Sunday, November 08, 2015
Discerning Eyes and Ears
Last evening more than 300 people attended a performance of Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah at Bridge St. United Church. It was a big deal with more than fifty members in the chorus, four exceptional soloists, and a guest organist playing our restored Casavant. Our Music Minister Terry Head conducted and he did an impressive job of bringing the performance to fruition.
The composer Mendelssohn was born Jewish, but his family converted to Christianity. Elijah is in some respects an homage to his religious heritage, along with the "superhero" prophet whose story unfolds in 1st and 2nd Kings. Along with the key stories from Elijah's life, including the rescue of a starving widow and her son, and dust-ups with King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, other biblical passages from Isaiah and the Psalms are interwoven in a deft manner. Of course the "still small voice" story is included and quite beautiful.
The dominant drama in the first act is the encounter between God's prophet Elijah and the prophets of the false god Baal. It is a story of blood and gore and it certainly caused me to ponder the "texts of terror" in scripture, many of them tribal and ugly. This portion makes good choral excitement, and it was musically stirring, but it sure doesn't seem consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
This is not a criticism of our performance of Elijah! It is a reminder that we must always read the bible with a discerning eye and listen with the perspective of Christ's call to a new way.