Symphony or Cacophony?Last night, I took my wife and son to a performance of the Eastern Philharmonic Orchestra. It was a great evening. As a classically-trained pianist, it is always a delight to get the chance to attend a concert of "serious music" here in the mountains of NC. This isn't a music blog, though, so I'll spare you my review of the concert -- my impression of the genius of Paul Hindemith in his "Symphonic Metamorphosis", or the adorable Ravel suite "Ma Mère l’Oye", or my amusement at the percussionist who played a rather loud cymbal crash a bar or two early in the Rossini "Overture to La gazza ladra", or my disappointment at watching famed piano soloist Peter Serkin use music for his performance of a Mozart piano concerto. But suffice it to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the evening (Mr. Serkin's use of music on stage notwithstanding)!
What I do wish to comment on, however, was a spiritual parallel that struck me while at the concert. As we sat in our seats, eagerly awaiting the appearance of conductor Michael Stern to begin the concert, the orchestra was on stage warming up. This well-known sound is as much a part of a classical symphonic concert experience as is the formality of the concertmaster entering the stage to applause as he cues the oboist to sound the tuning note for the orchestra.
Each orchestra member diligently practices, warming up their lips (or bows, as the case may be) and fingers, making sure they are ready for the start of the first piece. As one listens, it is sometimes possible to make out portions of the pieces that will be played that evening. A trumpeter pierces through the wall of sound as he practices tonguing a particular passage. The timpanist bangs on his kettle drums. Another percussionist practices his snare drum roll, flutes and clarinets soar above with runs and trills as they warm up.
As I listened to this sound -- certainly not "music" when taken as a whole -- I was suddenly struck with a thought that I leaned over and whispered to my wife. This is the current state of the Body of Christ. Individuals working hard at producing a great piece of music, but not in coordination with anyone else in the ensemble. Taken individually, the sounds coming from the concert stage were high-quality. They were exactly what the composer had written on the page. But taken corporately, it was nothing but cacophony. Noise. Chaos.
When at last the individual orchestra members ceased their musical meanderings and the conductor took his place on the podium, the individuals became one. Under the masterful guidance of their leader, what came to our ears was a beautiful symphony of sound. And although I was not uncouth enough to whisper this second observation to my wife during the music, I thought, "Ahh. This is what the Body of Christ is designed to be."
With unity, the mission was accomplished. With unity under one Leader, all of those seemingly random sounds we were hearing earlier were put into their proper place, and the big picture became clear.
OK, I know I'm not anywhere close to the first person to use a symphony orchestra as a picture of the Body of Christ. But so often, I get the feeling that the "leader" that is in the analogy (when it is given) is a human being other than Jesus Christ. And I also feel like the analogy is often used to get people to quit grumbling about their particular place in the Body. While it is true that we must all realize that the piccolo cannot (or at least, should not!) play the tuba part in the orchestra, there is more to be learned here than just "putting people in their place." It is the power of unity.
Jesus prayed in John 17 that we would be one. That was what I saw last night in the orchestra. They were one. And they were only one when they allowed themselves to be led by the one who had the power, the capability, and the right to be leading. In the Body of Christ, that One is only Jesus Christ. Yes, there are "chairs" who head up each section. They are ones who have demonstrated over time that they have the qualifications and faithfulness to be recognized as such leaders. But that does not mean that they come between the other players and the conductor.
Those who have risen to the ranks of "elder" (that is, older in the faith, experienced in being a disciple, proven track record of faithfulness to Christ) are to be respected, but they are not the leader! Christ Himself is our only conductor. Our only leader. Our only "head". Every person in that orchestra looked to the conductor for their guidance. They may learn from those who are "ahead" of them in experience, but they follow the conductor. It should be the same in the Body of Christ.
Right now, the Body of Christ (at least here in America, but I fear it is probably similar in other parts of the world, as well) is very individualistic. And so many are polarized around mere mortals. Just look at some of the discussions on other blogs about Joel Osteen. Or Rick Warren. Or Chuck Swindoll. Or Billy Graham. These men and many others like them are elevated to the position of "conductor" when at best, they may only be section chairs. (Even that is doubtful in some, but I will leave that to other blog entries.)
There is so much more I could say on this, but I think the point is clear. It is high time that we stop the cacophony and begin to produce a symphony under the direction of Christ that will capture the world's attention. When the orchestra was warming up last night, many of us in the audience chatted with each other, read our programs, let our minds wander, etc. And when they finished their warm-up, there was no applause. No acknowledgement of the sounds that had preceded. But when they played as one under the direction of the fully-qualified Leader, it drew us in. And we enthusiastically applauded their music.
I hope that when we arrive in eternity, we hear the applause of the "cloud of witnesses" that currently surrounds us.
Until next time,