home > Pastor’s Desk > 2021 > November 26 > WHAT FILLS YOUR HEART, MIND, AND SOUL?

This is the story of two 9-year-old boys. They never met each other. In fact, they lived centuries apart. But they both had several things in common with the main thing in common was their love of music. They were both composers and performers. They both lost their parents when they were 9-years-old (one of them to death and the other to divorce) — they both retreated into their music, but they found something profoundly different in their retreats.

These things I remember,as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
Psalm 42:4

MUSIC AND THE SOUL

(Johann) Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) was a German composer. He is now widely regarded as the greatest composer of all time. In 1694, at the age of 9 his parents died within months of each other. Sebastian, being the youngest of eight children, went to live with his eldest brother, Christoph, who was the organist at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Ohrdruf (central Germany). His late father, Ambrosius, was the director of the town’s musicians who had taught Sebastian to play the violin and basic music theory. All of his siblings, cousins, and each of his uncles were professional musicians. During the time that he lived with his brother his grief was somewhat consoled by being surrounded by his extended family and their music. It was Christoph who taught him how to compose music and play the clavichord-organ. He also introduced Sebastian to the compositions of the great German composers. And all the while that Sebastian was learning his craft as a musician he was also studying theology, Greek and Latin, at his local Academy (‘Gymnasium’). This became the other consoling factor for the young Sebastian as his processed his grief for his late parents. His biblical view of the world helped him to find meaning in the midst of the pain he encountered at losing his parents at such a young age. He became acquainted with the God of the Bible who Himself entered into our world of pain and suffering and experienced it. In fact, Sebastian wrote two compositions about it (the St Matthew Passion and the Mass in B minor).

The music of J.S. Bach pioneered a genre of music, known as Tonal music, that would last for the next four centuries. It was built around the concept of four progressive chords each comprised of four notes. Bach wrote much of his tonal music also as a four-part harmony. This gave his music an orderliness about it that has a certain mathematical beauty to it, and hasn’t gone unnoticed that it also reflects the God who has given the universe exquisite order. Music certainly engaged J.Sebastian Bach’s heart and mind and based on what he wrote and they way his amazing life panned out, it had also filled his soul.

¶ I will sing of steadfast love and justice;
to You, O LORD, I will make music.
Psalm 101:1

Kurt Cobain was a lead singer of the band Nirvana. Some of the music videos have had over a billion views. While the loss of his parents and his pursuit of music was common to him and J.S. Bach, their lives could not have been more different. After Cobain’s parents divorced, Kurt found temporary solace in music. But whereas Bach drew near to God after the loss of his parents, Cobain let his pain trick him into thinking there was no God and therefore that life was meaningless. Cobain’s music was atonal (the opposite of Bach’s tonal music, known as Grunge). His lyrics became increasingly dark and his soul became increasingly empty. Like Bach, Cobain also experienced physical pain and discomfort. But unlike Bach who experienced his discomfort in his 60s, Cobain’s stomach problems began in his 20s. Bach threw himself into his music to rework and even finish some of his compositions. Cobain increasingly despised music. Cobain’s final days saw his wife, Courtney Love, insisting that he check himself into a drug rehabilitation centre for his heroine addiction. What followed marked the final days of Cobain. He left a suicide note expressing his deep inner struggles and expressing his love for Courtney and their daughter, Frances. He was just 27 when he had bought a shot gun and turned it on himself.

Cobain lived his life without God. His music was grungy and disordered which was also how he saw life and the world he lived in. While he had millions of adoring fans, he ended up despising his life and saw life itself as pointless. In one sense it is easy to see why Cobain saw life as pointless because, if there is no God, as Cobain reasoned, then life can only be meaningless. His end was sad, unnecessary and tragic. One of the reasons that it was sad was not just the regrettable loss of a great musical talent, but also sad because Kurt did not have a follower of Christ in his inner circle of relationships who could have shared with him the gospel hope of knowing God in Christ.

And this is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
John 17:3

Cobain’s music of despair reflected the condition of his soul. Bach’s Overtures reflected his peace with God and his Biblical worldview that helped him to process the pain of his loss, and set his life priorities in order. Bach’s final days were sadly hastened by a quack eye-surgeon who allegedly offered to cure Bach’s blindness with his surgical skills. Bach died shortly after this surgery and due to it. He left behind a wealth of musical compositions (over 1100), a few musical instruments, his wife Magdalena, and ten children. 

Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.

Theirs is beauty’s fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom’s holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown

“Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” (Jesus bleibet meine Freude) J.S. Bach

 

WHY GOD HAS DESIGNED HUMANS TO ENGAGE THEIR HEARTS, MINDS, AND SOULS IN MUSIC

God has made humans to engage their hearts, minds, and souls with music. Bach discovered this; but, Cobain did not. It is why music has played a central role in Christianity — in its discipleship of believers, and in its facility to bring God’s people together in worship each Lord’s Day. Musical songs teach biblical truth and theologically educate believers about the God. Sacred music stirs and lifts the soul and not just for the fleeting moment, but in a way that actually nourishes the soul by filling it with a lingering sense of God’s presence. This is why bring, joyful, upbeat Christian worship songs are so important for the discipleship and sustenance of the believer. As a preacher I am deeply appreciative of the complementary role that our musical worship plays in promoting the truth of God’s Word, and I hope you are too. 

But now bring me a musician.” And when the musician played, the hand of the LORD came upon him.
Second Kings 3:15

 

Your pastor,

Andrew

Let me know what you think below in the comment section and feel free to share this someone who might benefit from this Pastor’s Desk.

2 Comments

  1. LYDIA

    Thank you Andrew. This is a very beautiful piece of writing. The other year I witnessed the water baptism of a young boy. When asked what brought him to this stage in his life he responded with the words that “It was the music”. It touched his heart and soul. This writing also reminds me of singing God’s goodness at a beloved’s bedside, before being taken to Glory. It also reminds me of the time I turned on my tape deck in my car those many years ago with JM Talbot’s song, Healer Of My Soul, so that it could touch the heart of the young man sitting in the passenger seat while I drove, as only the love of a a mother’s heart can do. And today, ah yes. there IS joy in The House Of The Lord and we won’t be quiet! He is the Healer of our souls. It is only Him…

    Reply
  2. Alan

    Thank you for these great thoughts, Andrew.
    While joyful, upbeat Christian music clearly has a place in church life today, let’s not forget that the profound and reflective worship songs such as Bach, Charles Wesley, Fanny Crosby and others wrote still resonate with many of today’s believers. “A man brings out of his treasure things new and old”. (Matt. 13.52). I say let’s enrich our worship with God-given music that spans the ages!

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SUPER NATURAL CHRISTIANITY

The early Christians were sensitive to the voice of God. Ananias, who prayed for the newly converted Saul of Tarsus, was told by the Spirit where to find Saul, what to say to him, and why it was important for him to do so (Acts 9:10-18). Sometimes followers of Christ are misled to believe that they need to “learn” how to hear the voice of God. There is no example of this need anywhere in Scripture. But there are, however, injunctions to seek the Lord (Deut. 4:29; 1Chron. 16:11; Ps. 34:10; 105:3-4; Isa. 51:1; 55:6; Matt. 6:33; 7:7). 

It was John Calvin who wrote in his commentary on Ephesians that the reasons believers today do not experience the divinely supernatural, as it seems the early Christians did, was the lack of desire. This is what I now want to both remind you of and encourage you to do: seek God. Seek Him. Be open to Him. Pray that you might pray effectively. Ask God to confirm His Word in the hearts of those who need a supernatural encounter with God that might lead to their conversion. And then, be still (Ps. 46:10).

DEEPER SPIRITUALITY

I don’t normally share like this so please excuse me for being a bit more personal than I am normally in these Pastor’s Desks. Last Sunday morning I awoke with a strong sense that I needed to incorporate the vision of Ezekiel’s Temple as a framework for us to think about our year ahead in my sermon for that day. I had to re-jig my presentation (which as you might be aware involves a bit more work than they way most other preachers do their slides). This is why I arrived at church a little later than I normally comfortable in doing. I was particularly gripped by this divine vision given to Ezekiel of the Holy Spirit’s outpouring in the New Covenant with Christ Himself being the Temple-Source (John 2:19-21). While I was preaching to our church community (in-person and online) I was also preaching to myself. As a result, Kim and I continued  in prayer and fasting for the rest of our Sunday. I now want to invite you to consider again Ezekiel’s picture of the Spirit-filled Christian life as the map for going deeper with God.

THINK

home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > January 7 > THINKTHINK The Lord declared through the prophet Isaiah that His thoughts were not like our thoughts and that God’s thoughts were infinitely higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-9). This tells us two profoundly important...

WHAT CHILD IS THIS?

The grace and the truth expressed in the classic Christmas Carols brings great joy to this preacher who strives to produce biblically and theologically informed followers of Christ. It’s one the reasons why this preacher also serves as a gate-keeper over the songs that use at Legana because I know that most of my sermons are long forgotten soon after they are preached yet what we sing on a Sunday rings in our hearts for years to come. This is no doubt why singing, music, hymns, has always been integral to Christian worship (Eph. 5:19). The consolation that us forgettable preachers have though is that most good song-writers were, and are, biblically/theologically informed by faithful preachers. May the magnitude of what we sing this Advent grip our hearts, enlighten our souls and fill us each with joy inexpressible. Merry Christmas.

THE ART OF COMFORT

Pastors come in different varieties which is why the term pastoral conjures different ideas in the minds of different people. A pastor is like the hand that is placed in the glove of a ministry position which then leads to that glove taking a certain shape of the pastor’s strengths, abilities, and spiritual gifts. Over time, if the partnership between a pastor and a congregation endures, that pastor will also be shaped by the needs and demands of those whom God has called them to shepherd. And if both that pastor and that congregation are particularly blessed by God, the breadth of the needs and demands of a growing congregation will be attended to by pastors rather than the unrealistic expectation of them being met be a pastor. But there are times when a pastor is called upon by the broader community to care for that broader community in those times of severe adversity resulting from some tragedy. Floods, bush-fires, transport disasters (air/sea/road), military incidents, famine, are just some broader community demands for pastoring that come to mind as examples. More often than not, the type of person that God equips to enter these tragedies is one who has been shaped by God through having to deal with their own tragedies. In these instances the pastoral glove takes the shape of a chaplain. A chaplain’s principal function is comfort. In writing to the Corinthians after a particularly painful series of events, the tragedy-seasoned apostle Paul was able to comfort those he was ministering to because he himself had been the beneficiary of comfort from God through others.

IS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT ABOUT BEING UNIQUE?

home > Pastor's Desk > 2022 > December 10 > IS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT ABOUT BEING UNIQUE?IS THERE ANYTHING DIFFERENT ABOUT BEING UNIQUE? We live on a unique planet which is part of a unique solar system which is part of a unique galaxy which is part of a...

WHO CARES?

home > Pastor's Desk > 2021 > December 3rd > WHO CARES?WHO CARES? The world into which the Saviour of mankind entered as a baby was a very harsh place. Life was cheap. Might was right. The oppressed were abused and often mistreated by the Roman conquerors....

It’s Complicated

home > Pastor's Desk > 2021 > November 19th > It's Complicated Sometimes the obvious is little difficult to recognise. That’s why you might not have recognised that over the last few decades we have been transitioning out of our old world into the new...

WHEN CULTURE BEGINS TO ZIG IT MAY BE TIME FOR CHRISTIANS TO ZAG

LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF DANIEL
¶ But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself.  And God gave Daniel favour and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs
Daniel 1:8-9
Daniel’s world had been turned upside down. As a young well-to-do Jewish boy who grew up in a highly regarded family with parents who took their devotion to Yahweh seriously, he too would have expected that all of his training would have led him to follow in his father’s and Grandfather’s footsteps in the service of the King’s royal court. Even as a young man in his early teenage years he would have expected to one day take a wife and pass the baton of his knowledge and privilege to his son too. But then his world began to be shaken. The early stages of the disruption began when he was not yet a teen and a very upset and tearful young man from Anathoth, not too much older than himself, stood on the temple steps and denounced the wickedness of the King of Judah. Daniel would have remembered hearing this teenage prophet call the King and the people of Judah to repentance before the Lord’s wrath came upon them. This virgin prophet warned of the destruction of the temple and the invasion of the world’s most vile people — the Babylonians. The disruptions from this highly emotional priest-prophet continued until he was barred from entering the city, but undaunted, he wrote his prophecies out and his secretary, Baruch, deliver them in his stead. Despite the scorn, mocking, and eventual imprisonment, Daniel witnessed the tenacity of the one who came to be known as “ the Weeping Prophet” and some seventy years after Jerusalem was indeed destroyed by Babylonian forces (just as the prophet had foretold), Daniel referred to his copy of the now late prophet’s words and turned them into a …

CREATIVE CONTROL

One of the things that attracts many people to the coast is the the sight and sound of waves breaking on the shore, particularly after a period of bad weather. Ocean waves represent energy that has been transferred from air moving across the air/sea interface as wind blows. The longer and stronger the wind blows, the greater the energy transfer and the greater the size of the waves. Beginning as small wind waves, the waves grow and transform into swell that can travel thousands of nautical miles across ocean basins. On reaching the shallow water of a coastline the energy moving through the water transforms into steeper breaking waves that release this energy as they break on the shore. Having worked on ships, I have always found the formation processes and the way that waves move interesting. They obey physical laws. Their height and period and velocity can be predicted, based on the speed and duration of the wind. They can steal energy from nearby waves. They can change direction and bend around headlands. Waves, like people, can build and can destroy.