Monday, March 5, 2012

Guitar Lessons

A couple of weeks ago, Rik and I had the opportunity to see Tommy Emmanuel, guitar player extraordinaire, in concert. We were amazed at the depth of music that came from one man and a guitar. It sounded like three or four people playing at once. Then, Tommy started a song that was more percussion than strings and suddenly I had a new insight into what we are called to do to be the church in the 21st century.

As I watched that night, I saw three ways Tommy Emmanuel’s music was a metaphor for the church.

First, Tommy Emmanuel used every single part of the guitar and a variety of percussion implements to make music come from that guitar. He played the strings over the sound hole, on the neck, and even between the nut and the tuners. He banged, tapped, and brushed the top, back, and sides of the sound box. He played with the palms of his hands, the backs of his hands, the ring on his finger, his finger nails, and a “brush” usually used on drums. Basically, he used all his resources.

Second, Tommy doesn’t see the guitar the same way as most people. He literally thinks outside of the (sound) box. Most of us look at a guitar and assume that music can be made in the traditional way of strumming or picking the strings. This is true, and this is one way Mr. Emmanuel makes beautiful music. But it is not the only way. He bangs the wood, taps the strings, and creates as much sound with his left hand as he does with his right.

Finally, he wasn’t trying to preserve his guitar. Tommy Emmanuel’s guitar was anything but pristine. It has giant scrape marks where he literally scratches the guitar to make music.

The church can learn much from these guitar lessons. We as the church are called to use all our resources to be the church in our world today. We need to look around and see what we have that can be used in sharing the love of God and the good news of Jesus Christ within our communities and beyond. We need to explore resources we might not have thought about in connection with church before. Often we think only of traditional ways of being the church, and fail to consider other ways – out of the box ways – we can be the church to those who are hurting or in need. As long as we continue to try and preserve what the church has been, we cannot move into the potential of what the church can be in this world.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Darkness and Light

This morning, I am preparing for this evening's Ash Wednesday service in which we are reminded of our mortality, of our sinfulness and need to repent, and of God's great grace. In the midst of this preparation, I stepped outside into the most GLORIOUS day. It is absolutely beautiful out there. I wondered how can I go back in and write about the darkness in our lives when this glorious light beckons me?

There are many metaphors here and probably many more that come to your mind. So offer just a few thoughts, a few "acorns" that may grow into something bigger or may simply lie dormant on the ground. They are not particularly connected to each other except they are nuts that have fallen from the same tree.

1. How often do we choose to stay inside in the darkness rather that going out and reveling in the light?

2. Tonight we will bear the smudge of ash, a cross - the mark of the Christ - upon our foreheads. In this wonderful, glorious, beautiful world created by God, am I merely a smudge of ash, or am I the mark of Christ?

3. I stepped out for the purpose of taking trash to the curb. Up and down my street, there are trash cans and bags waiting to be taken away. If it were not for the trash truck I hear in the culdesac just now, and those who do this dirty job of taking away all our refuse, the trash would build up and mar this gorgeous day and the neigborhood in general. It would get smelly around here pretty quickly. Jesus does this dirty work in our lives - taking away the trash, the sin, all that separates us from the glory of God - but, we must first take it to the curb. We must first acknowledge that in our lives which is sin, which keeps us from experiencing the love of God, and choose to turn from it.

4. Last night someone asked me about the passages in the Bible that tell us to fear God. I talked about fear of God in terms of awe rather than being afraid. When I look around me on this particular day - and view God's creation - I stand in awe of the great one who creates such beauty. But, I cannot be afraid. I can only rejoice and feel the warmth and light of the sun flowing over me. For today,I dance before the greatness of God rather than tremble.