Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Believers: Lone Violin or Part of the Symphony?

I am routinely asked a variation of this question:  "Do I have to go to church to be a Christian/good person?  Can't I do it on my own?"

I have always answered, "Yes, but . . ."

but it's easier to have company for the journey.

but it's easier to have people who remind you of who you are and who claims you.

but it's easier to stay on the path, which can be a hard path, if you have fellow travellers.

but you can do more in a group than you can do on your own.

I was reminded of these interchanges on Saturday as I watched the Broward Symphony Orchestra.  I thought of how my husband sounds as he practices his violin in solitude.  He sounds perfectly acceptable, hitting every note, making his way through the music.

But how much more glorious his violin would sound if he played with others.  Each violin has a slightly different sound--and played all together, there's a depth and a richness that my husband simply cannot duplicate on his own.

And to extend the metaphor, it's not just one church family that supports us as we move through our journey.  No, it's churches everywhere and the people who have gone before us and in some ways, those who will come. 

Violins sound great playing as a group, but they sound even better as part of a string quartet.  And a string quartet sounds great when more strings join them.

And it's not just Christians, but people of every religion and faith.  The strings sound great by themselves, but I loved the note of mystery introduced by the horns and the woodwinds.  Ecumenism in music!

When I used to whine to my mother and wonder why we had to go to church, she used a metaphor that she used as a counselor at Lutheridge.  She asked me to imagine a camp fire.  She asked, "What happens to a coal when you pull it out of the fire?"  Of course, it goes out.

And that might happen to us, but the whole fire will go out eventually--unless, of course, we add more wood. 

In some ways, I'm comparing very different sorts of metaphors.  They do answer the same question.  But I'm glad to have a different metaphor to explain why I think it's important to have a faith community of some sort to help us on our way.

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