Jesus, the Queen and Sir Edward Elgar

Jesus went to church regularly… well, synagogue actually. But according to the writer of the Gospel of Luke, he customarily went to synagogue on the Sabbath, “as was his custom” (Luke 14:16). As he was one of the men in the synagogue, Jesus was also a “lay reader” (Luke 14:17) reading from the Torah, which should please and validate lectors and lay readers everywhere.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II also goes to church regularly. Most everyone knows  that I am professed Royal Family groupie, evidenced by the numerous Internet photos I find of HM The Queen, attending church most every Sunday and wearing some brightly colored ensemble complete with matching hat and shoes and purse.

If Jesus and The Queen go to synagogue/church regularly, well then… we should also!

This week’s Gospel story is a wonderful double whammy for us: Jesus stands to read in the synagogue, is handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and in his reading proclaims to the world just who he is while validating the old prophet Isaiah’s own words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.”

Can you imagine what sitting in the synagogue that day would have been like? I can just hear the comments now. “Who is this guy, and who does he think he is?” On the other hand, someone there might have said, “I was at that big wedding last week, and I witnessed him turn huge jugs of water into wine. He must be the one sent by God.”

The New Testament contains numerous instances where Old Testament scripture is quoted within the New Testament writings. These double whammies always capture my attention, as I think there is double meaning that I must understand or a double message that I must glean.

Sir Edward Elgar’s (1857-1934) “The Spirit of the Lord” is probably the best known choral setting of this beautiful text. It is a movement from his oratorio The Apostles, Op. 49 (1903), a narrative choral work depicting the calling of the apostles and their reactions to Jesus’ teaching, crucifixion and ascension. 

Sir Edward is probably best known for his Pomp and Circumstance marches written between 1903 and 1930. When Sir Arthur Sullivan died in 1900, many in England considered Elgar to be the successor of Sullivan as “first musician in the land.” He received numerous honors during his lifetime including being named Master of the King’s Musick in 1924. He held nine honorary doctorates including Yale University and the University of Pittsburgh in the USA.

 Though originally scored for double chorus and full orchestra, the opening and closing sections of this Sunday’s 10:30 anthem “The Spirit of the Lord” are wonderfully hushed, spellbinding and immediately captivating. Elgar’s masterful craft is exhibited by this scoring for huge musical resources and then calling for the most sotto voce sounds, thus making the hearers pay close attention.

Posted by Dr. David Ouzts at 3:22 PM
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