Monday, August 12, 2013

One God -- One Goal -- One Glory

Have you ever been part of a musical group of some kind – like a choir, band or orchestra? Making music together is an amazing experience. Practicing together somehow brings the members together into almost a single organism. Each person has their specific part to play or sing. It may be similar to someone else’s or it may be unique to that one person, but each person and part are crucial in making the performance beautiful.
I spent a large part of my growing up years in the school band. We spent a minimum of five hours a week together practicing our music. We were also expected to spend at least an hour each day practicing alone, the parts we would play with the group, as well as working on individual skills that would ultimately make our performance with the group better.

Thinking back, it’s interesting that band members tended to be friends with other band members. We knew people in our math classes, English classes and history classes, but we hung out with other band members. We ate lunch together and socialized outside of school together. We tended to date people who were band members more often than people who were not. And our love and admiration of our band director easily surpassed anything we felt for any of our other teachers. Many years later, those feelings of loyalty and friendship are still very strong.

Now, does that mean that there were never any disagreements between band members? Did we always perform perfectly? Did we always practice the way we were expected to? Absolutely not. I often wonder how our (or any) band director maintained his sanity. We were a diverse, exuberant, distractible, non-compliant, and undisciplined bunch of fourteen to nineteen year olds from vastly different homes, ethnic backgrounds and economic levels, not to mention varying degrees of talent and musical ability.

And yet, the music we played, if not perfect, was beautiful. If nothing else, we shared the desire to perform our parts well so that the band as a whole would perform well. We were pleased with our individual performance only as it was reflected in the group performance – whether we were playing a solo or were one of fifteen flutes all playing the same part, we realized that our contribution was needed, wanted, and important.

Research has found that as groups of people who sing together, their breathing and heartbeats quickly synchronize. (I’m guessing that the same thing would occur with any musical group.)
“… what really struck him was that it took almost no time at all for the singers' heart rates to become synchronized. The readout from the pulse monitors starts as a jumble of jagged lines, but quickly becomes a series of uniform peaks. The heart rates fall into a shared rhythm guided by the song's tempo.
“‘The members of the choir are synchronizing externally with the melody and the rhythm, and now we see it has an internal counterpart,’ Vickhoff says.
“This is just one little study, and these findings might not apply to other singers. But all religions and cultures have some ritual of song, and it's tempting to ask what this could mean about shared musical experience and communal spirituality.
“‘It's a beautiful way to feel. You are not alone but with others who feel the same way,’ Vickhoff says.”[1]
Did you notice any similarities in the description of band life, to what should be our Christian life? We should be spending several hours a week with other Christians in an organized group setting (church). We should also be spending time daily preparing for that group (lesson study) as well as increasing our individual skills (personal Bible study and prayer). The bonds we create with those who believe as we do give us strength and courage to meet the world around us and share our good news. Our love for our Leader (Jesus) is the bond that draws us and keeps us together.

Our church family is made up of a wide variety of ages, talents, ethnic and economic backgrounds, the personal histories are vastly different. And yet we share a love for our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. We share a desire to reach those around us with the saving love of Jesus. And we all want more than anything else to spend eternity with Jesus and our spiritual brothers and sisters.

Does that mean that we all agree with each other all the time? Do we all have the same role to play in the church family? Do we all share the same methods for spreading the Gospel? Do we all live the perfect Christian life all the time? Do we pray and study and witness like we should all the time? Do you think there are times when we disappoint Jesus? And, does any of that mean that we aren’t unified as a church?

The family of God is made up of changeable, diverse, sometimes unrepentant, sinful individuals, all of whom are loved and forgiven and have been given highly specific and individual roles to play in the completion of God’s work. No one’s part is unimportant or expendable.
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.
“If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,’ is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.”1 Corinthians 12:12-18

“I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God-
I've been washed in the fountain, cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus as we travel this sod,
For I'm part of the family, the family of God.
You will notice we say "brother and sister" 'round here-
It's because we're a family and these folks are so near;
When one has a heartache we all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory
In this family so dear.
From the door of an orphanage to the house of the King-
No longer an outcast, a new song I sing;
From rags unto riches, from the weak to the strong,
I'm not worthy to be here,
But, praise God, I belong!”[2]

[1] Anna Haensch, When Choirs Sing, Many Hearts Beat As One, NPR, Shots, Your Health,  July 10, 2013,
[2]Bill and Gloria Gaither, The Family of God.