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After a long and somewhat arduous journey, my church recently finished a major remodel of our sanctuary. This Sunday, we are celebrating a rededication of the entire building to God. To help us do so, this Sunday we are going to talk about Johann Sebastian Bach.
J. S. Bach (1685–1750) is considered one of the greatest composers of all time. Together with Beethoven and Brahms, Bach forms part of the big “Three Bs” of classical music. Christians still sing his hymns. Choirs still perform his cantatas. Orchestras still play his concertos.
What many people don’t know is that Bach was a deeply spiritual man. He composed the majority of his music to be performed in church. His goal was to praise God and proclaim his love to the world.
Overwhelmed by the import of his work, Bach would often scribble two mysterious letters at the top of each score of music he composed: J.J.
Short for the Latin “Jesu Juva,” it simply means “Jesus, help.” For all his talent and ability, Bach realized that without the help of his God and Savior he could accomplish nothing.
Jesu Juva. Jesus, help. What a wonderful reminder for us as we begin a new era at my church. What a wonderful reminder as we each begin every task of our lives. Without our Savior’s help, we can do nothing. Without his help, it would all come to ruin.
Only with God’s help, and the forgiveness Jesus won for us on the cross, are we able to do anything of value in God’s eyes. With his help, though, we, like Bach, can compose great works of art.
Our newly remodeled church is not a towering cathedral or a masterpiece of postmodern architecture. You personally may never compose a famous symphony or be remembered in the history books.
But a child raised in God’s word is music to his ears. A life lived in humble service to God is a work of art. Your opus to God may be your faithful love to your wife or your diligence at your job. It may simply be your off-key singing of his hymns at church. With Jesus’ help – Jesu Juva – such simple songs of praise are wondrous symphonies to God’s ears.
As we finish our projects and labors, we should also remember what J.S. Bach wrote at the end of many of his masterpieces. At the bottom he would often scribble three letters: S.D.G.
Short for “Soli Deo Gloria,” it means “To God alone be the glory.” Bach understood that everything he accomplished in his life wasn’t because of him. It was God working through him. Bach composed his music to thank his Savior God for the love and forgiveness Jesus won for him, as well as all God’s gifts of grace. Bach understood that, in the end, God deserves all the credit.
As you begin each task of your life, whether it be a massive building project at your church or one of life’s simple, mundane duties, don’t forget to scratch your “J.J.” at the top. Ask your Savior for his help and blessing. Remember that without him, all our efforts come to nothing.
Then when you’ve finished, be sure to add your “S.D.G.” To God alone be the glory. Everything we are and everything we accomplish is because of him.
Pastor Andrew Schroer has been a pastor for nearly 20 years and is currently serving at Redeemer Lutheran Church with campuses in Edna and Victoria, Texas. Read more of his devotional writing and contact him at 364DaysofThanksgiving.com.
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