“Music doesn’t lie. If there is something to be changed in this world, then it can only happen through music.” Jimi Hendrix
“Where words fail, music speaks” Hans Christian Anderson
“Next to the word of God, music is the greatest treasure in the world” Martin Luther
There are some great quotes out there about music. How would you describe the power and impact that music has on you?
For me, music is something that lifts my spirit and helps me connect with God. On my phone I have a number of videos of music that I often play when I need something to give me a boost – one is a video of a friend playing a hilarious Mexican love song on his guitar at a Christmas party; another is a recording of a children’s choir that greeted me when I visited a church in Tanzania last year; the other is a Japanese lady playing a traditional Japanese guitar which was especially arranged for me when I visited the Tsunami hit area of Japan earlier in the summer. Each piece of music conjures up vivid memories and makes me smile – so much more than just a picture, or just a memory – music does something to the soul!
Ben Zander is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and uses music as way in to teaching people about leadership, team building and corporate management. It’s an intriguing perspective and I thoroughly recommend his book entitled “The Art of Possibility”. He says a good leader is someone who makes people sing; maybe not literally, but, sing in their spirit at least. He talks about the importance in life of learning to play second fiddle and the importance of the team work drawing parallels with the complementary way in which different instruments of an orchestra blend and complement each other in different ways throughout a symphony. It’s a great analogy for team work.
As the new Team Rector for the Ravensbourne Team I hope to use music as a guide for how I might lead this team of churches and how we might all work together as a team in the coming months and years. It strikes me that maybe the three different congregations and communities in our team – St. John’s Lewisham Way, Holy Trinity Deptford and The Ascension Blackheath – have been put together by God because we all have different notes to play and if we play together we can maybe sound as one chord, three notes sounding as one – unity in our diversity which becomes a blessing and a joy to everyone involved and everyone who hears our sound. Maybe that’s the challenge before us, to get rid of any discord and work on the harmonies we can make whilst playing our different notes?
Music is also political, our Bible reading today makes that abundantly clear. Mary’s song or the Magnificat has to be one of the most famous songs ever sung and one of the most enduring of all songs.
Mary finds herself singing this political song because she is a young woman in a poor community where women are used to being marginalised and now she finds herself lifted, recognised and liberated from that crushing marginalisation.
Mary finds herself singing because her faith has suddenly proved to be worth something. Her inherited knowledge of God that has been passed down to her has been proved genuine. God is no myth, he is reality, he is working inside her body, he has revealed himself as her loving creator.
Mary finds herself singing because she now has the opportunity to be the mother of a revolution, through her womb the proud hearts of the rich will be scattered, the hungry poor will be filled and the oppressed sons and daughters of God will be blessed forever.
Jesus’ arrival into the world as Saviour is accompanied by a myriad of singing. Not only Mary, but, Zechariah, the angelic host on Bethlehem’s hillside and the old man Simeon in the temple all erupt with music and joyful melodies to greet the arrival of the Saviour. Luke, our gospel writer, seems particularly keen for us to know that Jesus’ kingdom is about music, about joy, about something that we can’t keep to ourselves but has to ring out in our world.
Songs of liberation are memorable – many of us I’m sure remember the songs sang on the streets of SA on the day Mandela was released from prison and on the day apartheid came to an end. It’s one of life’s mysteries that out of some of the most painfully oppressive circumstances the most beautiful and powerful music can arise.
That’s what seems to be going on here for Mary.
Maybe that’s what’s been going on in churches throughout history – when people have gathered to join in song and let the melodies and harmonies of a heavenly kingdom get heard in the cacophony of our world.
So what about us?
Have we ever had the liberty to really let our hearts sing?
Have we ever followed Mary’s example and let God touch our hearts, let God be do something inside us?
Maybe if we find ourselves this morning suffering under oppressive forces we need to take encouragement from Mary and let God liberate us, let God’s song inspire us?
Maybe we are somehow guilty of drowning out the songs of joy that need to be heard in our city and we need God to help us bring the music back to our life together in London.
If today’s service does nothing else than contribute over this hour some joy, some liberty, some freedom to us who are hearing the sounds and harmonies in this building then it’s been worth it.
But, how much more worthwhile will it have been if we are inspired by this hour together to go out and make others sing. To take the hope and joy of Mary’s song and be inspired to make a difference to the political and social landscape of our time.
And as the Ravensbourne Team of churches, let’s learn to play our different notes together in perfect harmony as we join together the ministry of our three churches in all their diversity. Let’s appreciate the sounds that each of us have to bring to the orchestra and let’s learn to listen to each other enjoying the harmonies that God might bless us with in the years ahead.