Sunday, January 20, 2008


One of Bach's cantatas for this Sunday is BWV 3: "Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid" (Ah God, how many a heartache).

Ah God, how many a heartache
I meet with in this time!
The narrow way is full of affliction
by which I must travel to heaven.

Each piece after this introductory chorus is like a short Biblical psalm, which moves from lament to praise, from trouble to triumph, from distress to rest in God's salvation and endless love, revealed in Jesus. For example, the bass aria:

Although I may feel hell's anguish and pain,

yet always in my heart

there must be a true heavenly joy.

If I may only mention Jesus' name,

that can pierce even through immeasurable sorrows

as if they were a light mist.

Likewise, the splendid soprano/alto duet aria:

When cares press upon me,

I want in joy

to sing to my Jesus.

Jesus helps to bear my cross,

therefore I want to say in faith:

it is always for the best.

The Gospel lesson for the day is the story of Jesus turning water to wine (John 2.1-11). As our Lord turned the tasteless water in stone pots into the best of wine so that those attending the wedding might be blessed with joy, even so he can transform the difficult passages of our earthly journey into times when we can experience "the fellowship of His sufferings" (Philippians 3.10).

Like the Bible, Bach forces us to be realistic about life and its troubles. He and the psalmists encourage us to have the conversations with God that can ultimately help us find a way to praise him.

"In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world" (John 16:33).

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