Friday, August 23, 2013

Jesu Juva

As the school year begins, Jason G. Duesing suggests, teachers and students would do well to approach their work as Bach did his compositions. (And it's also how each of us should approach every single day.)
.... In Pelikan’s Bach Among the Theologians, he explains that Bach operated under the conviction that “the highest activity of the human spirit was the praise of God, but that such praise involved the total activity of the spirit.” In other words, as one of Bach’s biographers summarizes “Music is an act of worship with Bach….for him the tones do not perish, but ascend to God like praise too deep for utterance.”

In a simple way, such consecration is seen in Bach’s own hand. As he started each composition, he would mark “J.J.” at the top of each page as an abbreviation for Jesu Juva or “Help me, Jesus.” Once he completed the work, Bach routinely concluded with the initials “S.D.G.” representing Soli Deo Gloria or “To God alone, the glory.”

As the seminary where I serve starts a new academic year, it occurred to me that Bach’s approach to musical composition serves as a worthy model for the academic enterprise of theological education.

As faculty and students convene together to study and renew their minds (Romans 12:2) they should also grow in their love and worship of God with all their hearts (Matthew 22:37). Bach rightly saw the eternal nature of all his work, and those preparing (and those teaching the ones preparing) for a future ministry should see their current academic pursuits not as a temporal means-to-an-end but rather as something that will not perish and will be examined (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). .... [more]