Seventh Sunday after Epiphany
Sermon: "Disarming Love"
Text: Matthew 5: 38-48
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Prelude in E major, BWV 566 • J.S. Bach (1685–1750)
If Ye Love Me • Thomas Tallis (1505–1585), Text: John 14:15-17
Greater Love Hath No Man • John Ireland (1879–1962)
Fugue in E major, BWV 566 • J.S. Bach
The composer of the Anthem this morning, Thomas Tallis (1505–1585), figures prominently in the history of English church music and is widely considered to be one of England’s greatest early composers. Throughout his service as organist and composer to successive English monarchs, Tallis managed to avoid the religious controversies raging between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism (though, like William Byrd, Tallis remained an “unreformed Roman Catholic” throughout his life). Tallis was capable of switching the style of his compositions to suit the different monarchs’ vastly different demands. During the reign of Edward VI (1547–1553) it was mandated that all church services be sung in English (as opposed to the traditional Latin) and that the choral music be brief and succinct, “to each syllable a plain and distinct note,” so as to be easily understood. “If Ye Love Me” is an elegant example of this new style of English anthem: featuring a clear setting of the text and restrained emotion, the piece remains incredibly expressive and distinctly the voice of Tallis.
The Offertory Anthem is John Ireland’s most enduring work for the Church and one of the cornerstones of the English choral tradition: Greater Love Hath No Man. Composed in 1912, the text of this Edwardian anthem is a collage of Scriptural excerpts assembled by the composer himself. Ireland’s choice of New Testament texts that speak of self-giving sacrifice has made this anthem a popular selection for services of remembrance. When considered through the lens of the fifth chapter of Matthew, however, the text of this masterpiece becomes less literal and more allegorical. At every moment we can choose to lay ourselves down—our concepts, beliefs, opinions and prejudices—in favor of the radically unconditional and sacrificial love modeled for us by Jesus. Through God’s redeeming love, we are called to “present our bodies, a holy, living sacrifice,” andto live as the walking, talking body of Christ, alive and at work in the world today.