Gustav Mahler and the Apostle...

One of the things I knew would miss most in our move was, of course, making music.

Huw Williams | 10:43, Saturday, 01 October 2011

Hopefully opportunities will come in time, but I certainly miss conducting. So, in an attempt to keep the musical side of my being stimulated, I've been listening through the complete Mahler symphonies over the last ten days or so. If you are yet to discover the delights of Mahler, you might be interested to know that he wrote nine (well ten actually, but it's complicated) colossal symphonies, in a passionate search for meaning and purpose, the answers to the big questions of life and death. Working through these discs (a symphony a day), I've been struck again by the beauty of Mahler's soul-searching, but also by the fragility and the uncertainty, the insecurity and the fear which an awareness of his own mortality brought to this wonderfully sensitive composer. 

So with these strains forming the aural backdrop to my afternoons, they have thrown the words of Paul which we've been studying together in church into such a brilliant light - "for me to live is Christ, to die is gain"! In complete contrast to Mahler, Paul is someone who has found the answers to life's big questions, and who sees the implications of those answers with crystal clarity. He is someone who is certain about not only his approach to life, but also his approach to death. There is no fear, there is no uncertainty, no despair about Paul – because he knows his very existence is intimately bound up with Christ. And what an existence! They throw Paul in prison - "that's OK" he says, "it means more people hear about Jesus." Enemies try to stir up trouble for him while he's in there - "that's fine too, what do I care? Christ is being preached!". Maybe he'll never get out, maybe they'll kill him while he's in there? - "Bring it on! - I'll go to be with Christ, which is better by far."

Just how do you stop disciples of Jesus who really live out the hope of the gospel? It makes me wonder how many Pauls it would take to win Turin or Cardiff with the good news of Jesus.

I love listening to Mahler. I'd rather be like Paul.


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