Lectionary Epistle Passage for This Week: Romans 15: 4-13
4For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. 5May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, 6so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. 8For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, 9and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, “Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name”; 10and again he says, “Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people”; 11and again, “Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles, and let all the peoples praise him”; 12and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope.” 13May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So you thought you had it figured out? No where here does Paul depict Scripture as some sort of moral code, some sort of holy instruction book that tells us what is right, tells us what we need to know, tells us what choices to make. The point is not that Scripture teaches us the “right” way to live but that it opens the door–opens the door to a different way of being, a different way of living, opens the door to hope. The passage talks of welcoming one another–not correcting one another or shaping one another into some sort of pre-ordained human caricature–but just welcoming. It means opening our arms and welcoming the other, welcoming the one who is different, the one who sings in a different voice.
Think of a choir or a symphony or even a band. The point is not to sing the same note but to learn to sing your own note in tune with those around you. You know how you do that? You listen to those around you. You learn to live not in “sameness”, but in harmony. If you’ve ever participated in any sort of musical ensemble or even if you simply sat and listened to one, you know that there is something that happens before a note of the music is played. Nothing happens until the ensemble tunes itself to one voice. This does not mean that they become each other. A clarinet will always be a clarinet with a unique timbre and sound. A violin will remain what it is. And in a choral ensemble, a rich bass voice will never become a first soprano (Thanks be to God!…kidding!). Each instrument, each voice, remains what they are, remains what God calls them to be. But before they start playing, they listen. They listen to themselves in a way that other people might hear them. They listen to those around them to make sure that they blend together. And, most importantly, they listen to the tuning pitch, to that one voice that will enable them to make glorious music.
That is the lesson that we must learn. Do not get me wrong. We are rich in diversity—in the way we look, the way we think, the way we live, the way we move through life. Thanks be to God! But there is a common rhythm running through all of our lives, one voice to which we must tune our lives. That is our hope. It is not becoming something different than we are but all of us becoming who we are already created to be. Thomas Merton once said that “everything has already been given. What we need is to live into it.”
In this Advent season, that is the invitation that we are given–not to re-craft or re-structure our lives into something that fits but to listen to the tune deep within us, the common harmony that runs through us all. As the Scripture say, we listen to ourselves in a way that others hear us; we listen to our hearts in a way that others feel. Advent is not some final-inning stretch before God comes. Rather, it is the final tuning before the symphony begins.
Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers [meeting] together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship. (A.W. Tozer)
Reflection: Where are those place in your life where you need to just listen? Write them down. Carry them around. And, then, shhhh…what are they telling you?
Grace and Peace,
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