Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 123; 146, Jeremiah 36:27-37:2, 1 Corinthians 14:1-12, Matthew 10:16-23
A piano has eighty-eight keys. Anyone can walk up to one and bang on them until sound comes out. Fewer can skillfully combine them to play an actual song. And fewer still can create something entirely new from those same eighty-eight keys. The same eighty-eight keys can produce a jarring jangle or breathtaking beauty. A toddler can find great joy simply making noise. Most people could pluck out “Chopsticks” or “Heart and Soul.” Only a talented few can create a song that is not only recognizable as music, but can make us experiences the story and emotions they have to share.
Paul used musical instruments as a metaphor for how we use our gifts to benefit our faith community.
If they do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is being played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? So with yourselves; if in a tongue you utter speech that is not intelligible, how will anyone know what is being said?
He was speaking specifically about the difference between speaking in tongues, which usually benefitted only the speaker because no one else understood the language, and prophesying, which provided “upbuilding and encouragement and consolation.” Isn’t the principle true of any undertaking though?
If we pursue a ministry which appeals to us but doesn’t speak to anyone else, is it a meaningless noise? If we complete a difficult task at work or home, but nobody else cared whether it got done, what is there to crow about? Of course it’s fine – even important – to take time to do some things for ourselves, but when it comes to how we relate to our community, we need to be speaking the same language … or at least hitting some mutually recognizable notes.
Consider one small example. Many Christmas toy drives specifically emphasize the need for toys for older children, especially boys. Yet donations are overwhelmingly toys intended for young children, weighted toward girls, because many donors prefer to shop for them. Now there’s nothing wrong with any specific donation, but when a symphony is written in D major and a bunch of musicians play in F minor because of personal preference, the right music doesn’t get made.
Faithful use of our gifts involves more than doing what we find personally rewarding. It asks us to learn the songs in other people’s hearts too.
Comfort: You are part of a great and blessed orchestra.
Challenge: At least once, take time to volunteer with a charity that doesn’t “speak” to you. Pay attention to why it is important to others.
Prayer: Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. (Psalm 86:4)
Discussion: Is there anything you do because it is important to someone else?
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