When I started my undergrad degree in music I had no idea what I was stepping into. This discipline of music was more than a study; it was more than a collection of information and application. It was a calling to master an art of taking what was written on a page, and expressing it in a way that inspires a listener. I love the scene from the movie Mr. Holland’s Opus where he is trying to teach the young girl to play her clarinet. He tells her, “we’ve been doing it all wrong, we been playing the notes on the page”. You might say, but isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when making music? Of course, but like this movie scene indicates, there is more to music than playing exactly what’s written on the page. You can play the notes poorly, or you can play them well and never express something that is hidden beneath the surface of the sound. There’s an essence; a flow of passion; a thread that makes a song more than notes on a page expressed through an instrument. It’s almost as if the music performed has to be believed; as if the conviction of the performer is a wave on which the music rides that somehow makes it substantive.
Maybe we’ve been doing this Gospel thing all wrong. Consider the Pharisee’s. They were experts in the scriptures. Nothing wrong with that. Yet somehow they were missing something crucial. They were missing the thread that flows through the performance. They were missing the point. To be fair, it’s easy to look back two thousand years and criticize a group of people that missed the Lord’s visitation. We like to tell ourselves, “that would have never happened to me”. And yet the reality we’re faced with is so similar. We have bukoos of experts in the scriptures and experts in the Holy Spirit. There are plenty of folks in our churches who can outline the five points of Calvinism, draw up their eschatological timeline, whip a crowd into an emotional/spiritual frenzy, explain the five steps of evangelism, experience transcendent worship, argue the finer points of baptism and the Lord’s table, speak in tongues, and yet still miss the point.
Love is the music. Love is the passion. Love is the thread that flows through all the stories, the prophecies, the songs, and the commands; and yet love can be one of the most elusive elements in the way Christians (myself included) present ourselves to the world. Jesus played that music well. The fullest expression of God’s love for mankind is Jesus. If we want to do right by what we really believe, we’ll end up looking like Jesus. He is the master “performer”. He took the page and played it perfect. He loved me, and I want to love like Him. I want to love someone that is cold to me. I want to love folks that disagree with me, that hate what I stand for, that fight against me. I want to love them because I want to look like Him. He loves them. Oh it’s not easy or simple- just as it’s not easy or simple to play a beautiful song on an instrument I am learning. I will squeak and play flat, but I don’t want to stop in my pursuit to represent the essence of the page. I want to play love, and I want to play it beautifully.