"In the beginning was the Word." So begins the Gospel of St. John. He draws upon the Creation story in the very beginning of the Bible where we are told that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. It goes on to tell us the method of creation: "And God said..." The implication of this is profound. Before anything was created, there was sound; vibrations that echoed across the vast expanse of nothing, filling it with galaxies, stars, enormous clouds of dust. If that weren't enough, John reminds us that the Word was God. Sound, wave lengths that could be heard preceded even light in the creation order. No wonder the Job speaks of the morning stars singing together, while the psalmist hears the hills singing for joy(98:8).
Sophisticated equipment is hearing the voice of the universe in squeaks and squawks that literally fill space. Sound is the very stuff of God, and when we make music, we are participating in the acts of creation. Music has the ability to move us, to create longing, to draw us to praise or sadly, to violence and destruction. Like all else in Creation, even the voice of God has become twisted into sounds of fury and hatred. Some want us to think that music is neutral; I don't believe it. By its very nature it either reflects or distorts the Voice.
I attended a bassoon ensemble recital this evening. This difficult and frustrating instrument has a voice all its own, dark and brooding, muffled and woody. When ten of them play together, the sound is almost magical. It was a delightful program made all the more enjoyable to me from knowing how complex and difficult this instrument truly is. What is all the more amazing is the amount of work that goes into this single performance. The bassoonists practice for hours on end to get the notes just right, then rehearse together for countless additional hours, all for less than an hour of concert. It is the love of the music and of the instrument that drives them, as well as a longing for perfection. The applause is gratifying, but it doesn't explain the amount of work that goes into this single performance.
Life is like that. Each day we practice holiness, mercy, forgiveness, and love; and each week we gather together to rehearse life together in worship, knowing that some day we will be giving a concert in which God himself and all his holy angels are the audience. It will be wonderful to hear the applause of heaven, to hear his "Well done, good and faithful servant," but that isn't enough to keep us practicing here and now. If we don't love the music, the Voice of God that echoes through the universe, and if we don't love the instrument of our selves, body, soul, and spirit, and if we don't love our fellow musicians enough to rehearse together, it won't be much of a concert. And really, it's not about the concert; it's about the music - the sounds, the harmonies, the glory of the Voice. I'm grateful tonight to have ears to hear it. It makes my heart sing.