Crüger, who composed some 70 chorales, many still in popular use in evangelical hymnals.

David Zersen

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