Devotion - May 30

As we wake up on this Saturday morning to news of increasing turbulence in our cities, and direct our prayers to the restoration of both peace and justice, we rely on God's Holy Spirit to do a work that we can not accomplish by our own strength or wisdom. Music Minister Anthony Spain's devotion for this Saturday reflects on the gift of God's Spirit at Pentecost. Come, Holy Spirit ...

Acts 2:1-4
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

This passage from Acts 2 shows the dramatic, unpredictable, therefore at times unsettling, nature of the Holy Spirit.

Like the Holy Spirit the language of music can be dramatic, unpredictable/unsettling and also enters into numerous languages. As such, I have selected two radically different examples of music that represent the Holy Spirit, and have spread devotions regarding the Holy Spirit over two Sundays. The devotion for next Sunday, June 7 will be the spiritual, “Ev’ry Time I Feel the Spirit”, but this week’s devotion is centered around Symphony #5 by the contemporary Scottish composer James Macmillan. The symphony is in three movements and each movement focuses on one of the physical attributes of the Holy Spirit- Wind (Breath), Water, and Fire.

The Christian composer James Macmillan describes this piece as “less a traditional setting of text and more an exploration of elemental and primal sounds and words associated with the Spirit”... but that is just the beginning. It is a symphony, but it is also contemporary, and elements of it are so modern, that it may be unlike any contemporary Christian music you know.

…The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." John 3:8.

Like the Holy Spirit, this music represents many musical languages. At times we hear the Celtic sounds of Macmillan’s native Scotland, but then, like those filled with the Holy Spirit, we hear other tongues- and like the work of the Holy Spirit, the music is unpredictable.

A devotion does not give adequate time to delve into this music and at some point in the future it would be great to have Chelle Stearns, (Northwest Symphony Orchestra musician, and Associate Professor of Theology at the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology), who is passionate about and is an authority on the music of James Macmillan, come and speak to us about his music and other contemporary Christian music being written today.

For now, you may find it best to take this music in small segments, and if you don’t have much time today, you may find it helpful to listen first to movement III (Fire- the ending is beautiful), and later to movement II (water), and movement I (wind-breath)).

You may like some sections of the music very much, and you may dislike other sections, so I leave you with the thought that often significant and in depth works of art are not grasped on the first viewing or listening (more on that on another day). Listen, absorb, and come back to this music again and again (not only this week, but even in the months and years ahead) and see if each time you hear something new or experience new revelations. Even though I am used to going through this experience as a musician, I again rediscovered the importance of this process, after several listenings over a period of time- what a joyous week of revelation.

…The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
…and so it can be with music…

Wind (Breath)
Posted in