I’ve often thought that God’s kingdom is like an orchestra. So many different instruments, so many people using their gifts under the direction of the conductor. Different instruments playing at different times. Sometimes the full orchestra all playing, sometimes a lonely flute holds us rapt with a haunting melody.
All contribute to the symphony according to the composer’s will. All are vital. Each part making little sense on its own but all finding their purpose when they come together in the great symphony of life.
Last week, Janet and I went to London to hear Mark sing in Mahler’s 2nd Symphony – known as the Resurrection Symphony. We has good intentions of listening to the music beforehand, but never got round to it! So we just knew that it lasted about 90 minutes, and the theme was resurrection.
We got to the Royal Festival Hall in good time and eventually the Philharmonia Orchestra took their places followed by the choir, the Philharmonia Chorus. I love the buzz and the sense of expectation as the orchestra tune up and you wait for the first violinist and the conductor to make their dramatic entries.
The first movement begins and it’s all orchestra – no choir. Then the 2 soloists come on stage and we think the singing will begin. But no. The second and third movements are all orchestra too. We begin to wonder if the choir will sing at all. Not until the fourth movement does a soloist sing. But still no choir!
We have to wait until half way through the fifth and final movement before the choir join in – and by then there’s only 15 minutes left! The choir start to sing almost imperceptibly, though before long the hall will ring with triumphant melody and the orchestra booming in the final climax. The words sung are very powerful:
O Death, you conqueror of all things,
Now you are conquered.
I shall mount to the light which no sight has penetrated.
I shall die, so as to live!
The final movement, and the choir singing, was a long time coming but well worth waiting for!! What struck me, even during the waiting, was how appropriate that was. Waiting for resurrection. In this symphony, Mahler engages with life in all its pain and suffering and with death in particular. And, finally, resurrection.
We are at the beginning of Lent. During the journey of Lent, we are preparing to face, and ultimately celebrate, death and resurrection. On the journey, we are invited to face, with God’s help, the darkness in ourselves, and the darkness in the world. And there is so much waiting! But, like Janet and I waiting for the choir to sing, it is an expectant waiting. The darkness will be defeated. Jesus will die, but in order to conquer death. Jesus will die in order that we may live.
Meanwhile, may we all find assurance that we have a place in the orchestra, and be ready to use our gifts under the direction of the conductor.
With much love,