Worlds apart

Life can be far more than just different perspectives.

Huw Williams | 12:18, Saturday 21 July, 2012 | Turin, Italy

ÉcoivresI've gone back to Vaughan Williams' Pastoral Symphony recently. It is a piece I had the great privilege of conducting as a young man, and I often think I'd give my hind teeth to conduct it again (and I think I'd do a few things differently with a few more years on the clock). 

It's very much the Cinderella of the Vaughan Williams symphonies, but once it gets under your skin, you begin to see it as the truly remarkable work it is. 

The scenes Vaughan Williams was evoking were far from the Cotswolds

From its first performance in January 1922, people assumed that they knew what this piece was about. After all, Vaughan Williams had already shown a penchant for English folk song and the idyll, so this was surely a celebration of the Great British countryside. In actual fact, the work was what Michael Kennedy aptly described as "his 1914-18 war requiem". The scenes Vaughan Williams was evoking were far from the Cotswolds, they were in fact those of his time at Écoivres in the Great War. And when you have eyes to see it, you see it with clarity.

Life has a habit of doing that, doesn't it? – it doesn't always do exactly what it says on the tin. As we packed our house up this time last year, we weren't naive enough to think we were heading for a year of sun, coffee and pizza, but neither did we know just how hard some aspects of all the changes ahead would prove to be.

We may think we should know how to read them, after all this is the Bible

And so it is with the Bible sometimes. We hit the final few chapters of Judges in our Bible Study last night. What are we supposed to do with these hair-raising accounts which have lost none of their power to shock, even in modern times? We may think we should know how to read them, after all this is the Bible, so there must be a good moral to these stories, or perhaps someone giving us a good example to follow at the very least. But no, there is no saviour here, no direct mention of God in action, not even any enemies of Israel – God's people are doing enough of a job of self-destruction for them to be necessary. Neither is there much commentary on events from the text itself, the stories speak for themselves. But what there is, is telling:-

"In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit." (17:6)

A king would save them from this chaos. A good king would put a stop to this wickedness, and would deliver them from this spiritual anarchy and confusion. And then our eyes are lifted to see the Good King. With this King on the throne, His people are saved from spiritual and personal confusion, He brings order from chaos, peace from violence. The difference he offers us is between two worlds, even further apart than the Cotswolds and Écoivres of nearly a hundred years ago.

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