I asked in another blog what the connection was between Psalm 27 and Jesus’s prayer in John 17 (answer - intimacy with God in times of trial). This is an even more remote question … what is the connection between Psalm 27 and Swan Lake?

I’m not a great Ballet Buff - opera and orchestral music are more my bag on the classical front - so it will not be a total surprise that a recent visit to watch the Tchaikovsky masterpiece was my first sighting of Swan Lake. I loved it. And it held my attention; not just because of the ravishing music, or because of the extraordinary balance on stage between graceful elegance and hidden strength. And, actually, not just because the whole piece is a parable of the Christian Gospel - wicked villain enslaves as a swan a beautiful young woman (Odette), who can only be released back to her original humanity by the willing sacrifice of her lover’s life. Neat.

No. What startled me was a scene, early on in the ballet, when the aforementioned evil sorcerer (Baron Rothbart) dances, unseen, behind the hero (Prince Siegfried), copying his every move - like a shadow. What he’s trying to do is draw Siegfried into his plot to fall in love with his own daughter (Odile), and thus foil any possibility of releasing the enslaved Odette (who is also, actually, his daughter - it’s a complex story!)

Psalm 27 opens the door for us to see - if we will but look - that we live in a spiritual battlefield, with the forces of evil all around us, waiting for their moment to pounce and cause our undoing. They are, if we will believe it, like shadows around us, unseen but with the power to do us serious harm, if we are not alert to their wiles.

That image of the evil Baron Rothbart - circling around Prince Siegfried as he was wooing his lover - was a sobering reminder that we need to be on our guard at all times. David, the writer of Psalm 27, knew it … and survived, even when under the harshest attack: ‘though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.’ The apostle Paul knew it: ‘Put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground.’ (Ephesians 6:13). Jesus knew it: ‘I am sending you out like sheep amongst wolves.’ (Matthew 10:15)

You and me? Will we follow David’s example and ask: ‘Teach me your way, O Lord, lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors’?

We’d be wise to, for our oppressors are as close to us as shadows.

Simon Ward
February 2018

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