November 21, 2022
Our Boy Scout Troop 9 is selling fresh Christmas wreaths as a means to raise funds in support of all…View All News
This program features scriptures beginning with the prophecy of Christ’s death and leading up to the Crucifixion and Burial of our Lord. Paired with each scripture reading are sacred art, meditation, and music by which to reflect on certain reflective questions at the conclusion of each reading. Consider the mysterious and miraculous sacrifice of our Living Lord through this program and set the tone for a triumphant Easter morning.
A Digital Worship Experience
As you prepare your hearts for Worship through Sacred Music, Art, and Text, I invite you to use this time to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you during the Prelude to Worship. Albinoni’s masterpiece is widely performed during the Lenten and Holy Week season. You may wish to journal thoughts while listening.
“Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its tender shoots appear and are breaking into leaf, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you may know that the end is near, at the very door. Truly I tell you: the present generation will live to see it all. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Matthew 24:32-35
Throughout the ages, the Bible’s characters, conflicts, and settings have inspired the creation of the world’s most beloved literature, art, and music. The mythological tale of Orpheus descending into Hades to rescue his beloved Eurydice inspired Gluck’s composition. You’ll notice that most of the piece is in the minor, connotative of a profound sense of loss and longing. The final transition into its relative Major key leaves us with the feeling that the search is over, and the sacrifice has been completed successfully – Eurydice is at last saved.
As you listen, consider a more personal kind of sacrifice. In God’s mind, could there possibly have been any other way to redeem the sins of the People than by the death of His Son, The Christ?
What sacrifices do we make for The Christ? When we are presented with truths and wisdom from God – whether through study, prayer, or life experience – are we capable of distinguishing between that which is metaphor and truth? What in our spiritual lives might prevent these understandings?
“Meanwhile the chief priests and the elders of the people met in the house of the High Priest, Caiaphas, and discussed a scheme to seize Jesus and put him to death.”
Those who plotted to kill The Christ were considered holy men. The scriptures seem to suggest a feeling of urgency among the priests and elders to put Christ to death.
Imagine being privy to these diabolical discussions. The c minor prelude, with its undulating sense of urgency and movement, is playing in the background. Much of the piece is soft and staccato – with only temporal crescendos of sound that quickly retreat back into hushed tones – like the conversations of conspirators. The piece ends with a Major chord, indicative of the fact that the decision has been made. The events to come are irrevocable.
“Then one of the Twelve, the man called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests and said, ‘What will you give me to betray him to you? They weighed him out thirty silver pieces. From that moment, he began to look for an opportunity to betray him…” “When Judas the traitor saw that Jesus had been condemned, he was seized with remorse, and returned the thirty silver pieces to the chief priests and elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said; ‘I have brought an innocent man to his death. But they said, ‘What is that to us? It is your concern.’ So he threw the money down in the temple and left; he went away and hanged himself.” Matthew 26:14-16; 27: 3-5
Do we really know of the personal circumstances surrounding Judas’s decision to betray The Christ? Was it simply greed? Did he need the money? Or was he predestined for this role in the Crucifixion? What was it about Judas? We do know that his treasonous action against The Christ left him so overcome with grief and remorse that he saw no redemption for himself, save ending his life.
How many of us feel so much guilt and pain over the actions of the past that for whatever reason, we cannot forgive ourselves? Paralyzed by self-pity and fear, we can’t even utter prayers of forgiveness to the God of forgiveness. When we succumb to these feelings, aren’t we negating the very sacrifice that allows for the free exchange of grace and love between us and God which is, in turn, the very reason for Eastertide?
The Pie Jesu, translated as “Blessed Jesus, Lord our God, Grant them Thy Eternal Rest,” is a part of most every requiem in choral literature. Faure’s composition is particularly beautiful and perhaps the most performed. The organ registration for this selection is a simple, singular, plaintive flute stop – meant to illustrate our most private pleadings and prayers that God hears from the quietness and depth of the individual soul.
In what ways – whether large or small – do we betray The Christ in our daily lives? And when that time inevitably comes, can we forgive ourselves as God has?
“During supper, Jesus took the bread, and having said the blessing he broke it and gave it to the Disciples with the words: ‘Take this and eat; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup,
and having offered thanks to God he gave it to them with the words: ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, shed for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, never again shall I drink from this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in the kingdom of my Father.’ Matthew 26:26-29
We hear these words so very often, and yet do they mean anything to us? In other Christian denominations, the elements actually become the body and blood of Christ to be ingested – a sobering thought to the communicant. When Holy Communion is offered, do we just eat crackers and grape juice? Have the elements become so ritualistic that we don’t think of their meaning? What does Holy Communion mean to you?
As you listen to Dubois’s Communion, consider the Holy Communions in which you’ve participated throughout the span of your lifetime. Think of the various thoughts that came to you as the instruments played during the elements. Has the ritual’s meaning deepened and grown more significant with each observance? If not, then will you consider why?
“Jesus then came with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, ‘Sit here while I go over there to pray.’ He took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee. Distress and anguish overwhelmed him, and he said to them, ‘My heart is ready to break with grief. Stop here, and stay awake with me.’ Then he went on a little farther, threw himself down, and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Yet not my will but yours.’ He came back to the disciples and found them asleep; and he said to Peter, ‘What! Could none of you stay awake with me for one hour? Stay awake, and pray that you may be spared the test. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’
Matthew 26: 36-41
Beethoven’s Adagio is both lush and lulling. Imagine listening to it in a garden at night – even falling asleep to it. The music is replete with small crescendos and decrescendos –mimetic of the manner in which we breathe during sleep. As you listen, consider the ways in which we fall asleep at the wheel of our faith during those times that we are called to be alert. Do we have the stamina to stay awake for the work to which God has called us?
“Meanwhile, Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard when a servant-girl accosted him; ‘You were with Jesus, the Galilean,’ she said. Peter denied it in front of them all. ‘I do not know who you are talking about, he said… Peter remembered how Jesus had said, ‘Before the cock crows you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.” Matthew 26: 69-70; 75
The arrogant Peter never thought that his faith would be put to the test like this. And like Peter, don’t we often play scenarios out in our imaginations: “Well…. if this…. then I would do this …. or I would do that…” ? But until we are confronted with reality, can we be certain of our actions and words?
Around the world each day, Christians are faced with the same, potentially deadly choice as Peter’s. We’re fortunate to live in the United States where Christian values are deemed acceptable, and yet, unfortunately those values are becoming more and more politically incorrect in more and more pedestrian circles. Are there times in which we deny Christ? Business meetings? The golf course or football stands? A lunch between old friends?
While composed in a minor key, Bach’s composition from the St. Matthew Passion displays confidence and movement – “Of course! I would beside my Lord!” Like Peter’s denial, the theme in the music is repeated three times – each becoming more emphatic. Think about the interesting juxtaposition of ideas posed in music and scripture.
“Meanwhile the chief priests and elders had persuaded the crowd to ask for the release of Barabbas and to have Jesus put to death. So when the governor asked, ‘Which of the two would you like me to release to you?’ they said, Barabbas.’ Then what am I to do with Jesus called Messiah?’ asked Pilate; and with one voice they answered, ‘Crucify him! Why, what harm has he done?’ asked Pilate; but they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’”
People who are susceptible to the effects of mob psychology seek to belong to some cause or purpose that will bring meaning to their lives. The German people were an enlightened people, yet they fell prey to a way of thinking that made them complicit in the deaths of millions of innocent Jewish citizens. Even today and throughout the world, history seems to be repeating itself in the work of radical political and religious groups.
This Dubois selection exudes the feeling of blind surety: “I’m a part of something greater than myself! I’ve won over everyone and everything!!!”
This evening, I’ve chosen to perform the piece in Full Organ, despite the composer’s suggestions to the contrary. The musical ‘truth’ of Dubois’s complex fugue is reflected in the intricacy of chord structures and harmonic patterns that are veiled by the sheer exuberance and enormity of ‘noise.’ The composition rushes to a gorgeous, dramatic ending — the sound of victory and ultimate satisfaction – as might have been experienced by the mob demanding Jesus’s death penalty. In convicting Jesus, however, Pilate succumbed to the will of the people for the good of his own popularity and image – something we know today as “politics” – which can take many forms in many places, including The Church.
Absolute truths (of which there are many despite the hubris of prevailing ‘enlightened’ intellectual thought and cultural philosophy) often come to us in the silence of meditation, study, and prayer – not pomp, circumstance, and popularity.
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into his residence, the Praetorium, where they collected the whole company round him. They stripped him and dressed him in a scarlet cloak; and plaiting a crown of thorns they placed it on his head. And a stick in his right hand. Falling on their knees before him they jeered at him: ‘Hail, king of the Jews!’ They spat on him, and used the stick to beat him about the head. When they had finished mocking him, they stripped off the cloak and dressed him in his own clothes. Then they led him away to be crucified… Jesus again cried aloud and breathed his last.” Matthew 27: 27-31; 50
Being nailed to a cross and hoisted vertically is reputed to have been the worst of deaths.
Defined by a melodic thread that moves in and out of minor and Major keys, Barber’s music illustrates the agony of this kind of death. I’ve chosen to register the conclusion of the composition in deep, harsh, and erratically rhythmic reeds, reflecting the finality of Christ’s mortal breaths.
As we are human and still alive, we can’t ever fully empathize with the pain, humiliation, agony, and death of The Christ. But how does even our consideration of this event inform the ways in which we conduct our lives with each other and with God?
“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split, and graves opened; many of God’s saints were raised from sleep, and coming out of their graves after his resurrection entered the Holy City, where many saw them. And when the centurion and his men who were keeping watch over Jesus saw the earthquake and all that was happening, they were filled with awe, ‘This must have been the son of God.’ Matthew 27: 51-54
The Heavens declare the Glory and Power of God. The star of Bethlehem directed the Wise Men to Jesus at His birth. At the Hour of His Death, directionless darkness covered the earth.
As the scriptures reveal, the Centurions were ‘awakened’ through nature’s supernatural activity. Think of the times when God has revealed spiritual insights to you through the beauty, power, and mysteries of His creation.
“God’s Time is Best”
“When evening fell, a wealthy man from Arimathea, Joseph by name, who had himself become a disciple of Jesus, approached Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave orders that he should have it. Joseph took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen sheet, and laid it in his own unused tomb, which he had cut out of rock. He then rolled a large stone against the entrance, and went away.”
Matthew 27: 57-60
The constancy of the notes repeated in the organ’s bass pedal reflects the funereal tone in Bach’s composition. For those who believed that Christ was the Light of the World, His death surely must have been the most somber and hopeless event of their lives. In their minds, what could possibly have been stronger than Death?
What has given you hope and sustenance during the darkest times of your life?
Consider also this prayer penned in 1789 from The Book of Common Prayer and which seems especially germane to our Age:
O God of unchangeable power and eternal light:
Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred
Mystery; by the effectual working of your providence,
Carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation;
Let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being
Raised up; and things which had grown old are being made
New, and that all things are being brought to their perfection
By Him through whom all things were made,
Your Son Jesus the Christ – Our Lord;
Who lives and reigns with you, in the unity
Of the Holy Spirit, One God, for ever, and ever. Amen.
Before continuing with the rest of your day, take a moment to sit in silence with the attitude of prayer and personal reflection – in anticipation of The Risen Lord – and in hope of this life and of the life to come. Thanks be to God!
November 21, 2022
Our Boy Scout Troop 9 is selling fresh Christmas wreaths as a means to raise funds in support of all…View All News
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