Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Eternity Within our Hearts", Steve Swayne

Rollins Chapel, February 3, 2013
Steve Swayne, Professor of Music, homilist

This homily is offered in honor of the many Dartmouth community members whose music making has greatly enriched my life and the lives of countless others.

Prelude: Johannes Brahms, Sonata in D minor for Violin and Piano, op. 108, mvts. 1 & 2
Emily Hyun, violin; Richard Fu, piano

Hymn: For The Beauty Of The Earth

1 For the beauty of the earth,
for the glory of the skies,
for the love which from our birth
over and around us lies,

God of all, to you we raise
this our hymn of grateful praise.

2 For the beauty of each hour
of the day and of the night,
hill and vale, and tree and flower,
sun and moon, and stars of light, [Refrain]

3 For the joy of human love,
brother, sister, parent, child,
friends on earth and friends above,
for all gentle thoughts and mild, [Refrain]

4 For each perfect gift sublime
to our race so freely given;
graces human and divine,
flowers of earth and buds of heaven. [Refrain]

Reading: Ecclesiastes 3:1–14

There is a time for everything,
          and a season for every activity under the heavens:
          a time to be born and a time to die,
          a time to plant and a time to uproot,
          a time to kill and a time to heal,
          a time to tear down and a time to build,
          a time to weep and a time to laugh,
          a time to mourn and a time to dance,
          a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
          a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
          a time to search and a time to give up,
          a time to keep and a time to throw away,
          a time to tear and a time to mend,
          a time to be silent and a time to speak,
          a time to love and a time to hate,
          a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. (New International Version)

Invocation: Lord of all, to You I raise
        These words and thoughts, in grateful praise.

Can the beauty of the Brahms
        Cause combatants to seek peace?
Can sonatas stifle bombs?
        Can song make all warfare cease?
I believe in music’s place
        In making us a better race.

Yes, I know that music can
        Compel us to the barricade
To fight against our fellow man,
        To fight for those who need our aid.
Music is a potent force
        That can, unbidden, set our course.

Will you agree there is a time
        For music and a time for none?
Since music can compel us, I’m
        Convinced our work has just begun
To wrestle with a larger task:
        From us, pray, what does music ask?

Ponder how our yearnings let
        Our lives be lived in fits and starts.
Meanwhile, we read God has set
        Eternity within our hearts.
Might music center us in sound
        That bids us seek more timeless ground?

For sound there is, and sound are we
        When we seek sound to make us whole,
When, unapologetically,
        We seek for music such a role:
Come, push us into higher spheres!
        Come, reach beyond our mortal years!

Imagine how we might draw near
        To such ineffable delight,
To trust in things we only hear,
        Believing they can make us right,
To practice toward that selfless cause
        Of harmony and not applause!

Do we dare to aspire thus,
        To make earth more like heaven above?
Indeed, we must. It’s up to us
        In making music, sharing love
And art and faith and hope and grace
        In concert, freed from time and space.

Closing prayer: Lord of all, to You we raise
        Our hearts and lives, in grateful praise.

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