Bach: A Way Station for the Soul
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
This week has been a slog. Nothing terrible, just a full 6 days of hitting the library from 8am-5pm, studying my brains out, plus two nights at the end getting 3-4 hours of sleep. Today I got a late start, and spent a few several hours trying to understand the differences and relationship between presuppositional and classical apologetics. If you’ve ever wanted a way to get your brain tangled into knots, that’s certainly a good one!
This afternoon, though, I found my brain's breaking point (ok, really, I dull-mindedly tried to go past it). Usually even on my study breaks I plug in an audio book, sermon, or some other intellectually-active program as I take a stroll to the vending machine or restroom. Today however I just couldn't stomach one more word being put into my head. I pulled out my headphones, and flipped over to a recent recording of J.S. Bach trios by Chris Thile, Edgar Meyer, and Yo-Yo Ma that I've been meaning to listen to for weeks.
And as the harmonies wafted through my ears it felt like the smell of honeysuckle on a spring wind blowing over and into me. My weary soul found renewal.
There's a reason Paul tells the Philippians to think about and dwell on excellent and beautiful things. They are streams in the deserts our souls so easily become.
Bach, in his own magnificent way, speaks forth the truth of the gospel through music. Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me all who are weary, and I will give you rest,” echoes in Bach in a very real sense. His music is a God-given way station on our path to Christ, a place for weary souls find refreshment, find renewal.
And Bach doesn’t allow you to stay at this roadside stop for very long. It is not the final rest; rather it is deep renewal that returns life to your limbs and spurs you onward. Even as you begin to drink from his well he is already pulling you forward and toward that which is ultimate - switching out the heavy yoke you came with for the light yoke of Christ and urging you forward to walk in newness of life. Bach knows his role only too well: to pour water into parched throats, and point them onward to the wellspring of living water.