Singing Good News

June 1, 2020

Have you seen any of the virtual choirs?

My Facebook feed has seen an increasing numbers of them. From the United States Navy Band singing One Voice to The Irish Blessing dedicated to frontline workers sung by 300 churches. Choirs have found a way around isolation to sing good news to us all and they’re good.

This weekend we get not just a virtual song but a virtual oratorio! Thousands of members of a worldwide choir will be joining voices to sing the well-known baroque-style Handel’s Messiah. It is set to be a feast of delectable sounds. Composed by George Frideric Handel in 1741, is structured in three parts. Messiah is a unique oratorio; it is not a drama of personalities, nor an encompassing narrative, instead it offers contemplation on different aspects of the Christian Messiah.

Scene 5 of the second part alludes to the Christian festival of Pentecost, a day celebrated just yesterday. It includes the enigmatic three-minute piece called How beautiful are the feet of Him. Now feet have never struck me as beautiful, in fact they are often described as one of the most undesirable parts of the human body. So why are these feet beautiful?

Sung at an andante pace in D minor, we get a rather simple set of repeated words, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace…Glad tidings of good things”. What makes these feet beautiful is the good news they brought with them. Handel is referring to a message first spoken this past weekend some two millennia ago. So what was good about this message?

Known as the gospel of peace, it is a message about the peace that can be experienced personally today, and a peace that the preachers shared would one day be experienced universally. This good news is that there is a God who is for us, not against us. Who is intimately interested in our well-being and wants a good life for us. Who wants us to live into our potential; who will be there for us through the good times and the bad. A God who offers us a relationship through forgiveness and newness of life.

If you would like to find out more about this good news, then reach out; we would be happy to hear from you.

Richard Fowler

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

Splendid Isolation

April 3, 2020

With many people following the government’s guidelines to self-isolate at home, every day can feel like Groundhog Day where we are going stir crazy wondering what to do. Which is why I was encouraged to read that when Shakespeare was in quarantine as the plague swept through London, it is thought he wrote King Lear, Macbeth, and Anthony and Cleopatra. Time in isolation can lead to great things.

With more time available comes the opportunity to do all sorts of things we never had time for, like reading the book that’s on the shelf, painting the spare room, or making that phone call you’ve always meant to make.

It’s also an opportunity to explore more about God – Does he exist? If so, what is he like? How can he help in our current situation? It’s been said that there is no unknown God behind the back of Jesus[1], which means when you see Jesus you see God. If you want to know about God, looking at Jesus is a good place to start, and maybe now we have the time to do it.

Barry Robinson

[1] Torrance, T.F. The Christian Doctrine of God, pp. 243-244.

Spiritual workout

March 30, 2020

“Many people in their teens wonder about these big questions – what’s the meaning of life, what are we doing here – then somewhere in their 20s, they seem to say, ‘I’ll just get married. I’ll just have kids. I’ll get back to that later’. But they never do. For me, it kept boiling”. [1] Yuval Harari

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve noticed we are taking one lockdown rule very seriously: our rationing of one-days’ dose of a good, old cardiovascular workout, also known as exercise.

I’ve even been getting mine in. A brisk walk round my local park where I was witness to myriad forms of exercise along with creative ways to use park apparatus. And the exercise binge hasn’t stopped there. After 6 days of lockdown, social media has spawned numerous examples of how to keep fit. From the comeback of the 81 years’ young Green Goddess, to self-styled Instagram isolation games, we are a nation that’s staying fighting fit in this crisis.

But is there another type of exercise we can take advantage of in these times of isolation?

I once read an old adage that went something like this: “Physical exercise has some value, but spiritual exercise is valuable in every way because it promises life both for the present and for the future”.[2] What do you think this means?

For me, I wonder whether it means something like what Harari was getting at in the above statement? Harari is a best-selling intellectual with books such as Homo Deus: a brief history of tomorrow where he delves into the most existential questions of our time. There is something familiar to what he asked; maybe at some point in our lives we’ve all flirted with these questions. Because why are we here, anyway?

But like Harari suggests, we may have got a little out of shape when it comes to the big questions – the spiritual questions – of life? In these times when we have something we seldom have – time – is it time to get on the transcendental treadmill again? Maybe do a little more soul-searching as to what all this life stuff is about? The second week of lockdown could be that time when we do some ‘existential exercise’. What do you think?

I  won’t patronise you by telling you where to start the search – maybe you already have an inkling, some place you’ve gone to before. But I would be interested to hear what you find.

If you want to share your thoughts and questions, I would be happy to hear from you at the below email address. And I’d be happy to share my journey – a journey where I didn’t get married or have kids (yet) but instead set out to find the answers to Harari’s questions.

Richard Fowler

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

[2] The Bible, 1 Timothy 4:8 (GNT)