February 3, 2019
Reverend James R. Henry
Text: 1 Corinthians 12:4-13
It’s an absolutely thrilling experience to hear and to see a full symphony orchestra making music together.
The hall is alive with noisy chatter as the concert-goers arrive, finding their seats and talking loudly with each other. Anticipation builds as the musicians begin to take their places on the stage, all sorts of them with all sorts of instruments. They loosen their lips, wet their reeds and tighten their bows. All sorts of sounds begin to emanate from the stage area as they warm up, adding to the already discordant atmosphere of the hall. It builds into a cacophony of unrelated sounds, each player doing their own thing… some doing scale runs and arpeggios, and a couple going over a difficult fingering part in anticipation of the third movement.
Then finally as things begin to quiet down you hear the distinct nasal tone of the oboe, sounding the concert A. And all the various sections of the orchestra begin echoing the A and tuning to that same pitch. It’s like they are beginning to find each other and coming to some sort of agreement.
When the noise begins to die down and the house lights dim, the concert-goers cut their conversation mid-sentence and all attention is focused on the stage. The concertmaster with violin under arm rises and the entire orchestra stands, and in struts the maestro, the conductor. He bows to the audience, shakes the hand of the concertmaster, and bows a few more time to the audience. The musicians sit down, and the applause dies.
The conductor steps up onto the podium. He straightens his music score and brushes his fingers though his long floppy hair a few times. (Seems most of them have long floppy hair!) He looks around at the orchestra of musicians and gains their determined readiness. All are watching and waiting.
He raises his baton. Violins are clamped under chins, bows lifted to strings, wind instruments drawn to lips, percussionists ready. Every eye is on the conductor. And then, after a few seconds of absolute stillness, the conductor sweeps the baton in a downward arc… and a nearly miraculous thing happens! There is music! Beautiful music, melodious, harmonious. It’s absolutely thrilling!
Somehow, all those different people with such a variety of instruments, who have come together from different towns and backgrounds and schools, who have studied and practiced alone for years, developing their singular gifts and skills, and each generating different and distinct sounds and playing their separate parts… somehow, I say, nearly miraculously, it all now blends together in the same key and tempo, in harmony. Now they are not just generating discordant notes, they’re making music! And they are feeling it together, inspired by the pulse and phrasing, and expressing it together as one. Staccatos, legatos, crescendos, diminuendos; all together in harmonious accord. And music fills the hall!
It’s wonderfully amazing! Think about it! All these different sounds generated from bowing on cat gut, banging on pig skin, clashing metal disks together, blowing through various wooden reeds and all kinds of brass tubes and silver pipes bent in all sort of shapes. It’s all together, there live on the stage, and you are there, and what is happening that room in those moments is amazing!
This is not simply a matter of sonic decibels mixed in a box and amplified electronically and blown at you through loud speakers or ear buds. This is the blended sound of melodic strains and counter melodies rising and falling in fugal responses, all giving birth to a rich labyrinth of musical overtones. And in that live, acoustical, auditoria it becomes what I think of as “God’s surround sound”! It is something more, something beyond, something greater than the orchestra itself!
And because you are there, added to what you are hearing is what you are seeing… the violins bowing together, the bass viols sawing together, the trombones sliding together, and the subtle rocks and sways of bodies leaning in and out of the musical phrases.
What you are experiencing is a beautiful expression of unity in diversity, and diversity in unity, something that no one of them, as talented as they may be, could have generated apart from them all. But together, cacophony becomes symphony. Discord becomes harmony.
In our Scripture lesson, the Apostle Paul is speaking to the Church about the Church, noting that there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; varieties of services, but the same Lord; varieties of activities, but the same God who activates them all. Three parallel statements.
1. Varieties of gifts. Charis, meaning “grace” We are graced with the gracious gifts of God.
2. Varieties of services. Diaconos, meaning “service” There are many ways to serve, not for self-aggrandizement, but for the whole of the body of Christ, for the common good.
3. Varieties of activities. Energematon, meaning “energies” Energies in action, all activated by the very action of God in operation.
That’s us, folks, the Day’s Ferry Congregational Church! As the Church of Jesus Christ, God has graced us with various capacities and gifts. Each on of us has a contributing part to play.
If yours is a drum; bang on it! Don’t run off with your own cadence. Help set the tempo for the rest of us.
If yours if a flute: let it be sweet!
If yours is a violin; make it sing! We need the melody.
If yours is brass; blow it for all your worth! We need your strength.
If yours is wisdom; lend it graciously.
If you have good ideas and insight; share them with all of us.
If you have faith; challenge some of us who may be lagging.
If yours is help and encouragement; reach out to some of us who may be discouraged and lonely.
No one of you can know it all. No one of you can do it all. You can’t make symphony by yourself. But together, in concert, with Christ as our conductor, and the Holy Spirit as the orchestrator, we can make music!
But remember, it won’t be as full, and rich and beautiful as is should be without you.
So, let there be music in the Church! And let’s play it for all the world to hear! The world needs to hear our music; the good news of Jesus. The world needs to see us making music together, in united concert. And the world needs to experience the effects of our music, the generated tones of love and service.
United in Christ, cacophony becomes symphony. Dis-chord becomes harmony. And we become a grand concert of Worship, Fellowship and Witness, all to the glory of God and like music in the ears of all around.