"The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa (NT) proclaims,witnesses and shares the Good
News of God's Grace in Jesus Christ."
Choir Festival 2015
Everything that happens in this world happens at the time God chooses.
I wait eagerly for the Lord's help, and in His word I trust. I wait for the Lord more eagerly than watchmen wait for the dawn.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want... He leads me, he feeds me, he protects me.
Sermon in three parts - Horst Müller
Dear sisters and brothers,
when one looks at a sheet of music, there are many “time indicators”. Right at the beginning of the staff there is the time signature: a number indicating the meter of the music, the number of beats in each bar- Three quarters, double etc.
And then each note contains in itself a time-indication by the way it is shown (the names breve, crotchet or quaver are not as descriptive as whole note, half note, quarter note!). These time indications where not chosen because of their looks - in other words: The composer does not draw a music sheet so that it looks good. They all together are crucial in determining how the composition eventually sounds.
When a mass choir, like the one today, is singing, it not only needs individual choirs practicing. No, at some stage they have to come together and practice together. One reason is precisely this “time” issue. Each conductor has a different rhythm, and might interpret the same beat slightly different from another one. Some regions event tend to sing slower, some faster.
And so, yesterday, the singers came together to practice. Fortunately(!) there was no competition between the various choirs or conductors as to who is the fastest or slowest. Rather, when the conductor stands in front of the choir, he or she indicates the beat - regardless of what others might have done or preferred. The conductor conducts. Only then will a good composition sound decently!
Interestingly enough, even though the composer can, in minute detail, stipulate what he had in mind, there is no guarantee what so ever that the piece will be performed to his liking - unless he himself can direct the production.
The verse from Ecclesiastes is a very well known one. Even pop songs where written about it. (The Byrds: Turn, turn, turn)
The origin of these verses is interesting. They were written in a time of a general life philosophy which stated: You are in control of your life. And if you do it properly, you will be happy and experience no hardship.
These verses countered that argument: Oh no! You are so wrong! Your time, your happiness, your success is not in your own hands. In fact, whether you like it or not - there will not only be a time for success, but also for failure, not only for love, but also for hate - no matter how successful and how careful you are. The reason is that behind life there is God, the great composer, who writes your life-music. He is in control.
Interestingly enough, because of this view, a new philosophy developed, that is found till today amongst many Christians: You have no control over your life. Everything is pre-determined. If it is time for sickness, you will be sick (no matter which doctors you go to), and if it is time for health, you will be healthy (no matter how unhealthy you live!)
Quite a few verses in Ecclesiastes lean in this direction - often resulting in a fatalist attitude: Everything is in vain - no matter how hard you try, eventually it makes no difference.
The challenge for us is not to be absorbed by these extreme views. That is where I find the example of sheet music helpful.
Yes, God is the great composer, the author of our lives. Yes, God does have thoughts and ideas for us. And, yes, he does communicate with us his ideas through scripture, through the commandments, and most of all, through the words and teaching of Jesus.
But we have a choice! We can take matters into our own hands, sing our own rhythm and adapt and change as we like - or we can look at the composer and say: Lord, please be my conductor! Help me to look up to you and be guided by you. I know that there will be good times and bad ones, joy and sorrow, but I would like you to be at the helm, and guide me through these! I would like you to be the conductor of my life´s music!
The next songs we are going to hear speak about this confidence that our time is in His hands, and that the best thing to do is to look at the Lord, and be guided by him.
Then follows a short passage reminding us that we don´t get answers straight away, but that patience is needed.
Meine Zeit steht in deinen Händen; In His time;
Sollt ich meinem Gott nicht singen (Bach) EG 325 (V1,10) FMS 64
Zeit beinhaltet warten. / Time includes waiting.
Ich harre des Herrn, meine Seele harret, und ich hoffe auf sein Wort. Meine Seele wartet auf den Herrn mehr als die Wächter auf den Morgen (Psalm 130:5-6)
I wait eagerly for the Lord’s help, and in His word I trust. I wait for the Lord more eagerly than watchmen wait for the dawn. (Psalm 130: 5-6)
Keiner weiß, wann Unser Liederbuch 260; Vaterunser; O Vater aller Frommen
2. Ansprache / Address:
Gott ist Anfang und Ende der Zeit / God is the beginning and the end of time
Wer ruft die Geschlechter von Anfang her? Ich bin’s, der Herr, der Erste, und bei den Letzten noch derselbe. (Jes. 41:4)
Who has determined the course of history? I, the Lord, was there at the beginning, and I, the Lord, will be there at the end. (Isaiah 41:4)
Today we are hearing quite a few pieces, in fact, most of them, where the composers have long since passed away.
How wonderful would it be if we could have Bach himself conduct one of his pieces! But, of course, that is out of the question! His works are still with us, but he is long gone!
All to often Christians speak and act as if the composer of Life itself, our Lord, also belongs to history. Church Historians speak of the post-Christian era, Old people speak about the “good old times” when the Church was full, and things were still in order.
The verse from Isaiah 41 was spoken when Israel was in Exile in Babylon. The Old people remembered the glory of Jerusalem. The young people were losing interest and even started to follow other gods. “God has forgotten us!” “God has turned his back on us” “God is no more. His time is past”
Into this situation the prophet proclaims: No - he, who was there at the beginning, will be there at the end. Even the Babylonian people, serving other gods, ultimately “play to his tune”, and are not outside of his “composition”.
Occasionally it happens that a librarian or a keeper of archives unearths a yet unknown composition of a famous composer. Musicians rejoice - it is almost as if with this unknown composition the composer is becoming alive again.
Our God is alive! Indeed, many of his compositions, many of his teachings, have been forgotten. But our Lord keeps on nudging us, reminding us: I am alive! He keeps on inviting us, to play his music, to let the long forgotten or lost tunes of his forgiveness, his love and his life-transforming power be heard again.
This composer does not force himself on us - but he also does not walk away. He keeps on inviting, reminding, and is busy working so that future generations too can be transformed by him.
Er weckt mich alle Morgen (EG 452) FMS 75; Holz auf Jesu Schulter (EG 97) FMS 57
3. Ansprache / Address:
Leben und handeln in der Zeit / Living and acting in time
Wohin wir auch gehen, was wir auch tun, ob in Freude oder in Leid, der Herr ist mit dabei.
Wherever we go, whatever we do, in joy and in sorrow, the Lord is with us.
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want ... He leads me, he feeds me, he protects me. This is one of the most loved Psalms.
One thing that is all to often forgotten is the word “Shepherd”, and the meaning of it. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” Jesus said many years later. Having a shepherd is much more than just being protected and fed. It is about following.
Having a song festival is about much more than hearing and having good music. If it was only that, we could have hired an excellent sound system and played a CD from world class performers. Or better still, we might have obtained the services of world class musicians.
However, the biggest part of a song festival is for the singers to be part of the music, to study, rehearse, practise time and time again, until, finally today the songs can happen here in this Church. They are not being played, they happen!
In the same way, our Lord Jesus Christ wants his words to happen in our times. He “wrote the music”, gave the beat, and is standing ready to conduct, just waiting for his followers to look at him and take his lead! The world must not only be able to read up on Christianity - they must hear it, see it happening through us!
Our country has seen ugly scenes of xenophobia. People definitely did not look at the conductor Jesus Christ, but followed their own greed or other conductors who have no regard for life!
There will be times of hate, but our Lord wants to conduct, shepherd us, so that through us times of healing can come.
The good times are not behind us - because our Lord, the bringer of life, is with us, standing ready to direct, conduct us, so that the life-music that he composed can happen again in this world. And we are part of this happening!
Accept one another, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7
Darum nehmt einander an, wie auch Christus euch angenommen hat zur Ehre Gottes. Römer 15:7
Julle moet mekaar aanvaar, soos Christus julle ook aanvaar het. Dan sal al die mense vir God prys.
You received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father' . Romans 8:15
In his prayers Jesus addressed God as 'Abba', the Aramaic word for father (Mark 14:6). It expresses the deepest love and affection: 'Daddy'. Paul says to believers who are not of the Israelite family: that is what God is for you, you are adopted into His family. And so are we part of his family!