Thursday, August 2, 2012

Okay, so who's out of tune?

I can well remember the days when our small high school in LeGrand, Iowa introduced band. The year was 1951, and Joyce and I were beginning our senior year. How small was the high school? Our senior class totaled 12 students. It stood to reason then that the number of students who made up that first fledging band was not large---maybe 12 to 14. In spite of the small number, most of the usual  basic instruments were at least represented: saxophones, clarinets, a cornet and a trumpet, a French horn, a tuba, a big bass drum, 2 trombones (I blasted away with one), and a flute. And guess who was behind the light and airy sounds of the flute? Yep. Joyce.

Our first band director was Alfred Witham. Of course he gave individual lessons to each of us as band members, but when he brought us all together for our first practice session as a band---oh my! In spite of  “tuning up” as a group before launching into our first joint effort, there was much less than perfect harmony---more cacophony. At any point our director could have stopped the music and asked, “Okay, who’s out of tune?” At that point we might have looked at each other with a “Not me” expression….But we knew better.     
“Okay, so who is out of tune?” In I Corinthians 14 Paul talks about the issue of tongues as an expression of praise used in worship in the church at Corinth, and says that if no one understands what is said, what good is it? And then he adds (in verse 7 – The Message) “If musical instruments---flutes, say, or harps---aren’t played so that each note is distinct and in tune, how will anyone be able to catch the melody and enjoy the music?” It appears Paul alludes here to playing solo, but the same would be true if the harp and flute were playing a duet. . And then it could be asked, “Which ONE of you is out of tune?” “Not me,” says the harp, “I’m always in tune.” “Not me,” says the flute. “I’m also always in tune.”  And to that all the people are saying, not Amen, but rather:  Well, something is wrong, because those listening to you are having trouble catching the melody and enjoying the music!”

To expand that analogy, it can also happen with more than two instruments. And to apply that analogy, Indiana Yearly Meeting right now is trying to decide just how many diverse “sections” there are to its combined orchestra of the Spirit, and which one or ones are out of tune---because there is dissonance in the ranks. And you hear a lot of “We’re not out of tune. It must be them” going back and forth, and the world listening in is having trouble catching our Quaker Christian melody and enjoying the music. And quite frankly, for a lot of the participants, it’s not even fun playing the Lord’s song anymore---not even with those whom we think are in tune with each other. And the amazing thing is that however many players or groups there are, they are all using the same sacred sheet music and notes called the Bible. Well, I guess it comes down to how you interpret the musical score in front of you. And that opens up issues we’re not going to try to nail down in this blog.    

So, okay, who is out of tune? It could be me, and if there is an Indiana Yearly Meeting section that needs to profess and have absolute purity, don’t invite me in. I’m utterly human and I do need retuning now and then. I can and do claim the joyous privilege and possibility of the touch of the Master’s hand to do just that. In fact, what I want to simply underscore here is the importance of each of us being personally in tune with the Divine Director, and constantly retuned.  It’s amazing how that might help the whole. Individual and corporate suggestions abound on how Friends can make sweet music again. All you have to do is turn to Facebook and find that there is a plethora of ideas on how to figure out reconfiguration, some of them good, some of them more heat than light.

I’ve also read a few, though, that have gotten to the heart of the problem---mine, yours, and everyone’s. And they are the ones that have called us back to personal accountability to God, and to one another in the body of Christ. And maybe, just maybe God would like us to gather for a yearly meeting wide “spiritual music fest,” bringing nothing but the instruments of our lives, to pray and seek his face, to know one another better, and to let Him heal our church.
Hopefully, to that all the people might say “Amen.”