Theological Reflections on the 150th Anniversary Concert
Dear Beloved Community of St. John’s,
It can be infuriating when someone tells you about the splendid party you missed. Be that as it may, I want to talk a little about St. John’s 150th anniversary concert on last Monday, December 4. I want to think about the theology of the experience.
No matter how the creation of humankind came to pass, scripture teaches us that human beings were made in the image of God. Moreover, God beheld humanity and determined that his creation was good. In terms of that benevolent assessment, nothing that has happened since has altered that graceful, merciful judgment.
I believe that God was present in Springwell’s Wesley Chapel last Monday, and that the concert was an undeniable witness to our human goodness, ever striving for even higher heights. The oldest person at the concert was over 100; the youngest were two children, grandchildren of someone who has recently been joining us for worship. These children had never been to a classical music concert before. The rest of us ranged in ages from those children to that centenarian. Some of us walked in easily; others came with walkers and rollators. All of us are children of God, and created like scripture teaches us, beloved. Jesus was affirmed to be beloved by a voice emanating from a cloud both at his baptism and during the Transfiguration. Jesus was the first among equals: we are all beloved, and nothing we do in our lives changes that.
The concert was indescribably beautiful: the culmination of extraordinary talent, training, and art. There were 85 of us, or so, gathered to honor the ministry and mission of St. John’s Church in Mt. Washington, and to pay honor to our important milestone by sharing together a sublime musical experience, fellowship, and hospitality. No one I talked to was less than deeply touched by the beautiful concert. That experience comprised the occasion, the gathering of people, the music, the site, and the common hope that the evening would be something special—indeed, memorable for a lifetime. It amply fulfilled that hope. As St. Paul wrote, “hope does not disappoint.”
Also, theologically, God is always calling us forward. Certainly, we build on the foundation of our shared past. We see around us what happens to congregations that can’t move forward. If St. John’s had marked its 150th anniversary with a stale banquet, that would have been the end of it. If St. John’s was still struggling trying to keep a leaky slate roof on an old building, the burden would have outweighed the celebration. Rather, by having a concert that touched people in the core of who they are, we affirmed the depth of an aesthetic experience, and additionally, we take something into our future, as food for the journey. This year, 2017, marks something that began very long ago—just after the poignant conclusion of the Civil War, when Mt. Washington was hardly more than a real estate developer’s dream. This year marks a crucial inflection point that brings us perhaps into uncharted territory, but no less blessed and grace-filled than the years that have gone before us, and the countless souls on whose shoulders we stand.
Looking at our anniversary as a great night is right and good. It’s with a theological understanding that we can experience that event as a foretaste of salvation promised and awaiting us. That is a precious gift given by our God to us, beloved children.