January 29

The Bach Experience- January 29, 2023

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to hear the full service

Matthew 5:1-12

Click here to hear just the sermon and cantata


For the text and translation of the cantata, please open the January 29, 2023 bulletin in a new tab. A portion of the sermon is available below.


Dean Hill:

By grace, with the encouragement of truth in Scripture, of goodness in the women and men of this faithful congregation, and of beauty in the highest reaches of musical splendor in Bach this morning, we are gathered and addressed.  There is much about us that occludes, that shadows, the lastingly true, the sturdily good, and the elegantly beautiful.  Our culture is awash, sometimes overcome, with these shadows.  We see photos of young widows in Ukraine.  We watch reports of gruesome gun violence in California.  We mourn a racist, heedless, needless death in Memphis.  Sometimes it threatens to become enough to take away our confidence, our courage, our willingness to lift another foot, to take another step forward.

So, Sunday. Sunday comes to bring encouragement, including this morning.  Matthew adorns our shared life with beatitudes, inverted blessings, which invert the expected blessings, finding makarios, happiness, blessing, on the underside, weakened, distaff side of life. So, worship of God on the Lord’s day is not a matter of indifference, not at all.

For we have left St. Luke, now to follow the trail of Jesus’ life, death and destiny, this year, 2023, in the Gospel of Matthew.   Matthew relies on Mark, and then also on a teaching document called Q, along with Matthew’s own particular material, of which our reading today is an example.  He has divided his Gospel into five sequential parts, a careful pedagogical rendering, befitting his traditional role as teacher, in contrast to Luke ‘the physician’, whose interest was history.   We have moved from history to religion, from narrative to doctrine.  Matthew is ordering the meaning of the history of the Gospel, while Luke is ordering the history of the meaning of the Gospel.  You have moved from the History Department to the Religion Department.  Matthew has his own perspective.

Every word is meant for a particular time, but not for all time.  For all time, and for our time, we have the staggering responsibility to fit the teaching to a new era, another epoch.  Whether or not ethics is situational, it is certainly epochal.  Our response and resistance to a megalomaniacal regime can be guided by but not directed by these precious verses of Holy Scripture.  Their application is, to use a marvelous American idiom, ‘up to you’.   And this will be inevitably be difficult.  Experience, freedom, presence—the invisible divine in life—are demanding and difficult.

Matthew has his own perspective.  Remember: ‘A literary work or a fragment of tradition is a primary source for the historical situation out of which it arose, and is only a secondary source for the historical details for which it gives information’ (45).  (Wellhausen.)

Some of that perspective involves a developing and developed Christology, an understanding of Christ.  Matthew is apparently fighting on two fronts, both against the fundamental conservatives to the right, and against the spiritual radicals to the left.  In Matthew, Gospel continues to trump tradition, as in Paul, but tradition itself is a bulwark to defend the Gospel, as in Timothy.  Matthew is trying to guide his part of the early church, between the Scylla of the tightly tethered and the Charybdis of the tether-less. Our forebears taught us so.  That is, with Matthew, they wanted to order the meaning of the history of the gospel.  They aspired to do so by opposition to indecency and indifference.  They attempted to do so by attention both to conscience and to compassion.  That is, they lived daily with a yearning to transform the culture around them in the spirit and into the form and face of Jesus Christ.

For example:  we today hear a reading and rendering of the Sermon on the Mount, perhaps the most beloved and best remembered of Jesus’ teachings.   At the outset, we face a raging river to cross.  For when were these teachings meant?  For all time, for Jesus’ time, for Matthew’s time, for our time—for the time being?

Let us let the beauty of the moment bathe us for a moment.  How today Dr. Jarrett shall we hear Bach?


Dr. Scott Jarrett’s portion is not available at this time.


Dean Hill:

Gracious God, loving and holy and just,

We lift our hearts in thanks and praise this morning.

We come to this sanctuary ready again to live as glad hearted women and men.

With glad hearts, curious minds, and eager spirits we offer ourselves in worship.  Bless us, we pray, by thy presence, which we invoke in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Are we as ready to receive the gifts of grace as we should be?

Have we been prepared, in these days, to notice the bountiful goodness by which Divine Love has touched us?

Do we need to confess a little slowness, a little occasional lack of perception, shortness of spiritual breath, a slight or not so slight disregard for what we have been given?

O Lord, as a people of glad heart, we confess that we have not always been fully a people of open hands.  Open us in these moments of silence, to a new rebirth of wonder.

Great art thou, O Lord our God, and fully to be praised, morning by morning.

We pray for thy blessing in this hour, thy gifts of confidence, certainty and sureness for the days to come.

Help us to receive, with confidence, the many surprising gifts embedded in our personal lives.  Help us to notice the unexpected possibility, the new friend, the unusual word, the strange connection.  Help us to see more than we plan to see, to receive more than we expect to receive, with the confidence born of obedience.

Teach us to claim some certainty in the midst of uncertainty, as a church and and as a congregation.  Teach us we pray the path we best should trod into the unforeseeable future.  Teach us rightly to connect yesterday with tomorrow, in the light of thy certain love.

Shower with cool saving rain and moist power the leaders of this world, with sureness to seek justice and peace.  Help those in the torn out conflicts of our day to continue daily, surely, to seek the promise of the Prince of peace.  Kindle daily in the hearts of great leaders an even greater desire for peace, with a sense that surely goodness and mercy shall follow.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord,  Amen.


-Dr. Scott Allen Jarrett, Director of Music



Comments are closed.