To what shall I liken the Kingdom?
Well, sometimes it’s like a family of singers who perform a fugue… where one voice begins with a simple melodic theme, and one by one others chime in with variations on that theme, differences, harmonies, counterpoints, echoes, dissonances, only to see the piece climax with grand chords of resolution yielding greater light and beauty in their combination, than in the sum of the parts!
People with preternatural gifts in music (like Beethoven, Mozart, Bill & Gloria Gaither, or Bach) sometimes wrote (or write) such things.
Yesterday, I got to see this happen in “real time” here on Church Set Free.
We talk about diversity. We talk about difference. We talk about the Holy Spirit’s freedom to express His Truth to us in various ways and languages, and our individual histories and temperaments coloring our experience of His presence and inspiration. We talk about refraining from telling one another what to believe, but rather encouraging one another in exploring and embracing the relationships we have with Him and with one another. We encourage dialogue, discourse, and collaborative exploration of what it is to live in and as the Family of God in His Kingdom. We talk about the difference between “unanimity” and “lock-step Christianity”, and the diversity of thought and experiences we see reflected in scripture and the life and encounters of Jesus.
It can be easy just to talk about such things.
It can be easy to encourage the Church to be Set Free enough to embrace diversity of background, ponderings, viewpoints, traditions, and even opinions… without judgment, condemnation, or disrespect.
But when we meet together, these writers in/of Church Set Free, I am often a voice heard to repeat… “The Medium is the Message”. God is doing this really cool “experiment” thing, where we ourselves as a group are apparently not only called to “talk about” these topics, offer our own experiences, advice, learning, to encourage others… but to “experience” them, learn more about these principles, model them, and rejoice in our own growth here.
And yesterday, this incredible thing happened. One of us set out a viewpoint. (Soloed with an opening melodic theme). Another responded with a counterpoint. Another listened, wondered if there was dissonance, disharmony, and offered a further variation. The two initial singers then sang a duo for a bit, reaffirming harmony, establishing that while there may be some syncopation there, there was no atonal clash! It was just glorious!
(I missed the whole show onstage, as I was elsewhere doing otherwise at the time! Drat!)
But it was like being around the dining room table at supper, with the Father at one end, Jesus seated at the other, and watching lively discourse among brothers and sisters. At the close of the performance I was elated as I watched the transcript play out. Two things just filled me with joy, and today this post has just welled up within me.
The Brethren of Church Set Free do NOT have to sing in Unison. We can’t, to be perfectly frank. We come from traditions, lifestyles, histories, worship experiences that are vastly different. For us to agree on a “single melody line” would be for NONE of us to be genuine, authentic, transparent or sincere to one another or before you. We would have to put on a “One Size Fits All” suit, that either bagged some and pinched others, or had such flexibility and resilience that it accomplished nothing. Now, are there some points at which our voices unite? You bet! Like “Jesus is Lord!”, or “God is Love”, or “God loves first, and therefore sent His Son who lived, died, and rose again to live forever!” Lots and lots of themes we are in unison.
But in lots and lots of elements of playing out those themes, individually, relationally, corporately, practically… there’s diversity.
And yesterday, I got to hear this really cool little piece of “Chamber Worship”, where multiple voices cast light of differing perspectives and angles, on love in relationship in different ways.
That was AWESOME!
BUT!!!!! Thing Two:
JUST as awesome (maybe even more so), was watching those same brethren… as their melodic lines varied in volume and dynamics… step back a moment, draw breath, and consider the “meta-question” of… “Is my voice too strident? Is this harmony and counterpoint, or is this dissonance and division?”
THAT’s the REAL message (imho) that Church Set Free seeks to bring.
That as “Family” at the table, with God setting and heading the table, we can have lively animated discussion even of differing views, while still loving, embracing and glorifying. THAT was SO joyful and awesome to witness.
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So…. bottom line here… what makes the difference between “division” or “dissonance”, and “diversity” or “difference”?
Um… gonna sound corny to say, perhaps… but the difference is the “relationship”. Relationship and the love with which we handle one another. Divisions and dissonance happen when the space between two persons becomes polarized into “winner/loser” or “right/wrong” or “better/worse”. When there is a breakdown, a failure, of the two elements of “respect” and “sacredness” of the other… there is now division and dissonance. When our eyes become focused on the “opponent”, and “defeating” him/her… as distinct from being focused on God, Truth, Jesus, Love and saying “hey, bro/sis, but what about this? or that? or this other?” (fill in the blank).
There’s a world of difference between saying, “I disagree with you, you’re wrong, and I shall fix that if you listen to me!”, and saying… “I see what you’re saying. But I see it differently. What if it’s more like… [whatever]?”
We never have lie and say we agree with something we don’t. We never have to lie and say something is right, when we have deep conviction that it is wrong. But we can always bear in mind that different people sometimes understand words in different ways, or have met situations that we have not, or have had experiences that express the grace of God in ways that we have not.
We never have to lie to honor God. We only have to love, to respect, and to treat the other as sacred.
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Yup, I was a really happy camper yesterday, proud of my brothers/sisters as I watched God’s happy face nod between courses of the meal.
To what shall I liken the Kingdom? How about a dinner table where God is glorified and discussion is lively? This certainly works for me! The medium is the message. We are all projects in work. Welcome to Church Set Free!
4 thoughts on “Prelude and Fugue in Family Major”
Well done brother, and quite impeccable timing as well. God knows our needs before we even need them huh?
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I knew as soon as I saw the title you were the author. Thank you for the summary of the model we have set before us, and of our engagement in respectful dialogue through love and grace.
It is one thing to disagree and dispute; it is quite another to disagree and offer dignity toward each other. Perhaps this will filter further into the atmosphere on other “hot button” topics. Lord knows if we are unable to treat each other this way, we certainly cannot treat our guests in the same manner.
Thank, LM, for your insights and for the lessons you so gently point us toward.
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In case anyone was wondering, LM was referring to this post:
LM, good post. I’ve always felt there was a reason why God chose twelve tribes to carry his teaching, and why Jesus chose twelve Apostles to do the same. Because each hears/repeats the message in a different way, to people who hear and follow what rings to their heart. It is why there are four Gospels, and not one.
1Cor 12:14 “or by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit. 14* For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
In the early church the Body of Christ was said to have two lungs – East and West. Over the centuries other parts have been added, some larger, some smaller, but none any less important to His body. Try flicking a lighter without a thumb. I knew a man who lost his big toe, he never realize how important a toe was to maintaining balance when you walk. Every part has its’ role to play in the body, and every part is missed should it be removed, but ignored until there is a problem.