The Common Melody of the Church

July 15, 2016  |  Craig St. John

By Teena Dare

Church,

My brothers and sisters, common blood in our veins

Pulsing new life with each heartbeat, blood of a Savior

Spilled horrifically, willingly

For the joy set before him,

A people set apart for his own purpose, redemption—

Harmony where there was hostility, peace in place of prejudiced posturing, prideful piety,

Swallowed as we all drink the same blood, eat the same body,

Kneeling feebly, finding forgiveness at the foot of the cross

Humiliation and death,

All for the joy that was set before him,

A beloved people, purified for a precious purpose—

Church

 

Brothers and Sisters,

Do you feel it, too? The crushing weight of fear, helplessness, slow-growing apathy?

Do you feel it out there? Do you feel it in you?

The dissonant voices—clanging cymbals, no common melody.

All we hear is noise, all we feel is sadness, or nothing at all—sadly.

We can recite the lyrics to the missing melody…

Love is patient, love is kind…

But all I hear are clanging cymbals. What happened to our melody?

On Sunday we considered a Psalm of lament, a new song that we must sing in order to find a common melody in our broken world:

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God: for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 42:11).

A psalm of lament, worship to God in the midst of pain and heartache. The Sons of Korah were keenly aware of “the oppression of the enemy” and “the taunt of their adversaries.” It had deeply affected their soul. So they wrestled, they cried out to God, undone. Would we have joined them in their lament, mourned with them even if the pain was not our own?

Even as they mourned, these psalmists trusted in the promised salvation of the Lord in the midst of their very-present struggle. They didn’t yet know the name of Christ, but they hoped in the living God.

Church, our hope is in the resurrected Christ, the one the psalmists longed to know. And its better news than they could have ever imagined. He was not only a Savior, but God himself in the flesh. And he not only came to rescue the Jewish people, but men and women from every nation of the earth.

Oh, but we still must lament because all things are not yet made right, and the pain is just as real as ever.

So how do we find a common melody as the people of God, filled with joy and sorrow, where the lyrics of our faith come to life?

The only way that Jew and Gentile, man and woman, black and white can all simultaneously inhabit the same gospel story is if we become like Christ…

In his compassion, in his humility, and in this sacrifice.

In His compassion

Jesus revealed the justice and mercy of his Father through his compassion for the marginalized, oppressed and forgotten. He revealed the nature of his coming Kingdom through spending his days with ethnic, social, moral, and physical outsiders. He didn’t preach at them with instructive words from afar (like the comments section of Facebook…). He touched these people, ate in their homes, talked with them, and listened. And he extended the greatest gift of all to them: being washed of all of their sins once and for all, and joining him in the work of establishing his good Kingdom on earth.

We are among this legacy of undeserving outsiders saved by sweet grace. Our common melody is of ones who have received the compassion of Christ when we were strangers. He entered in, got close, intimately healed our shame, and gave us the free gift of new life. Let us meditate on this compassion and be transformed into people eager to be compassionate to the “other.”

In His Humility

Join me in praying that we can hear these lyrics with a new melody today:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men…”

Jesus came from a position of power and willingly washed feet. We often fortify our positions of power, protecting the façade that we are somehow more deserving. But we all drink the same blood and eat the same body. The only one that had the right to power was the one who laid it all down. May we find more joy in serving and seeking to understand the other, counting them more significant. This way of being is ours in Christ Jesus; this is our common melody.

In His sacrifice

Jesus left all of the comforts of heaven where he enjoyed uninterrupted harmony within the trinity to come as a helpless baby in a messed up world. The Father gave up his only son, his love so palpable in moments of joy and sorrow. God had no need that wasn’t satisfied, but purely out of his love for the world, he sacrificed much.

Jesus submitted himself to the world that he created and sustains, all for love’s sake. Devastatingly, the people he came to save rally for his unjust murder. Jesus, a victim of the corrupt system.

But the beauty in this tragic tale is that his willful sacrifice became the most radical and true act of love, a man laying down his life for his friends. Jesus couldn’t have fulfilled his promise without a sacrifice that left him naked, alone, and on display.

Church, our common melody is one of a people that is both desperately in need of this sacrifice and deeply loved beyond understanding. Let us continue to learn the way of Christ who gave up tangible comfort, security, and harmony to enter into places of discomfort, danger, and discord.

Let us be the Good Samaritan, willing to show sacrificial love to the one at cultural, religious and racial odds with us.

Sweet Church, I ask you to join me in allowing these words to lead us to repentance for any ways that we have denied the beautiful Gospel of Christ:

For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (Rev. 3:17-19)