Today’s lessons are all filled with song. The New Testament lesson instructs, “Rejoice in the LORD always.” That simple phrase has been sung by huge gospel choirs who sing, “Rejoice in the LORD always, again I say, rejoice!” Our psalmist says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good.” Most of us know that familiar communion hymn, “Taste and see, taste and see, the goodness of the LORD…” Finally we hear the Beatitudes as told by Luke, “Blessed are you who are poor.” The a cappela group Sweet Honey in the Rock put the Beatitudes to song as well. Their rendition of the Beatitudes is so beautiful that the words sound different once you have heard the group sing them. Many of the hymns and songs we know and love are steeped in the words of scripture and breathe new life into words that may have become stale to us.
Thomas a Kempis knew something about the power of words. Born Thomas Hammerken in 1380, Thomas was a member of the order of the Brethren of the Common Life. The group cultivated a biblical piety that stressed the inner life and the practice of virtues. Their spirituality has influenced both Catholic and Protestant traditions of prayer and meditation. But Thomas is mostly known for his writing. “The Imitation of Christ” has been translated into more languages than any other book except the Holy Scriptures. Millions of Christians have found his work to be a true treasure. Thomas used the power of words to inspire the faith of others for hundreds of years.
What Thomas and our lessons remind us of is the power of words to motivate faith. Sometimes, as in our lessons today, we need the sound of song to make those words come alive. Sometimes, we need the inspiration of a profound writer to make the words breathe anew. Today we celebrate the blessing of Thomas and of the many writers and songwriters who have inspired our faith. We thank God for these witnesses and their gift of words to us. Amen.