Mighty kingdoms and empires rise and fall, but long before Jesus announced that the Kingdom of God was at hand, the prophet Daniel declared that the Lord’s kingdom would never be destroyed. (Dan. 7:14)
Back in the seventh century, an English songwriter-poet declared that the Eternal Lord, the guardian of mankind, established Heaven as a roof for the children of men, and created middle earth, appointing specific lands for different people. He urged us to “praise the keeper of Heaven’s kingdom, the might of the Creator and His purposes, the work of the Father of glory.”
Whereas Daniel was a well-educated man, this poet, a farm hand named Caedmon, was neither literate nor musical. His job was to care for the animals at Hilda’s great double monastery (so-called because it housed communities of monks and nuns side by side) in Whitby. Bede, the earliest English historian, tells us that this tone-deaf agricultural labourer used to dread the feast days when people sang and created ballads to the accompaniment of music on the harp. In order to avoid having to take part, he would sidle away and hide in the stables as his turn approached.
As Psalm 139:7ff reminds us, however, it is not so easy to escape from the Lord! Falling asleep amongst the horses, Caedmon met an unknown person in a dream (clearly an angel), who ordered him to sing, completely ignoring his objections that he did not know how to. Reluctantly obeying, Caedmon opened his mouth – and found himself singing a beautiful song about creation, which he could still remember when he woke.
When Hilda and the elders of the monastery heard the song, they were so touched by it that they began teaching Caedmon biblical stories and truths. Bede tells us that from that moment on, he turned all the spiritual truths and stories he heard into songs, which soon became one of the principal means for spreading the gospel throughout Northumbria.
I love it when God intervenes in such ways! I remember Francis Cummings prophesying to a friend of ours at a conference that God would give him the gift of writing music and singing for the Lord, firmly ignoring his protests that he was quite tone deaf. But within a couple of years, he had produced two lovely CDs of his songs!
It was Luther who claimed that the devil flees before the sound of music faster than anything else except the Word of God, and we have long worked on the principle that the two together are incredibly powerful.
Since Heaven itself is full of music, it is no surprise that satan has always done his best to corrupt it according to his own emphases and nature – and to keep the best music out of church life altogether. What disputes there have been, and how many splits and tensions in churches that stem from matters of worship. But how wonderful where there is unity . . .
In ancient Ireland, there used to be great hostility between the priests and the bards. It was Columba who recognised that it is God who is the giver of music, and who deliberately welcomed the bards in order to incorporate music and poetry into the life of the Church. From there beautiful hymns and poems found their way into the whole culture. When the English invaders swept in, they were surprised to discover just how much the bishops and abbots loved music, and to hear harps being used to accompany their songs and readings.
May the Lord raise up more and more singers and musicians to make full use of this precious means of communicating the heart of God and to share the realities of Heaven’s Kingdom with people far and wide. Like Caedmon, the Lord has given us and our musicians wonderful music, usually that which has been carefully composed, but also that which is improvised entirely by His Spirit. We derived the title for one such event Heaven’s Kingdom from Caedmon’s song. You can find details of many of these recordings on our website www.ruachministries.co.uk and go to the LISTEN button at the top, with its accompanying drop-down menu.
You will find below just a few of the many items that we recorded in 2017. We hope they will bless and inspire you. A deep stillness settled on us as we recorded the first of these pieces for two cellos. You will most probably have already heard Megan Topper’s moving version of the Easter hymn, Now the green blade rises, which she heard for the first time just a few minutes before recording it for us. Enjoy too, James Horsfall’s Scottish Connections and Francis Cumming’s equally Scottish version and lovely version of the much-loved hymn, Love Divine.