This Sunday, the Chancel Choir will be singing one of the finest examples of J.S. Bach's musical genius - "Jesu, Joy of Man'd Desiring" (text found here). This piece is from his 147th cantata, "Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben" (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life). This cantata was just one of hundreds that he wrote. While serving at the St. Homas church in Leipzig, the compositional demand on Bach was immense, requiring him to write 58 cantatas per year. Despite the quality of his music and talent, Bach was not really known outside a small part of Germany. He was probably paid the equivalent of what a tradesman would be paid today, and was not even of high enough standing to be buried with a headstone.
I'm reminded of one of Pastor's sermons where he began with the fading and transient existence of mainstream celebrity. What is artistic and musical greatness? Is it marked by the ones with the most fame, money, and influence of the time? As in Bach's case, not necessarily. His music has endured for hundreds of years, expressing the beautiful universality of his works by his faith and devotion to Jesus Christ. It was not until many years after his death that 180-some graves were unearthed so that his body could be found and reburied properly in the Thomaskirche.
This Sunday hopefully our musical offering will suffice, with beautiful phrases such as "Hark, what peaceful music rings" and "...drink of joy from deathless springs."