Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Thanksgiving 2011

 

"Set your heart first on God's kingdom and God's goodness, and all things will come to you as a matter of course." --Matthew 6:25

(adapted from the J.B. Philips translation).

 

Imagine a church service so badly done that it becomes an inspiration. No doubt a clue to my vintage, I recall the release of the gospel based musical Godspell. The notes on the back of the cover of my worn copy of the vinyl recording states it was conceived and directed by John-Michael Tebelak with music and new lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. It was years after first hearing Godspell that I learned that John-Michael Tebelak derived his inspiration for the musical as the result of a very uninspiring Easter service at an Episcopal cathedral. Several accounts of his story are available. I note the following from a Facebook article "Episcopalians and Others Celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Godspell". The article reports "John-Michael was dumbstruck by the utter lack of joy and celebration, noting 'instead of resurrecting Jesus…those people had pushed Him back into the tomb…and refused to let Him come out that day.' " Such was the beginning of the Godspell story. Several generations of Godspell fans have since come to appreciate the warm, positive, and inspirational musical adaptation of the story of Jesus.

 

My first introduction to live performance of music from Godspell was during Holy Week at a local United Church in the mid 1970s. Decades later I still hear Godspell re-presenting traditional material with a sense of joy even in the face of turmoil or adversity. One of the Godspell songs is titled 'All Good Gifts". The same words are well known to Anglicans from the Rogation Days and Harvest Thanksgiving hymn "We Plough the Fields and Scatter."

 

Sung to either the inspiring music of Stephen Schwartz or to the lovely tune written by Johann Shulz the words proclaim the essence of faithful thanksgiving. "All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above; then thank the lord, O thank the lord, for all his love."

 

Ours is not a conditional thankfulness dependent on good times and prosperity. Even in difficult and uncertain times we may be thankful because of God's love for God's people. Godspell is based on material from Matthew's Gospel. According to St. Matthew, true joy and blessedness comes from being so in love with God that we are moved to act with love for our neighbor. "Set your Heart first on God's kingdom and God's goodness, and all things will come to you as a matter of course." Such are the priorities of the Kingdom that Jesus proclaims. The message of the kingdom is that the turmoil of the world is not the final word. This Thanksgiving may we respond to the declared priorities of the Kingdom. May the message of the kingdom inspire us to follow Jesus with joyful and thankful hearts.

 

The Rev. Canon Rod Gillis

Harvest Thanksgiving 2011