Posted tagged ‘harmony’

Running Ahead of Grace

February 8, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        February 8, 2020

                                    

At our small town Baptist church we have a machine that plays the organ music for the hymns that we sing. Our youth do another song during the worship service where they play a praise song on their Bluetooth speaker and the congregation sings along with them. For hymns, however, we sing with the machine.

Here’s the thing! Sometimes the volume of the music machine is not loud enough for us to hear if we are on the right note, word, or line. Sometimes it runs ahead of us, like an unleashed dog with a wide open field in front of him. Sometimes the machine lags behind, like a shy kindergartener being pulled into his first day of school.

Last Sunday we sang that great hymn, “Amazing Grace”. The music lagged behind and the singers scampered ahead, leaving grace in the dust. It wasn’t loud enough or dominant enough for it to be pursued. Instead, as we finished the first verse, it had become the pursuer.

By the final stanza we had slowed down our hurried vocal pace and seemed to be more in step with what it was that we were singing about. If “Amazing Grace” had three more verses we would have felt synchronized with the emphasis.

It seems that’s how it is with grace. We run ahead of it, run away from it, and run despite it. Our actions sometimes suggest it, but our thoughts betray our lips. The volume of its potential gets turned down and fades into the background of our beliefs.

Finding the rhythm of grace in our lives is challenging. When the crowd sings too quick, staying in step with grace requires resolve and conviction. When some of the group decide it’s not worth singing about at all, grace-filled people decide to stay the course, sing the next words that others find antiquated. 

“…I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see!”

I have found in my years as a Christ-follower that the most amazing moments in a journey with other believers happen when a church finds it’s grace harmony. Repentance and forgiveness seem to join hands and the transformative power of the grace of God seems to make singing the hymn freeing.

It’s like last Sunday! After we finished the last verse that John Newton wrote, and finally got in step with the music, we added an additional verse of our own. We sang two words over and over again to the same “Amazing Grace” tune. Two words again and again.

“Praise God, praise God! Praise God, praise God!”

Playing Through The Wrong Keys To Find A Note Of Harmony

December 18, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 December 18, 2017

                  

Yesterday I drove out to the hamlet of Simla, Colorado for the children’s Christmas program at the Methodist Church, followed by speaking at First Baptist of Simla. I had been invited to attend the children’s program and told the invitee that I would try to make it. It was delightful as only a small town small church can be.

For the offertory two young girls, both around ten years of age, played a piano duet. Both were dressed in beautiful shiny attire, beaming with excitement and a bit of nervousness. They positioned the sheet music in front of them and then carefully took their seats on the bench. They each took a calming breath, placed their fingers on the keys, and one of the girls whispered “One, two, three, play.”

The first notes were uncertain and wavering. Five notes in to the song they glanced quickly at one another, offering mutual encouragement for the adventure.

And then there were the uneven notes, one earlier and one later in its sound…another wrong note beginning to be played but as quickly as it started the playing finger slipping to the right note next to it. The small congregation of twenty of so “hoped” them on, longing for the next played sounds to be the right notes.  It was two girls risking failure but hoping for discovery.

And then in the midst of the effort and searches suddenly a few notes of perfect harmony sounded! One of the girls looked at the other with an expression of surprised delight, as if she was saying “Did we just do that?”

A few moments later they synchronized the playing of their last keys and breathed a sigh of relief. The gathered faithful clapped in appreciation of the experience. Even though their offering of talents was a bit short of perfect it was sweet music to the souls of the saints. The young ladies looked out at the church and displayed smiles of satisfaction and finished business.

It reminded me of the church, sometimes struggling to find the harmony as the struggles of ministry surface. Wrong decisions made with the right intentions, right choices made with the wrong intentions…like two young girls seeking to work together to play beautiful music and often missing the notes.

And then, all of a sudden, moments of harmony surface in a ministry that is mostly uncoordinated. The moments bring smiles to the faces of the weary, peace to the spirit of the Body. Just when it seemed that a bond with Christ would never be discovered again it suddenly appeared.

Ministry is more often like a pair of ten year olds playing a piano duet than the rhythm  of a symphony. If it was always such sweet music it may not be appreciated nearly as much. Paul made note of it when he wrote in Romans 12 these words: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those to mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with those of low position. Do not be conceited.” (Romans 12:15-16)

There was no conceit sitting on the piano bench yesterday, just two young girls freed by the church to risk imperfect talents in the ministering to the saints. It was my closest connection with the Holy the whole day!

Harmony Church

January 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       January 8, 2016

                                   

I was leading a group of seniors in a study of 1 Peter yesterday. We were able to get through one verse in the ninety minutes together. The verse was 1 Peter 3:8. It says:

   “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit…”

Harmony! What is that? We made the point…several times…in our discussion that harmony does not mean uniformity. We are not cookie-cutter followers of Christ. We are all unique, complex and simple, confident and cautious, narrow-minded and totally open-minded. Diverse, that’s who we are. Thus, the challenge of harmony is understanding that the body of believers will not always be in agreement on such issues as brand of coffee to serve, dress style preferred, how quiet children should be in worship, and what songs get sung. The interesting thing is that it is those petty issues that so often cause the most conflict. Perhaps that says something about the spiritual depth of a congregation that such topics of division revolve around whether donuts or muffins should be served?

Harmony is a sign of a church that gets it. Disharmony makes the news. Harmony is newsworthy. Strong personalities are a constant challenge to harmony. It isn’t that people with strong personalities are evil, but must be reminded that harmony does not mean giving into their ideas, thoughts, and demands.

Harmony is often forfeited for the sake of progress. What progress is often gets written on a stats sheet, like the church is the religious version of the Oakland A’s in  Moneyball.  Progress is the chafing rub to harmony. It has a way of becoming exalted and worshiped at the expense of all else.

Peter’s point to those he was writing to then, and to us now, is that those who are not of the church…are not on that faith journey with Christ, look with suspicious interest at the church. Why would these people gather on a Sunday morning week after week? What do they get out of it? What does it mean? What draws them together? Is there emotional support for those who are hurting, and relational stability for those who are lonely?

A lot of questions! And the harmony of the body of believers communicates that this thing we call a journey with Christ is real, it is authentic, it isn’t some kind of put-on!

Since most of the lives of Christ-followers is spent separate from one another, doing our own things, going about our own business, lack of familiarity with one another limits the hold of harmony. Crossing paths for a few moments at a worship service makes us acquaintances, but detours around harmony.

Harmony in the church is like a surfer trying to stay upright on the board as the waves push him forward. Harmony is wonderful, and yet that next wave…that next crisis…had the potential to send things crashing down.

In a world that seems to love to fight, harmony seems like the uncle who often gets forgotten to be invited to the party. And yet, harmony is a sign of a church that gets it!

 

Spiritually Suspicious

June 3, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    June 2, 2013

 

There is something about our mindset that is strange. We often long for, and pray for, the touch of God upon our lives in such powerful ways, and yet when someone proclaims that he has experienced a powerful encounter with the Lord we are, more often than not, suspicious.

Perhaps it is because we aren’t quite sure God would present himself in such a way.

Or it could be that we are a bit jealous that someone else gets to experience the hand of God instead of us. Kind of like getting new underwear for Christmas while our sibling gets new Legos. Who would be happy about that?

Or perhaps it is because we’ve gotten burned for believing that such things happen too many times. Someone tells us how God has appeared to him, and then we find out a while later that it was all a hoax. We wanted to believe. Believing is risking, but like the boy who cried “Wolf!”, too many false alarms has left us leery of trusting in the real holy moment.

Let’s be honest! Sometimes people use our tendency to be gullible towards spiritual matters to pull the wool over our eyes.

The tragedy is that God still is working, and moving, and healing. He is still the God of the burning bush and closed lions’ mouths.

Facebook and Youtube have made us instant celebrities, but also immediately doubtful. As our culture becomes less familiar with the Bible it becomes prone more to being swayed by the spectacular. What if God, however chooses to be in the calm, the gentle whisper? At that point do we become visually-impaired to his hand?

I’ve witnessed a person be overwhelmed by the singing of a praise song. God was doing something in her life. I’ve also experienced the moving of God in the midst of a conversation with one other person. But I’ve also felt the uneasiness over the sharing of what was perceived as being a great moving of the Spirit.

It is confusing.

When talking to the Corinthian church about their worship issues, Paul said something that applies to this spiritual suspicion we feel. He writes, “When we worship the right way, God doesn’t stir us up into confusion; he brings us into harmony. This goes for all the churches- no exceptions.” (1 Corinthians 14:35, The Message)

If it is confusing, perhaps it needs further inspection, further contemplation and prayer. God is not a God of confusion, but he is the God of people who are quite often confused.