My love of music started as a seven year old, and I would sometimes smuggle our family’s little radio into bed with me. Sadly there was not much to listen to except crackly am radio country twang.
In junior high, I played the tenor saxophone. Maybe it is the same today, but then, the concert and marching band competition between Arkansas and Texas was epic. My band instructor often reminded us that we were better than them; and in fact, better than any band in the state. He pronounced this not because we were, but because he knew somehow that we would be. He was aptly named Mr. Workman, known for occasionally launching his baton in the general direction of a band member straying from the score, and making us practice as if we were Musical Olympians.
The junior high school that I attended was old, dingy, and dimly lit; and in certain areas unassociated with the teacher’s lounge, reeked of
cigarette smoke. The band room was none of these things. Built in later years and separate from the main building, it was modern; with carpet, bright walls and individual practice rooms. It became another world where we could transform ourselves into amazing musicians who possessed a voice worth hearing.
The equivalent of the Musical Olympics arrived for us that spring. I had a particularly challenging part. I had a solo that started the song, which became a duet with the first chair clarinet, and then the oboe joined in. The trick was that we were to sound like one instrument. This piece was the one to show the judges that we could handle something technically difficult. Mr. Workman sweated. We shined.
It was over quickly. The senior high band instructor Mr. Bowles suddenly appeared, bent over, sternly looking me in the face.
“Young lady, do you know how difficult that was?” he said intently.
I stood there, blinking, not sure if I was in trouble. I shook my head no, then yes, then shrugged my shoulders.
“Well, very good job.” he said with at pat on my shoulder, and disappeared into the swirl of kids and instruments.
With the gush of social media where we easily pronounce our opinions on everything from what kind of food is best to politics to charity causes, it is clear to see that we are different. This doesn’t change when one looks inside the Body of Christ.
And yet, Jesus prayed for unity. Not sameness, not conformity, not being the same instrument, but perhaps being one voice.
We speak the same prayer with the Holy Spirit: “Come, Lord Jesus!”
It is not hard to agree with the Holy Spirit. But it is difficult to agree with each other. To put aside our own agendas. To serve someone else instead of our own wishes.
It is time to quit fine tuning our arguments, and to join our voice with each other and the Holy Spirit. “King Jesus, return!” Remember Jesus’ prayer for us?
Our band received all ones for the competition and we became a bit of a small town sensation that year. Mr. Workman was honored as Outstanding Young Band Director of both the state of Arkansas and the southwestern states region.
We as believers are not competing and there are no soloists, no heroes. And yet the Father is waiting for our participation, our voice, our unified song.
Get your voice ready!
For those concert band geeks like me who would like to listen, here is the piece we played, performed by the Ann Arbor Concert Band.