SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON/The Making of a Beautiful Melody
Wednesday, December 18, 2013 12:00 AM
"But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good . . . distributing to each one individually just as He wills." (1 Corinthians 12: 7, 11b)
Have you ever wondered why God does what He does? More personally, haven't you, at one time or another, been absolutely perplexed as to the reason why He has caused or allowed something to touch you or to impact your life as it has? The immediate discussion here in Paul's letter, of course, has to do with Spiritual gifts. And it is clear that his overall intention, beyond extolling the grace and mercy of God, was to show that the giving of these gifts was God's way of blessing the entire Church. For you see, the gifts of one were meant to touch the lives of the others. Each gift was given "for the common good" and was given (each one) specifically as "He wills".
Now, among the valuable truths that are taught us here, lie the following facts. First, each and every thing God brings to us is for a reason. His infinite wisdom and eternal plan is behind the giving of each blessing, no matter how perplexing it may be to us in the moment. Secondly, each gift or blessing, no matter its form, is meant to have an impact that extends far beyond the limited scope of our own personal existence. In other words, what God chooses to do in the life of one believer, is to be shared -- used to touch the lives of others - especially within the household of faith. In fact, taken in isolation, the individual believer may remain completely befuddled as to the rhyme or reason behind a particular blessing - until it is shared and employed to touch the life of someone else - until the one note becomes blended with the discordant notes found in the lives of others. Bodie Thoene, in the third book of her series, The Zion Covenant, paints a scene to illustrate what I mean.
Aboard the Darien, the reader finds a large group of Jewish refugees escaping the terrors of Hitler's Third Reich. Their hopes of being taken in by some other benevolent and caring nation during their time of extreme crisis are dashed. No nation will open their ports to receive them, forcing them to remain adrift upon the ocean, a doomed and unwanted people without a home. But then we come to this scene where one man, Shimon, begins to organize these distraught Jewish castoffs into an orchestra like you've never seen or heard. Shimon, himself, knew music well, having been a member of the famed orchestra in Vienna before the war. But how could he put together an orchestra here, on board the Darien, when no musical instruments were available? Bodie writes that his intention was to construct an orchestra of voices where individuals who possessed "the quality of strings in their voices" were selected. He chose some to sound out the parts of cellos and bass fiddles. Others took on the responsibility for the notes of violins and violas. Still others assumed the parts of the woodwinds and brass instruments.
Now, when Shimon first began to work with each individual and later with small groups, it all sounded rather rough. In fact, it is safe to say that there was no apparent melody to be heard at all. It wasn't until he pulled together the entire group that it all came together and the discordant notes -- the mismatched noise of the particular vocal instruments -- were then heard in harmony with the others. Then - and only then - was the beautiful sound of Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 in C minor, op. 67 heard by all.
Now, think with me for a moment - what if more is implied here in our text than just the normal list of Spiritual gifts that usually come to our minds? What if we're meant to look upon everything God chooses to give in this same way - including those gifts we often don't look upon as "gifts" - such as illnesses, afflictions, persecutions, and the likes? And what if we are to perceive even these (discordant notes that they may be) as the treasures they truly are - when they are shared - as when the rough note in my life becomes blended with the rough note in the life of another? Might this not be God way of producing a beautiful melody within the Body of Christ?
Is this not part of the reason why James exhorts us "to count it all joy" when we encounter trials? Does Paul not describe the Philippians as being "partakers of grace" together with him as they stood with him during his time of Roman imprisonment? And are we not told by this same apostle that it is nothing short of the "surpassing greatness of the power of God" which is on display in your life and in mine whenever we are "afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed"?
You see, God is making melody right here amid the raucous noise of this fallen world as He works in your life and mine, blending together your note with mine, my affliction with your discouragement, your trial with my cause for rejoicing. In isolation, each one may be beautiful in its own way, but blended together, these gifts and divinely chosen blessings produce a sound with is matched in beauty only by the singing of the angels. The hurts and scars each one of us bear, take on a different meaning when they positively come to impact the lives of others. Then, all are encouraged and God is glorified exceedingly by the whole of us.
Therefore, rather than complaining about God's specific gift to you -- or wasting even a moment in preferring a different gift - be thankful for whatever He has given and look for a way to share it - blending the sound of your note with those of others -- making melody in your life unto the Lord!
The Rev. Donald Caviness is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, MS.