Today we honor John Mason Neale, a priest of many talents. He was a hymn writer, supplying our current hymnal with several original hymns and over 30 translations of Latin and Greek hymns. His more familiar works include, “All glory, laud and honor,” and “Sing my tongue, the glorious battle,” from Palm Sunday and Good Friday, respectively. He was a priest who actively supported the Oxford Movement, which sought to revive medieval liturgical forms. He was also a humanitarian. He founded the Sisterhood of St. Margaret for the relief of suffering women and girls. Born in 1818, he died at the age of 46. Though his life was short, it was full. He took the gift of his years and gifted the church with beautiful liturgies, song, and service to the poor.
John seemed to embody in his life our Old Testament lessons today. Second Chronicles says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Our Psalm says, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.” Our lessons encourage being rooted in thankfulness because the authors know how generous, loving and merciful God is. Once one realizes that goodness, the only possible response is one of gratitude. The things John did: revising liturgies, writing beautiful music, serving the poor – all bubbled up from a place of gratitude toward the Lord.
But how do we get to that place of gratitude? The psalm says, “Happy are those who act with justice and always do what is right.” Think back to the last time you made sandwiches with the interfaith group, helped grow produce for the poor, or simply gave money to the church in support of its ministry. Do you remember how those experiences felt? There is a happiness that comes when we love God’s people. That kind of happiness helps us to better see goodness – to better see God. And when we see God, our hearts are overwhelmed with gratitude.
John Mason Neale showed us what a heart filled with gratitude can accomplish. Out of his gratitude flowed music, worship and service. John invites us to enliven our lives with gratitude and enjoy the beauty that will flow from us. So give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever. Amen.