John 1:35-38a; I Kings 19:11-13
The Rev. Tom Herbek
June 18, 2017
Wherever we go in life, and whatever our age, there are two important questions we must ask ourselves; one question was asked of Elijah by God, and the second was asked by Jesus of two men who decided to follow him: “What are you doing here?” and “What are you looking for?” These are important questions throughout life, whether we are just starting out in our career educational pursuits, or finishing up our career and retired, or someplace in between.
Author Kent Nerburn offers an interesting analogy about our place in life. He writes:
I thought of an image a teacher had once offered me. God, he said, is like a great symphony in which we must all play our individual parts. None of us can hear the whole; none of us is suited to play all the parts. We must be willing to accept the limitations of the instrument we have been given and to offer up our voice as part of the great and unimaginable creation that is the voice of God.
In this sense, we are all musicians, whether we can point to skills in music, or not.
Nerburn goes on to describe a conversation he once had while traveling in Canada:
I once had a conversation with a woman while I was on a train traveling across Canada. She was a musician – a violinist – who, as a child, had performed with major symphonies in America and Europe. She had been a prodigy, one of those rare individuals who seems to have a talent that comes from somewhere far beyond the realm of normal human affairs.
In her early twenties she had suddenly abandoned the violin in favor of the viola, the deeper-throated, less-celebrated cousin of the instrument on which she had already achieved such stunning success. It seemed an odd decision to me. She had established a promising career as a violinist; the repertoire for the solo viola is limited; and the part assigned to the viola in most musical compositions is far less significant and complex than that created for the violin.
Why, I asked her, would you turn away from an instrument of such color and vibrancy, so favored by composer and revered in the orchestra, and turn to so quiet, recessive, and generally overlooked and underappreciated an instrument as the viola?
Her answer was simple and direct.
“I like its voice,” she said. “It’s more me.”
Like the bird singing out its solitary song in greeting of the morning, this woman was happy just to play her part, then recede as the music was taken over by the more dramatic, more flamboyant instruments in the orchestra. She knew that it was more important to play from the fullness of her being than to seek fame and favor for something that did not come from her heart.
Whether we are musicians in the traditional sense of the word or not, we are all called to be instruments of God’s peace, a calling that is especially important in today’s world.
Nerburn goes on to comment on the Prayer of Francis of Assisi’s famous line: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”
Most of us do not live special lives. We are seldom called upon to make great pronouncements or to perform heroic deeds. We fall in love, raise children, have heartbreaks, help those in need when we can. We go to our beds at night uncertain whether our actions have had any effect.
But when Francis calls us to pray to be instruments of God’s peace, he is reminding us to honor our own part in the music of creation, no matter how humble or great. He is reminding us that what we are asked to do may be no more than to offer a trill to the coming dawn or to play soft pure notes beneath the bright music of the violin. But if we humbly accept our part as a gift and play it well, we will have done our small part to help create the symphony of God’s voice.
For this brief moment, he reminds us, our lives are music in the heart of God.
- Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace
Choir members, organists, choir directors, college students, parents, grandparents, retirees, travelers on a train across Canada – we are all called to remember that each of our lives is music in the heart of God.
As Nerburn said about the talented woman on the train, “She knew that it was more important to play from the fullness of her being than to seek fame and fervor for something that did not come from her heart.”
May we all play our part in the music of life, not living up to anyone else’s expectations, but playing the music that comes from our hearts. May we all play our part as instruments of God’s peace throughout our journey of life.
So when the questions are asked of you, “What are you doing here?” and “What are you looking for?,” may we answer, “I am playing my part in the music of life,” and “I am continually looking for opportunities to be an instrument of God’s peace – in this community and in our world.”