“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”- 1 Corinthians 15:55-57
“I’m not interested in having an orchestra sound like itself. I want it to sound like the composer.”- Leonard Bernstein
In the mid-1980s, when Hales Corners Lutheran Church worshipped at the Grange campus, music director Hib Wiedenkeller established a tradition of alternately presenting the Christmas and Easter portions of the Messiah, complete with orchestra. As the rehearsal pianist and performance harpsichordist, it was my responsibility to plunk out particularly problematic parts, play the piano score in rehearsal, and use the harpsichord in concert to maintain Hib’s set tempo for the orchestra . However, there was one complication- my natural tendency to increase the tempo in direct proportion to my excitement. Practices often were preceded by a smiling, gentle reminder from Hib to play Handel’s Messiah, not my “interpretation.”
Trying to have the harpsichord sound like myself would create musical chaos. Max Lucado writes in A Gentle Thunder that emotion without knowledge is equally as dangerous as knowledge without emotion. Knowing how to read the notes must be balanced with communicating the composer’s intent. Pastor Lucado explains how this applies to our Christian walk:
“We Christians are prone to follow the book while ignoring the music. We master the doctrine, outline the chapters . . . and stiffly step out on the dance floor of life with no music in our hearts.”
During the desert, land between transitional period following our ministry downsizing or vocation loss, our desire to set the tempo is inversely proportional to our perception of God’s inactivity and silence. Yet, as Max points out, if we have ever been comforted or God has brought us peace when the world has brought us pain, we have heard the music. Just as Jesus cry of “It is finished!” was no cry of defeat, neither is coming to the end of ourselves. We have heard the music. Pastor Lucado offers these encouraging words:
“A cry of defeat? Hardly. Had his (Jesus’) hand not been fastened down I dare say that a triumphant fist would have punched the dark sky. No, this is no cry of despair. It is a cry of completion. A cry of victory. A cry of fulfillment. Yes, even a cry of relief.”
Thanks be to God!