Jan
22
2009

What piano are you tied to?

This is a recap of the homily/scripture discussion from our Jan. 18 worship service.

So here we have two really interesting texts, but what do they have to do with each other? I think these texts are two aspects of the concept of “call.”  Paul speaks about it theoretically, on an almost cosmic level, in Romans. The calling of Jesus’ first disciples is the down and dirty reality – where the rubber meets the road.

Paul uses very evocative language to compare our baptism with Christ’s, and tying his death to our need to “die to” ourselves. Martin Luther said that we needed to remember and renew our baptism daily, dying and rising anew each day. But what does that mean?

There’s a beautiful scene at the end of the film “The Piano” that reflects this tension. Ada is a Scottish widow with a young daughter who is married off to a man living in New Zealand. She has been mute for many years and only expresses herself through playing her beloved piano, which she has shipped halfway around the world into the wild. She never warms to her husband but falls in love with Baines, an odd man who somehow gets the importance of the piano. The romance is discovered with the attendant pain. Finally she is sent home with Baines, and she leaves with the precious piano but has a change of heart:

We watched the scene together. It is at 1:12-5:33 of this clip that I found on YouTube.

What a death. What a chance. What a surprise. My will has chosen life. Still it has had me spooked, and many others besides.

This isn’t to me a dogmatic illustration of baptism. We believe that in baptism God chooses us, and life for us, and we respond to God’s choice. But it is to me a beautiful illustration of the situation and tension we live in every day, suspended between the things that would drag us down and the possibility of bursting through the surface.

Ada is wearied by the burden of the piano and life itself, and she decides to relieve herself of the piano and to go down with it. Yet she is “surprised” that “her will chooses life.”  I think this scene beautifully captures our situation. It’s easy to get dragged down by the weight of life and the cost of our decisions. But because Christ died, we have the option for our souls to choose life.

Baptism isn’t a magic potion that somehow protects us from pain, uncertainty and death. Baptism is a sure sign that we are included in God’s promise to accompany, care for and ultimately restore God’s people. And it is an invitation to be included in God’s ongoing project of living out that promise here and now.

God’s promise is sure – God is always with us, always working with us. Unfortunately, the daily remembrance of baptism, the dying that we need to do, is our work. And it is easy for us to be distracted from it.

Simon/Peter, Andrew, James and John were confronted with that directly. They were blessed to receive this invitation first hand, not from the church or a spiritual guide but from Jesus himself. Leave your nets and follow me. Jesus issues us the same invitation. And that invitation poses some questions for us, which we’re going to discuss.

Discussion recap:

We discussed first the fact that Jesus was just starting his ministry and did not have much of a reputation when Simon, Andrew, James and John dropped their nets to follow him. What was it about Jesus that led them to make life-changing decisions?

Some suggested that Jesus’ presence was so clear and focused that they just knew that they had to follow him. We noted that this has been a theme in our recent daily readings. Some people simply learn of Jesus and seek him out for healing, breaking taboos to touch his garment or cutting through a roof to bring their lame friend to him. They instinctively know that there is healing and wholeness in him, and the way to a better life. Yet others – often the “religious” “elites” – see him as a threat or a heretic. They know so much about God that they can’t see God when he walks in front of them.

We talked about the fact that Jesus met the disciples where they were. They were obviously not the most promising religious figures since they were mending nets in the family business and not already on the road with a rabbi. Yet it was part of their understanding that a Jewish man might be asked to follow a teacher – the call made far more sense in their context than in ours. Still Jesus brought them on as seekers or explorers. They did not know all the answers, they were invited to watch and learn and try and make mistakes. Only after Jesus was crucified and risen did 11 of the 12 become “missional leaders.”

Then we talked about what our “pianos” might be, what are the “nets” we need to lay down in order to follow Christ. We talked about the busyness that distracts us, the family obligations that make it hard for us (while someone less encumbered might have an easier time). And we noted that Peter had a mother-in-law, and thus a wife, and wasn’t completely footloose. It was suggested that our excuses of being too busy might be cover for a sense inside that we are not worthy of following Christ, of receiving God’s mercy. We talked about God’s “second opinion” to all of us – that we are loved, that we are invited into good work, that we are able to shift our lives to follow Jesus wherever we are. And that truly is good news!

Written by Bob Fisher in: spirituality,worship |

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