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September 07, 2008

A symphony of the faithful?

A reflection on the variety of personal faith and Christian practice.

Romans Chapter 12 verse 16: Live in harmony with one another.

This verse caught my attention as I listened to the second reading during a Eucharist recently. It was repeated in the excellent sermon that followed the Gospel for the day. Take with all that flowed around this in the readings it set my mind in gear and it is my hope that you will share my musings on this subject.

As I reread the Chapter from which this text is taken I am once more struck by the image that occurred to me first as I listened at the service. For the essence of the message is not that we should or can all be the same, but that we are all, just the same, part of the overall symphony. The letter to the Romans is a very interesting in itself for it teaches us a great deal about the writer’s vision for the faithful and of how the growing church saw itself and the future. Chapter 12 in particular focuses on the Human Relationships, stressing the need to love one another, regardless of hurt. It also stresses the differences between our gifts both spiritual and physical – but it makes clear that these should not be allowed to divide us, but rather an encouragement to work with each other, accommodating difference.

Years ago I had a very gifted music teacher. I was probably his greatest failure in that I never learned to read music properly and generally played my instrument by ear. I played the B Flat Tenor Trombone after starting out on the E Flat Euphonium. Both very interesting instruments, though hardly the instruments that hold the “lead” in orchestral terms for any length of time. Generally they would be regarded as “accompanying” – carrying a harmony to the principle theme carried by the strings or the woodwind – or someone else. Yet our teacher used to insist that each section of the band or the orchestra played through its entire part while the rest of us listened carefully. Then, when everyone had played their part, he would start again, this time with two parts, then three and finally building up until every part was being played. In this way we learned to appreciate the harmony that is built around the central “tune” or theme.

So it is with the diaspora of Christianity. We all hold a part of the whole; some may even hold more than one part, but it is heard best when the whole is played in tune and in obedience to the conductor’s lead. As with the orchestra, so with the faithful; our Conductor is Christ and each branch of the Church of God, whether we call ourselves Catholic, Roman, Orthodox or Baptist, Full Gospel or whatever, must play its own part in the overall symphony that is the message of the gospel.

This is the message to the Romans. It is only when Christians can lay aside their differences and live in harmony that the message of the Gospel can truly be heard in all its beauty and in all its glory. Each of us is a part of God’s orchestra and each of us must play the part of the harmony assigned to us and our gifts in time to the overall score for the symphony to work. The “theme” or “tune” may pass from one section to another from time to time, but the whole is in the harmony that surrounds it.

Let the music of the Gospel be heard through the entire world. Let the orchestra of the faithful be united in the service of our God.

Posted by The Gray Monk at September 7, 2008 09:28 AM

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Love the way you look at it.

Posted by: vw bug at September 7, 2008 10:16 PM

Thanks, I do tend to think of many things in similar ways. We are all a part of a greater painting.

Posted by: The Gray Monk at September 8, 2008 08:50 PM