Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Kiss For All the World

(Photograph courtesy of Arlin Koch)

Friday was a memorable day. My sister and I went to hear the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra performing Ode To Joy - Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. We were in the centre of the second row and as a result could almost believe ourselves to be part of the magic on stage.

Schiller's words to Beethoven's Ode to Joy:

O friends, no more these sounds!
Let us sing more cheerful songs,
more full of joy!
Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy sanctuary.
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.
Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join in our song of praise;
But any who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.
All creatures drink of joy
At nature's breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift;
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can feel contentment,
And the cherub stands before God!
Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He set on their courses
Through the splendour of the firmament;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
As a hero going to conquest.
You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world!
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.
Do you fall in worship, you millions?
World, do you know your Creator?
Seek Him in the heavens;
Above the stars must He dwell.
Maestro Roberto Minczuk conducted. He needed no score in front of him - it was apparent from the start that the work is embedded deep within him. He elicited joy from the orchestra, which they transmitted to the audience. 

The orchestra was at the top of their game; and the CPO Chorus, along with the Cantare Children's Choir, wove ribbons of transcendent sound through the pipes of the magnificent Carthy organ soaring above them. The soloists rose to the occasion, the apparent rapport between them lighting up the words, "Thy magic power reunites all that custom has divided." Diana Cohen, our new Concertmaster, was enthralling.

The pipes of the Carthy Organ
in the Jack Singer Concert Hall

Earlier that day we had said our final earthly farewells to everybody's friend, MaidaSo many of the hymns that were sung were the same ones sung at my Mum's funeral. There was a time for tributes. Some people had been asked to speak and then there was a space where people could feel free to come to the front and say a few words. A tribute that moved me most deeply was the one from Maida's childhood friend, the Reverend Angie Dodginghorse of the Tsuu T'ina First Nation. The farm where Maida started out her childhood bordered the Nation's Treaty 7 land and "Maida used to come visit me in my tent." Reverend Angie talked about how after her husband had died, Maida encouraged her to go to Bible School and become a minister to help her people. That is what she has done. "I have spoken at many funerals, and I talk about the love of God and I try to encourage my people to come to know the love of God. But Maida's funeral!" She paused and collected herself. "Who will encourage me now? Who will I call on to pray for me and my people? She knew us all and she loved us."

Indeed, one after the other, people streamed to the front of the church and spoke of Maida's great love and gave instances of how that love was manifest. Maida touched so many lives around the world. Her brief obituary didn't tell the half of what she had done.

It was Dad's privilege to deliver the sermon for the funeral. After Mum's funeral - where Dad preached the sermon - Maida had come up to him. "Allan, if you're still alive when I die, I want you to speak at my funeral!" she had exclaimed.

Turned out she was serious. Her daughter Laura got the request to Dad.

"I remember she had said that on that day," Dad remarked, somewhat wistfully, at the beginning of his message. "I just never thought it would come to pass."

He chose for the text the words from the book of Revelation, chapter 14 and verse 13:

And I heard a voice from Heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.

This is a strongly worded message of hope, Dad pointed out. It is delivered in three ways - spoken, written, and confirmed by the Spirit of God. Blessed in the past; blessed in the present; blessed forever. A three-fold witness.

Why are those who "die in the Lord" blessed? Because they have experienced God's grace in their life, they pass from this world to the next already possessing the following priceless gifts: 

  • they have been loved with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3)
  • their sins have all been forgiven (Acts 13:38, 39; I John 1:7)
  • they are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17)
  • they are accepted in the Beloved (sometimes translated the One that He [God] loves, Jesus) (Ephesians 1:6)
  • they are blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3)
  • they are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10)
  • they have had the opportunity to serve Him (the text says that they now will have "rest from their labours")
  • they have a heavenly inheritance prepared for them (1 Peter 1:3-5)
In addition, they are blessed at the very time of death: Philippians 1:21 exclaims, For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. That word gain comes from the root word that carries the sense of a bonus. For a person who has trusted in Christ as his or her Saviour, death - far from being something to dread - comes as A BONUS!

And then, lastly, the wonders of God's eternal provision begin to open to them as they enter His presence. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him.

All of this is made possible because of the ultimate gift to humanity - Jesus Christ's death on the cross as propitiation for our transgressions and sin. Anyone who chooses this gift, offered freely to all with nothing to do but accept it, immediately possesses these blessings that Maida had as she passed away. 

Dad harked back to the story of the Queen of Sheba's meeting with the great King Solomon, recorded in 2 Chronicles 9:1-12. The Queen had heard of Solomon's wisdom, and she wanted to speak with him about matters that were heavy on her heart. He answered all her questions completely, holding nothing back from her. Then as she dined with him she observed his enormous wealth. Overwhelmed, she exclaimed, "It was a true report which I heard in my own land, of your acts and of your wisdom. Nevertheless I believed not their words until I came, and my eyes had seen it; and behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me, for you exceed the fame that I had heard."

Maida is now in the presence of the One she loves more than any other. And she is seeing the reality for herself. We with our finite minds and limited capacity can only guess at the wonder of being face to face with the One who loves us more than any other has loved us.

Now Maida knows!

Dad concluded with this beautiful old hymn by Oswald J Smith:

The Glory of His Presence

I have walked alone with Jesus
in a fellowship divine.
Never more can earth allure me,
I am His and He is mine.

On the mountain I have seen Him,
Christ my Comforter and Friend
And the glory of His presence
Will be with me to the end.

I have seen Him, I have known Him,
And He deigns to walk with me;
And the glory of His presence
will be mine eternally.

Oh, the glory of His presence,
Oh, the beauty of His face,
I am His and His forever,
He has saved me by His grace.  

Maida is experiencing the glory of His presence today. Her heart, which had been broken many times and yet continued to pour out such love, and which finally just gave out on her, is now healed.

As my sister and I sat and listened to Beethoven's Chorus later that evening, the line This kiss is for all the world! struck both of us. "That could have been written about Maida!" we murmured to each other. She had a deep, entrenched love for her girls, Cheryl and Laura, and for her Willard. But her love was not limited to her family. It flowed out to her church family, her community, to people from many nations and cultures - all were loved deeply and well by her.

And as I made my way home late that night, I also remembered someone else this day. My friend Maynard would have been 51 on Friday, November 16. I was able to attend his memorial service in the summer of 2005. It was a very different service to Maida's where there was a profound, abiding joy and hope running just beneath the surface of the pain and loss. Maynard had loved Beethoven. He would have loved the CPO and the Ninth. 

He would have yearned for the joy.


(If you'd like to hear a sublime performance, click below to enjoy Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in the 1970s. Part 1 starts with Bernstein's musings on Beethoven and the precious gift of the 9th Symphony, especially the Ode to Joy. And that young tenor who leads off part 2? Domingo.)





  1. Beautiful tribute to a truly beautiful and grace-full lady. Thank you Karyn. We weren't around for the funeral, so I really appreciate being able to be a part of remembering her through your words.

  2. Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Maida & Maynard!!


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