St Matthews Digital
Arts and Music
28 February 2016
Farewell sermon for Michael Bell
Rev Helen Jacobi's farewell sermon to St Matthew's Music Director Michael Bell
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Arts and Music
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Farewell sermon for Michael Bell
The novel by New Zealand novelist. Ennis, male, the Chimes tells the story of a world that is governed and controlled through music.
Each day music and song is played from the Karelian in London at matins in the morning and at Vespers in the evening and hearing this music. The people lose the ability to have any memory and they have to relearn the story of their lives. Each day through the music.
It's a really gripping novel, I would recommend it and it speaks of the power of both music and a common story to hold our lives together.
In the novel's case, the music is used for control but the people are eventually freed by others who use their even greater music skill to tell a different story. And to set the people free, I don't know if the novelist Ennis, male has any background in church and Faith, but the language of the novel's suggests that might be so matins and Vespers are played and the tale that is told through the music is called one story, and it has Echoes of the way that we read the Bible as the story of our faith.
And then the liberators proclaim a new telling of the story. Like the people of Israel liberated from slavery or the early followers of Jesus, proclaiming the story of his resurrection.
In our worship, we do the same thing, we tell our story and the story of those who have gone before and word and action and song in our music, We Sing ancient texts words written. Well, before the time of Jesus, the Psalms this the Hosanna, the songs of Maryam and Moses, And then we then we sing words written about Jesus or to Jesus the carry a Lord have mercy. The Lord's Prayer.
Hymns from every Century hymns of Praise of lament songs, which help us reflect others which drive us to action.
Each generation tries to sing their story and sing their faith.
Now, the reading that we've chosen this morning from the second book of Chronicles mentions, The Music Makers. We don't often read from the book of Chronicles in fact once in the three-year cycle of readings and we chose this one specially for today. 2 Chronicles is written somewhere between 400 and 200 BC, but it covers a swathe of History before that. And the passage this morning is about the building of the first temple way back in the time of Solomon about 968 BC.
And it just describes. The thing is, they were called levitical singers because they were an order of priests who assisted in the temple and amongst them were the singers. They are, they come out. We are told to sing along with the trumpeters and the house. The temple was filled with a cloud.
The cloud was seen as a sign of the presence of God, like Moses going up the mountain into the cloud to speak with God, or the cloud on the mountain of transfiguration of Jesus. But here in the temple, we're told the glory of the Lord filled, the house of God.
Music and song like that has always been part of worship back to those ancient of times.
Singing together as a community, brings us together and binds us.
And listening to the music of those blessed, with the gift of song, and the ability to play. Well, that transports us to a place where we might meet God.
Like the Ancients in the temple where they saw a cloud descend, we are able to feel another dimension of our experience of God.
And our musicians, share their gift of music with us every week.
And Michael Bell has shared his gifts of playing and composition and generally, incredibly talented musicianship with us every week for 14 years.
And what a gift that is? Been what a blessing.
Because when Michael composers and plays and improvises we don't just hear fine technical playing. We know he can play anything anytime, usually without music, but when he plays, we hear more than just those notes on the page.
When Michael plays, we hear his own story and his own faith. When a preacher preaches, we lay our faith beer before you the listeners, when Michael plays, he lays his faith bear before us I don't know. I think that's why he inspires us so much and leads us to heaven. So often with his music, When I scan through the gospels today to find a suitable reading, because believe me the one sit down for today. Flint three was not at all suitable. When I scan through to find one, I couldn't go past those two short Parables from Luke What is the kingdom of God? Like Like a tiny mustard seed that grows into a plant way bigger than it should be, so that birds can shelter in it.
What is the kingdom of God? Like, like yeast, that a woman takes and mixes with flour so that the flour becomes bread.
The kingdom of God, the way of God, the community of life and faith is something tiny insignificant almost invisible.
And yet when it's planted or used or played it becomes something else.
It becomes something useful and nourishing and beautiful.
So a note of music on a page or a few notes of music or in Michaels case, not notes on the page, but notes in his head, these notes become something else.
The music becomes Praise of God.
The notes become an invitation to pray. They become an invitation to the table.
They become a sense of the presence of God.
They become a heartfelt, cry to be heard a lament, a song, a quiet meditation.
A mustard seed becomes a tree, yeast becomes bread and notes on a page, become Sublime music.
And the music leads us to places outside of our heads and into our hearts.
Into our hearts, where love can be found.
And so we're God, can be found.
Michael, you have given this church and its people 14 years of Music, translated into faith and Faith, translated into music.
You've played for us in times of sorrow and in times of Joy you've played for countless funerals. Countless weddings for ordinary Sundays and for the great festivals. You've composed and improvised and created.
You played back for us a lot and a few other composers as well.
You've given of your talent and we are so grateful.
Your compositions will stay with us. We are glad to say and we will continue to enjoy them like the yeast mixed in with flour. They are part of us now.
And we know that God will bless you on this next stage of your musical journey and we know that you will continue to bless others with your great gift of music.
And we will continue with our calling, to be a Community of Faith and this place.
We will sing and say together the mysteries of our faith and every now and then that cloud of Wonder and God's presence will descend upon us.
And we will be very grateful.