Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Voices From the Sacred Roads: Johann Sebastian Bach

As the church transitioned from a movement to an institution in the late fourth century, the Relational mode of discipleship gave way to a more Experiential mode of discipleship. Buildings for worship were constructed, incense was burned, music was composed, and the mass, or the re-creation of the passion narrative, was celebrated every week. In experiential discipleship, people were taught about Christ and grew in their relationship to him through a full immersion into a medieval multimedia experience. Johann Sebastian Bach engaged in experiential discipleship hundreds of years later.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Johann Sebastian Bach composed some of the most technically and spiritually important pieces of the Baroque period. A devout Christian, Bach desired to create music that enhanced the preaching of the Word. He said, “Music's only purpose should be the glory of God and the recreation of the human spirit.” Trained on the organ and violin, he became the cantor at St. Thomas’s School in Leipzip, Germany, and he served as the organist and music director for two Lutheran churches. During his first six years in Leipzig, Bach wrote up to five annual cantata cycles, many expounding on the Gospel readings for the Sunday worship in the Lutheran church. His composition style seemed to match the style of preaching in the Lutheran tradition. Dr. Paul Minear of Yale Divinity School said, “He had a life-time calling from God to create forms of music appropriate to God's praise. His love for the Bible and the church was translated into a passion to fuse faith and music, theology and liturgy, perhaps we should say, to choreograph "the dance of God." He set to music the biblical story in such a way as to reveal God's presence to the congregation and to elicit an intimate, though often also disturbing, conversation with the Almighty.” Bach produced over 1,000 works, including The Passion of St. John, Christmas Oratorio, and Mass in B Minor.

To read more about experiential discipleship, check out Sacred Roads: Exploring the Historic Paths of Discipleship.


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