and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor. – Isaiah 61:3
This morning I’m experiencing a contrasting set of emotions:
- Numbed by more horrific violence – bombs targeting the most vulnerable and innocent in Bagdad and then Kabul…
- At the same time I feel the opposite, not numb but called to action; action in response to the obvious beauty and joy of life and light, a truth that must win out in face of such darkness.
We all know the sad details of the carefully calibrated brutality; it sickens us and it makes us both sad and angry. At the same time I believe it’s critically important that we call into consciousness the light and the beauty too. Light and beauty came to me “accidentally” this morning.
Here’s what happened:
I seldom see any of my first cousins; eleven live in England, two live in France, and Europe is a long way away! Not only that but we’re not the best at staying in touch. Once in a while, however, a deep and important message is shared and real conversation emerges.
Such was the case with my cousin Alison (on my dad’s side). So this morning, in order to do a better job with my message to her, I perused her Facebook page to see what she’s been posting and to get a feel for where she is. That’s where I ran across the following “Flashmob” video and why I’m writing today’s post.
The video, filmed in Spain, features a lone tuxedo-clad man standing behind a hat; he has his double bass at the ready. A small child puts a coin in the hat and the man begins to play Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” After a few measures, two violinists join in, then a bassoon player emerges and – in a beautifully constructed choreography – layer after layer of orchestral accompaniment swells the sound, until the addition of a full chorus of voices brings the performance to its dramatic and overwhelmingly joyful crescendo.
To me, the ancient town square full with people – people from all over the world – speaks of life, of light, of goodness, and of the unique beauty that is human community. Such a living witness to freedom, and relationships, and culture, and art, and expression is an eloquent testimony to the core reason for our creation.
We were created to experience community; we were created to live as creative and relational beings; we were created to offer praise to God through the expression of our gifts; and we were created to serve one another with generous hearts and open spirits.
Then, halfway through the video, a dark image seeped into my mind, of a bomb going off in the middle of that square; and I saw with complete clarity what the darkness is afraid of, and what evil is committed to eradicating. The darkness is all about ending freedom, annihilating relationships, destroying culture, blotting out art, and stamping out free expression.
That kind of darkness represents everything Jesus stood against, and still stands against today. Christ came so that we could enjoy life in all of its fullness, and celebrate relationships in all of their joy.
So I can only conclude that, yes, this is a war – but that it is a war we can only win via the deployment of light, and love, and promise, and joy, and generosity, and beauty.
Yes, beauty. Click on this link – Ode to Joy Flash Mob – and you will understand what I mean.
In love, and because of love – DEREK