by David Diebold, Minister of Music

Remember those Isaiah passages that Dr. Miles used for his sermons during Advent? Yes, those beautiful poetic images of the wolf and the lamb, of the desert blooming, of a time when there will be peace in God’s realm.

On Sun., Mar. 13, the first Sunday in Lent, the Chancel Choir will help you revisit the book of Isaiah. This time the texts are not quite the same as those for Advent. You probably recall that one of the readings for Ash Wednesday calls us to “repent and return to God.” The choral work we will be sharing on Mar. 13 gives all of us a reminder of what it means to “return to God.”

In The Peaceable Kingdom, American composer Randall Thompson selected his texts from the entire book of Isaiah.  Isaiah is comprised of a number of oracles against the various nations of the world, predicting doom and destruction at God’s hand. Drawn from the various oracles, there are admonitions to certain behaviors: all of which go against the covenant with God and the created order of the world.

Beginning with simple statements about both the righteous and the wicked, Thompson takes us on an emotional roller coaster as the prophet shakes his finger at the unrighteous, while sometimes almost simultaneously reminding the righteous that God loves and protects them. Almost directly in the middle of this work, the mood changes and the voice heard reminds us that all of the fire and destruction in the previous movements is directed at those who turn their backs on God’s covenant. In a stunning, eight-part movement, the righteous are told that all of the hills will clap their hands for joy as the righteous return to God.  The final movement, perhaps the best known from this sequence, reminds us that we will all ascend the “holy mountain of the Lord” with singing.

The Peaceable Kingdom, while not frequently performed, is one that speaks to the human, not only with words of doom and destruction, but ultimately words of great hope and joy.

Join us on Ash Wednesday and again the following Sunday. Start your Lenten journey. Return to the mountain of God where the wolf and the lamb lie down together and the desert blooms like a rose.