I actually read a few books during these past two weeks away. Long gathering dust on my pile, but pushed now to the top was Bach Among the Theologians, by Jaroslav Pelikan, Yale professor of historical theology.
Pelikan describes Bach’s musical exploration of the Nicene Creed, in The Mass in B Minor, as “illuminating or even transcending the content of the words” of the Creed. Indeed, this is Bach’s astonishing gift – to open up the ancient words of creeds, liturgies and the Bible through music, in order to evoke in the listener an “intense kind of spiritual activity” that is personal, emotional, transformative.
What Bach did for music can be our own program for faith. We can move from thoughtless reading and recitation of ancient and even alien words to an encounter with the Living God. This can happen through music — God’s gift to us for faith. No wonder the Bible calls, again and again, to sing, dance, blow lutes and pound drums. God can be born in our hearts, midwifed by music!
This Sunday, continuing our Sermon Series on Music and Faith, “The Fifth Gospel,” I’ll explore some of these issues, then yield the pulpit to Alyson Harvey, beloved Bach Festival Mezzo-Soprano and this Sunday’s Concertino artist. Alyson will offer reflections on music and faith, speaking about what she has learned through song.
So, this Sunday, “Music Lessons” for us all, and music to lead us to God.