In 1741 – or so the story goes – an assistant to a George Frederic Handel, after shouting through a closed door for several minutes, walked into the room only to find him in tears.
Upon becoming aware of the assistant’s presence, the composer held up a score and said to the assistant a sentence that is now famous among music historians: “I thought I saw the face of God.”
The sheet music that Handel was holding up was Hallelujah, a movement from The Messiah which is now regarded by many as the most remarkable music ever composed.
If you have ever had a chance to listen carefully to a good recording of Hallelujah – or better yet – a live performance, you already know what he meant. One can’t really say that he saw the face of God. But – whatever experience he had that day that resulted in this short piece – it must have been profound.
But it is also a reminder that – in the end – describing the way that we discover God as a mere “conversation” – as if it were all about discovering all the right information – is utterly inadequate. The interactions that I’ve described in previous posts will be grossly incomplete unless they include science, history, and math. But they must necessarily also include art, poetry, and music. God is not, after all, a cosmic computer, generating endless facts which he is asking us to digest.
Facts. Science. History. Math. Those are all beautiful things, but they are not the totality of all things. And they are certainly not the totality of Who God is.
That is why, in the end, I like to think of God as a master musician. Like Handel, he has composed a massive work – ingrained in the fabric of our consciousness and the universe itself. Our job is not simply to hear it, but to live out our lives in such a way that we are dancing with it.
Thus, as we glance across the room, across the world, across time at others who are listening for the music, and as we can begin to sense it ourselves, we are not merely passive listeners. Rather, we are learning to join in with the Lord of the Dance:
I danced in the morning when the world was young
I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun
I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth
At Bethlehem I had my birth
I danced for the scribes and the Pharisees
They wouldn’t dance, they wouldn’t follow me
I danced for the fishermen James and John
They came with me so the dance went on
I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame
The holy people said it was a shame
They ripped, they stripped, they hung me high
Left me there on the cross to die
I danced on a Friday when the world turned black
It’s hard to dance with the devil on your back
They buried my body, they thought I was gone
But I am the dance, and the dance goes on
They cut me down and I leapt up high
I am the life that will never, never die
I’ll live in you if you’ll live in me
I am the Lord of the dance, said he
Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he
– Sydney Carter
…and here ends this series of posts.
May all of your conversations be seasoned with Spirit of God. May you find truths in those conversations that resonate in the deepest part of your soul. And, as you reflect on those truths, may you find your own place in the glorious chorus that dances eternally to the music of our Maker.