My great friend and co-worker in this parish, the Cantor, dropped off a clipping from The Tennessean which reported on a church (loose term) without preaching or prayer -- a church of and for classical music. Now those of you who know me, know that I consider little music composed after, say 1850 or so, to be noteworthy. I am a devote' of classical music from the solo voice in Gregorian chant to the Lutheran chorale to the great symphonic sound to instrumental music of various kinds to choral and vocal music. I believe that nearly all the great composers were Lutheran (Pachelbel, Buxtehude, Walther, Praetorious, Bach, Brahms, Mendelssohn, etc.) or were Lutheran and they just did not know it. So you might think I would be sympathetic to this new church which worships classical music. You would be wrong. While I love the aesthetic of classical music, you cannot understand much of it without knowing the faith behind it. This is true in an obvious and overt way with Bach (who signed his music SDG -- soli Deo gloria) or in a contextual way with others (like Beethoven).
The secular perspective on classical music may love the music for what it is, but it is within the context of the overwhelming religious faith and fostering of the culture and life of these composers that we come face to face with what classical music is for. Luther said it best when he described the relationship between text and tune as a master and servant, the music being the handmaiden or servant of the Word. When music and message coincide they become larger than either. The great composers generally were under the patronage of the Church (yes, often reluctantly so) but they were also formed and shaped by the Church -- implicitly if not explicitly. The spiritual character of music is not that it stirs that soul alone but that God created the mind, ear, voice, and heart for music and music's purpose for His glory.
The truth is that many who appreciate classical music are rather secular individuals, socially liberal, and tolerant of just about anything except dogma and doctrine. I do not understand this. The Japanese, whose culture is so closed to religion deemed Western, have a love affair with classical music and, in particular, with Bach. This passion has resulted in many conversions -- for reaping the mind of Bach yields the fruit of the Gospel.
So don't count me in for a religion of classical performances. I am squarely in the camp that sees the composers and their work within the context of what is often an explicit Christian faith and, at very least, an implicit Christian context. And don't try to change my mind by mentioning the exception to this rule. I won't consider it. Period.