Music is one of God’s greatest gifts to us! During this pandemic, we have felt the loss of singing! Many churches restrict singing in worship. How sad!
One of the greatest musicians of all time was Johann Sebastian Bach. He lived from 1685 to 1750. On Lutheran church calendars, Bach is remembered on July 28 – today – the day of his death.
Orphaned at age 10, Bach learned to write and compose music without much help and support. Nevertheless he is now considered one of the greatest composers of all time.
Bach was a devout Lutheran who used his God-given gifts to benefit the Church. For the last 27 years of his life, he provided music for four Lutheran churches in Leipzig, Germany. He wanted his music to glorify God and edify worshipers.
You have heard many of his instrument compositions, whether you know it or not, but Bach also wrote music to be sung. A German writer who lived in Leipzig, Christian Henrici (pen name Picander), collaborated with Bach to produce the wonderful “St. Matthew’s Passion.”
Does your church read through the Passion History of Jesus during Lent or Holy Week? “St. Matthew’s Passion” sets to music the story of the last hours of Jesus before His death on the cross. It is believed that it was first performed in 1727 and became of fixture of Good Friday services (the day we remember Jesus’ death).
Whether the words are Bach’s or Picander’s, they vividly portray the Gospel, Jesus dying for the sins of the world: “How greatly wast Thou despisèd. Look—where, then?—upon our guilt; All sin hast Thou born for us, Else we had lost all courage. See how He with love and grace, Wood as cross himself now beareth! Have mercy on us, O Jesus!"
In one chorus, after Jesus is arrested and taken away, the female followers of Jesus are asked: “Where is then thy friend now departed, O thou fairest of all the women? Is it granted, can I see him? Where hath he thy friend gone away? Ah, my lamb in tiger's clutches, Ah, where is my Jesus gone? We will with thee now go and seek him. Ah, what shall I say to my spirit, When it doth in anguish ask me: Ah, where is my Jesus gone? I am haunted by that phrase, “my lamb in tiger’s clutches.”
But the Good News is that Jesus conquered death, rising again on the third day. Bach composed music for that too!
Martin Luther wrote “Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise … For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate ... what more effective means than music could you find?”
When you see your church organist, choir member or director, and any church musician, tell them how much you miss music! Or, if you attend a church that has music and singing, thank them for serving God by serving His people through the blessings of music!
Rev. Bruce Kaltwasser is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Osage.
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