Sitting quietly before the service began, I observed the organ with more than usual care. It towers above the screen,dominating the Nave. In my imagination it became a great locomotive waiting at the platform, or an ocean liner soon to embark. I'd have been entirely unsurprised had smoke started to pour out of the funnels on the corners. The image is a fitting one: in the worship, we should be carried together to a new place, journeying more deeply into the heart of God.
Then, as the organ started to play, the image changed. Now, the notes were being flung around inside the building, ricocheting from one wall to another until eventually they found a way out and, reaching heaven's gates, battered them like a volley of gunfire. But the notes were not just music. The notes were ourselves, caught up in worship, freed from the constraints of our buildings and our petty material concerns, and flung into the presence of God.
I have to admit I wasn't very conversational over coffee afterwards, being reluctant to let go of the images and of the phrases slowly forming in my mind. I'm sure that can be excused on a sabbatical! You can read the result below.
What will happen this Sunday morning as we gather to worship here? Will we arrive prepared and expectant? Will we hear if God speaks to us, inspires us, offers us fresh insight, encouragement, strength, and perhaps rebuke? Will we allow ourselves to be caught up to heaven, to worship with angels and archangels and the company of all the redeemed? Will we allow God to shape our lives, to use us more fully in his service? Will we accept God's love, forgiveness and hope? Worship has a purpose, a fundamental purpose, in the life of every Christian; our duty and our joy is to participate, and be transformed.
Gloucester Cathedral Organ
All Saints' Day Eucharist 2009
Thick thunder-throbbing pulse of platform edge
Oppressing heart-beat deep in stomach pit.
Earth quakes, awakes; shakes shiver into roar
Reverberating pipe core coursing awe
Nor more raw glory into tawdry nerve
And vein could pour, set verve aflame, and soar.
Turreted edifice o'ershadows throng,
Expectant ocean-voyagers await:
Hark! Let adventure spark! Embark! No dark
Tumultuous sea or cloud of night blinds sight,
Makes fright where flight of seraph-songs unite
Enticing blighted souls to realms of light.
Notes chatter, meet and scatter, shatter-sharp;
Collide, elide and coincide, as dice
In cup; trajectories enfleshed in souls
Freed, flung unslung, to starred horizons hurled
From world to spatter spotless gates of grace
With wounds of hope and tearful prayers unfurled.
No earthly station here, no quayside hall.
This transport of delight bids spirit fly,
Prise wide the needle eye, espy, and cry
In rapture bitter-sweet; each sated sigh
Soft-soaked in undeserving love's embrace
Outpouring 'Glory be to God on high!'
(c) Christopher Wilson 2009