"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!"" Isaiah 52:7 (NIV)
Recently, Teresa and I experienced an amazing performance of "The Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Evangelist Matthew". "The St Matthew Passion is a sacred oratorio written by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1727 for solo voices, double choir and double orchestra, with libretto by Picander. It sets chapters 26 and 27 of the Gospel of Matthew to music, with interspersed chorales and arias. It is widely regarded as one of the masterpieces of classical sacred music." One of the most recognised pieces from the symphony is the hymn, "Oh Sacred Head now wounded." There were well over two hundred musicians, choristers and soloists on stage, and the entire ensemble was conducted by Maestro Trevor Pinnock, one of the world’s premier conductors. When the three plus hour performance was concluded, everyone – audience and performer alike – knew they had just been part of something truly amazing. There was no doubt in my mind that the Holy Spirit was there and that the message of the Gospel was clearly proclaimed.
It was nearly midnight when we arrived home, but neither of us was ready for sleep. We sat and enjoyed a cup of tea while contemplating what we had just experienced. The ensemble effect of the coming together of all those people, instruments and words was simply beyond the temporal.
It does not happen by accident. It is practice and rehearsal that brings the composition alive. It is with their eyes and minds firmly focussed on the music, while fully aware of the instruments around them. It is with the guidance and leadership of the conductor who connects each musician to the spirit of the composer that the ensemble is produced. At the other end of the spectrum, when the individual members of an orchestra are warming up, there is very little beauty to be found – no unison, no harmony – the sound is best described as cacophony. Even the brief period of order that follows the concert master’s entrance and tuning check, descends, once again into noise. Yet when the conductor takes the podium, silence roars in anticipation of the signal from the maestro’s baton. Then we are offered a wonderful smorgasbord of music – unison, counter-melody and harmony – that delights the senses.
In many ways, the congregation of a church is like those who came together to present the St Matthew’s Passion. There were people of all backgrounds with different skills and tools. Yet with a singular focus, they produced something truly spiritual and beautiful.
It does not happen by accident. It is the living and working together in harmony that will lift us from the temporal to the spiritual realm. It is with our eyes and our hearts firmly focussed on the Word, while fully aware of those around us. It is with the guidance and leadership of one who connects us to the Creator that the ensemble is produced.
The Apostle Paul often makes reference to the church as the body of Christ, with different parts needing to work together to share the Gospel. In Romans 12, he tells us, among other instructions, that we are to live in harmony with one another and at peace with everyone.
We have begun the journey to find the one who is called to guide and lead us; a Pastor who will help us to become the ensemble God wants us to be. Like the Maestro, the Pastor cannot function alone. Without a congregation of people well practiced in their individual skills and gifts who are willing to bring them together, there will be little harmony. There may be challenges along the way; there may even be periods of discord. That’s ok. The beauty of the Gospel is that each version in the Bible is in complete harmony – there is no discord – perhaps minor variations, but the theme remains constant. Our congregation’s vision is to be a people transformed by Jesus Christ to be transforming in the world. To do so, it is our calling to declare the Gospel to the people of Orleans and beyond. As Paul writes in his letter to the Romans, "If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As Scripture says, "Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!" Romans 10: 9-15 (NIV) OUR GOD REIGNS!