Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

4.17.2009

Soundtrack of the Reformation

The conflict was heightening; the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V desired peace at the expense of the Lutheran's convictions, and they refused to compromise. Thus, the Lutheran leaders wrote the most enduring foundation of Lutheran faith and the backbone of the entire Reformation and Protestant movement: the Augsburg Confession. These Godly men not only clearly laid out their beliefs based on Scripture; they also bravely declared what was unbiblical about the Catholic religion.
None of this was running through my mind as I attended the Southwest Washington Symphony’s first practice for our last concert of the season. Without even looking at the music, or knowing what it was, I hastily turned to the last movement—as directed by my conductor—and started playing. Curious, I thought. That sounds familiar! The tune was inescapable as the entire symphony erupted into a gloriously and brilliantly arranged rendition of none other than Martin Luther’s own “A Mighty Fortress”! This was quite the shock to discover in a thoroughly classical piece by Felix Mendelssohn, but I was even more astounded when I turned the music all the way to the beginning and saw the title: Reformation Symphony No. 5 in D Major. Felix Mendelssohn, a Jew by heritage but a Lutheran by choice, wrote a symphony honoring the reformers and their courage in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession (you did read that first paragraph, right?)!
Combining firm march themes with pretty but shallow melodies common in the Catholic Church, Mendelssohn shows the conflict between the two religions. My conductor, Ryan Heller, is not a Christian, however, and he had an entirely different perspective on the piece. “It’s interesting how this Dresden Amen [the Catholic melody] is juxtaposed against graver themes throughout this; it’s as though Mendelssohn was calling for compromise between the two factions.” When Lauren heard this, she whispered to me, “It’s not the Reconciliation Symphony, it’s the Reformation Symphony!”
Modern society and humanistic thinking has brainwashed even Christians into thinking that calling sin “sin”, wrong “wrong”, and right “right” is intolerant, mean-spirited, and fanatical. Reformation, however, requires identifying the sin and doing away with it, something that the likes of Martin Luther, John Knox, and John Calvin did bravely and excellently. Felix Mendelssohn could be included in that list as well. When asked why he would write such a piece, Mendelssohn replied, referring to the Reformation, “In those days, men had convictions; we moderns have opinions!” Let us change that trend now, at this very moment, because opinions are not worth dying for, so they cannot be worth living for.

The Southwest Washington Symphony (in which Lauren and I both play) will be performing the Reformation Symphony and other pieces this Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 3:00 at the Rose Center. Click here for more information.

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