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A Place for You

One summer in Walla Walla, I had the opportunity to tour University Church with Kraig Scott, Walla Walla University music professor. He taught us about the inner workings of the church organ and demonstrated all the different notes the magnificent instrument can play.

A moment I will never forget is when Scott surprised us all by holding the lowest note for an uncomfortably long time. It sounded like a sledgehammer and made everyone cover their ears.

In isolation, it appeared to be an unnecessary key — something that should come with a warning, "Do not touch!"

Yet, when Scott included that note as a compliment to all the keys in his repertoire, it took on a powerful quality that made the music come to life.

The symphony of majestic sound would not have been possible without the “sledgehammer” note. It was a powerful reminder that the best music comes through harmony, not uniformity.

Perhaps this is what the apostle Paul was thinking of when he talked about the church being the body of Christ. Each part of the body works to complement the other parts. It’s not about competition; it's about integration.

Paul makes the point, “The eye cannot say to the hand, 'I don’t need you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don’t need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.”

It is tempting to dismiss those we disagree with as “unnecessary.” I confess I have scratched my head, laughed and cried at comments fellow believers have made at church business sessions.

The music we like, the preachers we listen to and the way we interpret life varies. We are different, and that is okay. What is not okay is thinking that our church would be better if we could just make everyone speak and think exactly the same.

There is a folk song that plays through my head when people start disagreeing at church. It’s called, "All of God’s Creatures Have a Place in the Choir," and it speaks to how our diversity can actually be our strength. If interested, go to YouTube and check out the A Place in the Choir Lyric Video.

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While there is nothing funny about church arguments, having this song play through my head, while being baffled by the way some saint is vocalizing their opinion, reminds me to make room at the table of opinions.

Sometimes all you can do is laugh or cry. The church would be a boring place if we all thought the same way about everything.

We need conservatives and liberals. We need those who are serious as well as those who are silly. We need people who like contemporary music, and we need those who value the tradition of liturgical hymns. The truth is all of God’s creatures have a place in the choir.

In being curious instead of judgmental, we become wise. We become open to the weird and the whimsical. We can laugh at our strangeness instead of being threatened by it.

Beware of those who commodify fear and demonize those who see things differently. Make space for those who dare to disagree. Value those who stress love above judgment. And don't be afraid to listen for the harmony when the sledgehammer noise is driving you insane.

Featured in: May/June 2024



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