Orchestra (of Christ…)

17 09 2009

February 2005. Reno, Nevada. National High School Honor Orchestra.

Aaron Copland’s Billy the Kid orchestral suite opens with a serene piccolo solo, evoking a sense of the open prairie from which the story emerges. Throughout the National Orchestra Festival, we spent seven hours a day (at least!) in rehearsal, preparing for our final concert at the end of the week. Our piccolo player consistently botched the solo, his instrument cracking on the high note. High schoolers that we were, we giggled at the sound, and then as the week went on, we rolled our eyes. (Will he ever get this right??)

Our conductor looked at us sternly and said, “You are an orchestra. During this part of the piece, the piccolo might be the only one playing, but we are all in this together. You all need to be hearing the song in your head and envisioning the melody beforehand. And when we start to play, I want you to give him your undivided attention and silently cheer him on. No matter what happens, we are in this together.”

Four and a half years later, I remember that speech clearly. I remember taking his words to heart and holding my breath at the opening of the song. I don’t, however, remember whether or not the piccolo player nailed his solo. I guess it didn’t matter.

UNC Orchestra

As I played in the Cobb Symphony Orchestra last week, I couldn’t help but marvel at what a wonderful thing it is to play in an orchestra. In what other context can 100 people come together so singlemindedly to create such beauty? There is a certain kinship — a camaraderie — that arises from playing music together. We speak a common language and are bound together by what can sometimes become a transcendent experience. For that reason, although I definitely missed the familiar “Shreveport circuit” musicians, I felt more at home last week than I have so far in Atlanta.

I can’t help but wonder if the orchestral experience is perhaps one of the truest expressions of the body of Christ? Allow me to take a little bit of liberty with 1 Corinthians 12:

Now the orchestra is not made up of one instrument but many. For if the whole orchestra were only made up of percussion players, then where would the melody be? Or if the whole orchestra was just a trumpet player, what would happen after the fanfare finished?

But God has placed each of the players within the ensemble, just as he desired.

The violinists cannot say to the clarinetist “We do not need you.” Because who will take her place for Rhapsody in Blue? Nor can the tuba players make fun of the piccolo player when he misses a note.

On the contrary, the old adage is true: An orchestra is only as strong as its weakest player.

God has composed music for this ensemble, orchestrating the melodies to weave in and out through the various sections of the orchestra, so that each part is essential to the whole. And if one player makes a mistake, the whole orchestra suffers with him or her. And if one player nails a particularly difficult or beautiful solo, the whole orchestra applauds.

You are each individual musicians, and together, you are the orchestra of Christ.

Advertisements




Meditation on Faith

24 07 2009

(I know that this is formatted differently from most posts.  It was inspired by a creative journal entry that I wrote last year, and I tried to convey the imagery of the journal using colors, indentations, and font styles.  Think of it as a work in progress…)

You of little faith!    – Matthew 6:30b

Truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move.”
– Matthew 17:20

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  For by it the men of old gained approval…

Abraham believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness.
– Genesis 15:6

By faith we understood that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which were visible…

I say, faith is a burden.  It’s a weight to bear.  It’s brave and bittersweet.  And hope is hard to hold to.  Lord, I believe!  Only help my unbelief!
– Andrew Peterson, No More Faith

“…God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”  – Romans 12:3

“Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit…to another [is given] faith by the same Spirit…”  – 1 Cor. 12:48

Preach faith until you have it.  Then, preach faith.

So what, then, is this faith thing? An assurance, a conviction?  A burden?  A gift?

It’s hard to understand the fact that God has given people faith in different amounts, and yet the world testifies to that very fact.  There are people who struggle as they search for a faith that they don’t really feel, and others who can’t help but believe,  as though that faith was programmed into the core of their soul.

Everywhere there are people who claim that even the “best” non-believers are still living in sin because they do not believe.  But Scripture teaches that faith is a gift, just as teaching is a gift, and healing is a gift.  And exercising any one of these gifts without love is nothing: a clanging symbol, a noisy gong.  In other words, useless.

But what happens when you exercise one of these gifts without faith?  Surely no gift is greater than the other; in the body of Christ, there is room (and necessity) for each person to exercise his or her unique gifts, in proportion to God’s allotment.  And so, I can’t help but wonder…is there room (and necessity) for the non-believer to exercise his or her unique gifts?

I am reminded of a conversation that I once overheard between a Christian and a rabbi.  The Christian asked, “Don’t you get tired of having to live up to an unrealistic standard of righteousness in the laws?”

The rabbi answered, “I’d rather ask myself, ‘Am I doing enough?’ than have to always worry, ‘Do I believe enough?'”

…Because what happens when you can’t measure up to that standard?  What happens when you find your soul devoid of faith? Is the advice passed on by John Wesley enough: can you preach faith until you have it, and hope that by doing enough, you will train yourself to believe enough?