Musings on a Night at the Orchestra

This weekend I had the pleasure of spending some time at the Minnesota Orchestra at an inside the classics concert featuring music of Maurice Ravel.  In particular, the concert included orchestration from Chloe and Daphnis and the music poem, La Valse.  The evening was educational and intriguing. The music of Maurice Ravel is unique. He uses complex harmonics, repetition of simple strands of music, and gradual building to a full crescendo in his orchestration. An a piece composed by Maurice Ravel, there are groups of instruments that have specific sounds that make up the whole, and within that group the instruments may very differently with complex harmonics contributing to the whole of the sound. 

In terms of the way Maurice Ravel puts music together, my thoughts go to the similarity of how the body of Christ, the Church, is supposed to function.  We all have gifts and talents. Those talents all several similar functions but may differ slightly.  Each gift serves a role.  And just as in any orchestration, any one piece can be critical to the whole sound, so it is in the body, what each of us have is crucial to what God intends. It may not seem like much to the naked eye but to God it is crucial.  In fact, the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that it is the parts that seem inglorious that are indispensable. A piece of Ravel orchestration highlights how that plays when one sound deviation can be key element to the overall sound intended.

The night at the Orchestra also illustrated another brought my mind to another key point.  The element brought up is that of distraction.   During the performance there was a family in front of us with a couple children, a brother and sister, close to each other in age.  The children were having difficulty attending to the music and the father had fallen asleep during the music.  Well, one thing led to another and the family ended up engaging in behavior that served as a distraction for others. There were those who attended the concert with me and who love classic music but were distracted by the behaviors of those in attendance.  The thought comes to mind is that is often the points where we are being selfish, disengaged, or purposefully disruptive that can distract others from attending to the true picture of the good news of the Gospel.  It does not take much to distract others and we maybe oblivious to the disruption we cause others, but rest assured that disruption happens. Now, rest assured there were consequences for varied members of the distracting family, and in the same way, there are consequences that occur for each of us when we distract from the Gospel, for God does discipline those we love and some times what we say or do greatly impacts the perspective and views of others.

Passion Week Musings: The Olivet Discourse

In terms of Passion Week, after causing great disruption at the temple and driving out moneychangers and merchants the next documented event is that of the Olivet discourse. Jesus took extended time to give last words to the crowd of disciples. The discourse was his last public teaching. He spent time speaking in prophecy and parables. His teaching included the commentary on the ten virgins and the five talents. He also provided warning to remain in truth and warned of deceivers. He prophesied about the destruction of Jerusalem and the times leading up to His second coming. It is worthwhile to take time to read the varied accounts of the Olivet Discourse found in Mark 13, Matthew 24 and 25, and Luke 21. Jesus is quick clear that there is great difficulty and tribulation coming before His return both in terms of Israel and those in God’s kingdom. He makes it clear that there are signs to attend to and that love can grow cold and people can and will be deceived. Also emphasized in the discourse is the importance of our actions following what we say we believe.Through all of what Jesus talked about, there is one point that catches my attention today.

Jesus summed up his discourse with a call to stay awake. The book of Mark ends the account of the discourse in Mark 13: 34-37 (ESV): “It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. Therefore stay awake–for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning– lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” So Jesus emphasizes the importance staying awake. The point is further clarified in the way Luke’s account wraps up the discourse in Luke 21:34:36 (ESV): “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” So Jesus does give clear directive that there will be pain, loss of self control, and distractions of life that can draw one away from attending to the Gospel.

There are endless varieties of pain; endless ways to lose self; and unyielding array of life concerns that can take the focus and result in failing asleep and failing to attend to the matters of a servant in the Kingdom of Heaven. It is noteworthy that in many circles within the Body of Christ are calls for revival and suggestions of revival happening in one location or another. In this discourse, Jesus warns not to go chasing from one location or another. He simply directs us to stay awake. Staying awake is actively attending to the matters of the Kingdom of God. It is found in loving others and attending to the various signs as they occur. It is taking focus away from pains, pleasures, or tasks of life and instead seeking to be about the Father’s business. No one else can supply what is needed, rather staying awake involved actively worshipping in spirit in truth. It is depending on the fuel of God and investing what He has given in order to spread God’s kingdom. His Kingdom is not of politics, it is not about relief of suffering, it is not about giving us all we want and reducing the cares of life. Rather, his Kingdom is about loving God and loving others fully and letting others know that there is only one way, one truth, one life, and one gate; JESUS! So stay awake and if caught up in the varied elements of life that lure and entrap like the Siren’s call of myths, WAKE UP! For Jesus return is always and ever SOON! He is the soon and coming King. We have all we need and all that is need for true revival is for each of us to wake up and actively use what God has given.

Joy in True Service

We are fearfully and wonderfully made. God gifts each of us gifts for the building up of others. This gifting is to touch both those who are in God’s kingdom, and those still lost in darkness.  He has made each of unique in terms of personality and through the Holy Spirit gives gifts beyond what He given us naturally.  Today, the reflection is that there is true joy in serving God in accordance with how He has gifted you.  It is evident when my wife is playing the piano and worshiping God.  It is displayed in my life when sitting with someone and helping them work through the difficulties of the heart and soul.  Serving God in accordance with His giftings brings joy.  The joy that comes, comes not from the gifting or the service. The joy comes from using what God has given to love and build up others.

Now perhaps you are reading this and it is not yet clear to you what God has called you to do or the ways he has gifted you.  A good starting point is finding the points of service that when you act in love and serving others you have an inner sense of joy. The joy may even be beyond what makes sense. For some it may be serving the hurting in lost in Haiti, for others it is giving and meeting needs, for others it is teaching God’s word.   God has created each differently and when we are operating true to how God created us, there will be joy in the spirit.

Learning from the death of Ben Larson

Well today learned more about seminarian Ben Larson, who God called home in Haiti.   The ELCA News Service posted an article on Ben and reported information from his wife Renee about Ben’s death. The article can be found at: He Spent His Last Breath Singing: Wife, Cousin Remember ELCA’s Ben Larson – News Releases – Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The touching thing about the article was Ben’s behavior and attitude at the time of his death.  He was seperated from his wife and cousin.  He was clinging to a beam as the building began caving down on them.  In the midst of it all, he was singing.  The article reports that he had a sang the  words “God’s peace to us we  pray.”   Ben was singing praise to God, looking for His wholeness in the face of impending death.  He represented an attitude focused on God and his love and in the midst of immense crisis and face of impending death.  He focused on God, being separated from the wife he loved.  His death reflected God’s peace. 

Another important consideration in examining Ben Larson’s death was that he was true to how God created him and used his gifts up till the end.  He was created with musical talents and the ability to communicate God’s message in words.  He was serving others, building them up in understanding of growing in God.  He invested in God’s kingdom over.  He didn’t hold back, he did not just use what other people created. He actively used what God gave him and used those gifts to touch others with God’s love.  He did leave a little bit of his work behind on the internet.  He left seven songs published on a Myspace page including a worship song based on Psalms 30 . 

There is more information posted about who Ben  Larson was at his churches website: http://www.flcduluth.org/.  When you go to the church website, he hear Ben Larson singing varied songs, as they are playing four of his songs.  They also have a link to his obituary.   His obituary ends with a verse: I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will praise my God while I have my being. Psalm 104:31-33. As someone who only learned of Ben Larson due his death in Haiti, the little learned on the internet is that the verse sums up the man God created in Ben Larson.  He lived out the verse  till the end of His being in this life as he passed on to the next.  Personally, I hope and pray that what Ben has created becomes circulated amidst the church body as a whole, if his family and friends are able to find away.  In the meantime, take time to listen to what he has left and examine yourself to see if you are truly walking out and using what God has given you.   

As for Ben’s family and friends, may his Psalm 30 song echo in your hearts and mind and may God truly turn your mourning into dancing.  He clearly was a blessing and my life in enriched for learning of His love for God even unto death.  In fact, right now the thought that comes to mind is “Yet though he slay me, still I will praise him.” Ben did.  May the same be found true of us all.