This material was first published by Redemptorist Publications
and is included here with their permission.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
“The kingdom of this world
is become the kingdom of our Lord,
and of His Christ;
and He shall reign for ever and ever.
King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
Well known words from the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah which was first performed in Dublin in 1742. Using words from Old Testament prophecies to the book of Revelation, the oratorio tells the story of Christ’s redeeming love reconciling God and humankind.
Since that first performance, Messiah has been played and sung by thousands of choirs and orchestras reaching the ears of countless lovers of music in ways that Handel could never have imagined. We can watch and listen to it on television or radio, buy recordings on CDs and DVDs. [Update: live streaming etc]
In all these performances the foundation of the words, brought together by Charles Jennens, and Handel’s music remains essentially unchanged and instantly recognisable by listeners, however it reaches them and however they are interpreted by the conductor.
Messiah is the Word of God set to inspiring music and sung in the hearts of those who know and love it.
The Word of God, written in the Hebrew scriptures and the Christian Bible, has been proclaimed and heard in many different ways down the centuries.
The Commandments of God were proclaimed by Moses to the people of Israel living in the wilderness. They needed to learn how to live out those commandments in their particular situation and in the future once they reached the land promised to them by God.
Some 400 years before the birth of Christ, the rediscovered Law of Moses was read and explained to the people of Israel in Jerusalem soon after they had returned from exile. They then needed to learn how to live out the law in their newly re-formed community.
And then we come to Jesus, the Word of God in human form. When we hear Jesus say, “Heaven and earth will pass way, but my words will not pass away” we believe that he is talking about the Word of God. And like themes that run through a piece of music so too the Word of God carries the great theme of love which Jesus puts at the heart of his teaching. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. … you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (from Matthew 22.37-40)
The Word of God which Jesus reveals to us is, like him, the same yesterday, today and forever – it will never pass away. Whether it’s proclaimed in the wilderness or a city; to a whole nation or to twelve followers of a rabbi; by word of mouth, in the written word, on television, radio or any other modern media that Moses could never have imagined, the Word of God always carries that great theme of Love – a Love that conquers death and lives in the hearts of all who come to know and love it.
Unfortunately, just as in Jesus’ time, many people today cannot or will not hear or believe the Word of God choosing instead to twist its truth to suit them. Even amongst Christians different people put conflicting interpretations on the same scriptural words and believe with equal conviction that they are right. How do we respond to these differences other than to support the interpretation we personally believe and so deepen the divide?
Perhaps one approach is to ask, in prayer, “what would Jesus do or say about this?”. Part of the answer will surely be that Jesus would do or say only what is loving, life-affirming and gracious. We need to hear his words telling us to “Go and do likewise”.
We are called to love God with our whole being and to love others as Jesus loves them. We are called to listen for the words of God with humility and a willingness to grow in our faith.
If we follow that calling we will bring the word of God alive to be seen and heard by people who need it and who will learn to know and love it.
1. Jesus is the Word of God revealed in human form.
2. The foundation of Jesus’ teaching is Love and his words will never pass away.
3. The Word of God today is made known through modern media but the message remains the same.
4. We are called to live out the Word of God in our lives so that others may come to know and love it.
Let us pray to God our loving Father whose Word is Love and who understands our needs and concerns.
We pray for all who proclaim and interpret the Word of God that they may be true to its message of love and salvation.
We pray for all the kingdoms of this world that they may indeed become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.
We pray for those with whom we share our lives at home and at work that we may be good neighbours to any who are in need.
We pray for those in pain or distress and who need to hear the loving Word of God speaking to them of peace and healing.
Heavenly Father we thank you for your love and for the gift of your Son, Jesus, who shows us what it means to live a life of love and service. Help us to follow in his footsteps and to allow your word to dwell richly within us to the glory of your name.