Saturday, November 8, 2008

Instruments of God’s Love

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." - John’s Gospel 13:34-35

I have always loved listening to music of all kinds. As a teenager, I once took guitar lessons, and was contemplating learning to play the piano, when an accident with fireworks left me without several fingers on my left hand. (I was also very self-conscious about the physical scars at the time, and am no longer, but that’s another story.)

I soon gave up any dreams of playing a musical instrument, especially ones like the guitar or piano, and saw that even brass and wind instruments required pretty complicated dexterity with one’s fingers.

A friend of mine is a musician. He plays all kinds of string and other instruments, and plays them well. Recently, I watched him playing an instrument known as an “Appalachian” or lap dulcimer. I casually shared with him that it looked simple enough even for me to play. I forgot about it…but he didn’t. A couple of nights ago at a fellowship gathering we regularly have, he invited me to play the instrument. He had tuned it in preparation and planned to give me a short lesson, and even loan me the lap dulcimer to practice with. I was amazed at how the simplicity of this dulcimer made it easy for me to play. And I loved its sound. My friend left me alone in the room as I plucked away…and imagined. In his simple and intentional way, this friend not only prepared a gift to reintroduce a certain kind of beauty into my life, but to restore possibilities I had long ago abandoned.

In his book, Christ-Following – Ten Signposts to Spirituality, Trevor Hudson, a Methodist pastor in South Africa, writes, “This great commandment [found in John 13:34-35] is given us for our wholeness, the well-being of our relationships, and the healing of our societies. Shaping our lives into instruments of God’s love breaks the tyranny of ingrained self-centeredness and narcissism. We step out of our cramped and suffocating worlds into the spacious milieu of the kingdom. …Our lives come alive with renewed responsiveness and fresh meaning. We discover how loving others releases within them immense possibilities for growth and change. And we realize that only the power of God’s love, manifest in the lives of ordinary people, can heal our broken world…There is no higher priority for the Christ-follower than learning to love.”

Hudson continues, “The ways in which we commit ourselves to be channels of God’s love are usually down to earth. Characterized by thoughtfulness, creativity, and kindness, they are within reach of us all: cooking a favorite meal, buying a surprise gift, writing an overdue letter, remembering an anniversary, giving space for a loved one to be alone, and … creating a homemade birthday card. [I would add, surprising a friend who thinks he has a disability, with a music lesson!] Simple actions like these are sacramental.”

Hudson urges us to think of those close to us in our daily lives and consider their hopes and needs. Then consider what practical expression of caring would most contribute to his or her greater wholeness…and to put these intentions into practice.


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