Pastor's Blog

Pomp & Circumstance No. 1 Posted 6.09.2016

The strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” have flooded The Hill this week.  Commencement exercises are significant events for parents and students. For us dads there is a tinge of nostalgia (and often some tears) and maybe some relief in the wallet. For the grads – nothing but joy and relief and a sense of accomplishment.  I cannot deny that I’m glad most graduations are behind me.  Well, I did attend our preschool graduation on Friday night.  But, that was a much more casual affair, with some great food in the Fellowship Hall after the program.  But that song was still present.


But with the extra time on my hands from not attending any ceremonies, I did some research about that song.  You know the one, it is played at just about every graduation (even for our preschoolers).  Pomp and Circumstance No. 1, is the official title.


Sir Edward Elgar composed Pomp and Circumstance in 1901.  The title comes from a line in Shakespeare's Othello ("Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war!"). But it wasn't originally intended for graduations, but for the coronation of England’s King Edward VII.


It first became associated with graduations in 1905, when it was played when Elgar received an honorary doctorate from Yale University.  For that occasion, it was played as a recessional, not as a processional.


"After Yale used the tune, Princeton used it, the University of Chicago [and] Columbia," according to Miles Hoffman, a music commentator.  "Then eventually…everybody started using it. It just became the thing that you had to graduate to."  The piece made such an impression on the audience that day that it caught the attention of the academic world.  A famous British composer, given an honorary doctorate in America – has changed graduation ceremonies forever.  Well, for at least the last century.  It is a triumphant, yet nostalgic piece, and is perfect for a commencement exercise.


Context is everything, is it not?  Next time you hear it over and over and over and over, you can remember it’s context.  Famous British composer changes life in America.  Blame him.


But you know, the same is true with every verse you read in your Bible.  Context is everything.  Context is the way we were given our Bibles, one book at a time.  The readers of Matthew did not have the luxury of flipping over to Revelation shed some light on Matthew. Revelation hadn’t been written. 


Much of the Bible will make absolutely no sense if you rip it from its context.  And many Bible teachers lead people astray because that’s exactly what they do.  You don’t get to pick and choose your favorite verses and ignore everything in between. So try to place everything you read in the Bible into its context.  It’ll get you to the truth, and it will make much more sense.  Many “contradictions” are explained by the context of that verse.


Putting Elgar’s composition into its context and may you survive it for half an hour.  No guarantees on that.  But put your favorite verse into its extended context and it just might change your life.  Guaranteed. 

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