Last Saturday evening I was playing at a Taize service at the Abbey and a metaphor struck me deeply that I wanted to share. I was struck with the beauty that emerges when we listen to each other. My experience playing with Taize has been one where each person serves the other and gives the other an opportunity to let their instrument sing out. The violin will be highlighted in one verse and then pull back and support the other musicians. The music will build and the trumpet will give it energy. Then the musicians pull back and the song ends with the delicate harp and guitar. Each instrument has value and allows the other instruments to shine in the way that only that instrument can shine.
This struck me as a metaphor for community. Its as if each of us are a particular instrument that was made to contribute to the music in a unique way.
I imagined the kind of sound that would come from a group of musicians who were competing to have their own voice heard. It would become progressively louder and more chaotic, with each musician concerned with how they could shine individually. In this battle to be heard each player might have their own strategies. The trumpets might blare their horns and blame the violins for not being able to make such a powerful sound themselves. They might claim that the violins are not being their true selves and they simply need to play louder so their voice can be heard. The violins might simply stop playing and judge the trumpets for drowning them out. They might claim that the sound of the violin is the measure of all things beautiful and the trumpets are merely being noisy. Perhaps part of why we do this is that we are afraid of the beauty that the other possesses that we do not possess ourselves. The trumpets play loud because they are afraid of the delicate beauty of the violin. The violins stop playing, judge the trumpets, and feel sorry for themselves because the trumpets make a powerful sound that they cannot replicate.
The truth is that we are all guilty. We are all desperately afraid and we respond in ways that damage each other and sacrifice the beauty of the music that we could create together. Each instrument is beautiful and needs to be listened to. In a truly beautiful piece of music, no one steals the show. In all of this, we can either settle for personal glory (or safety) or we could have our deepest yearnings met and be given the gift of love for one another. Jesus understands that we do not trust the other musicians and that there is so much fear. But we can’t go on simply pointing the finger at others and appealing to how we’ve been victimized. Because we all share in this guilt. Both the trumpets and the violins are guilty. The good news is that Jesus has grace for us and he invites us to have grace both for ourselves and for others. He is inviting us to make a sound as a community that is about His glory. Maybe when it is about His glory, we will be able to relax with one another because no one is trying to attain power by diminishing the power of anybody else. Imagine all the instruments letting their voice ring in service to God’s glory, and all the other instruments celebrating together the piece of God that that instrument reflects. All of us adding a unique aspect of glory that needs to be listened to, not competing but humbly serving the song that is about Him and not us.