In praise of the piano bench

Pastoral Messages | November 25, 2015

There exists a little-known hero of Thanksgiving Day. The turkey gets all the accolades it needs. Presidents are even required to take a break from their busy days to pardon one. Even canned cranberries have their loyal fans. Then, of course, there’s the Macy’s Day Parade and the day’s football games. But to me, the real hero of Thanksgiving is not on television. The thing that demonstrates the beauty of the day cannot be eaten. It’s not even on the table, but sitting right next to it. The best thing about Thanksgiving is a piano bench.

I grew up states away from our extended family, so we’d celebrate holidays with dear family friends and an assortment of strangers. We’d show up to their small home, carrying our contributions to the meal, and they’d put us to work setting the table. Every year I’d look at their table doubting we could all fit around it. With Erin and Megan, the daughters of the house, my brother and I would be sent to collect chairs but we could never find enough. So, in order to squeeze more bodies around the table, we’d pull up the piano bench.

It wasn’t the most comfortable of seats. I know this because, as the youngest among us, I’d be assigned to sharing it with Erin or Megan, or sometimes both of them. But I didn’t mind because that bench ensured that I had a place. The piano bench made the table just a little bit bigger.

For me, the Thanksgiving piano bench can teach us about living our lives with a spirit of abundance, gratitude, and hospitality. We can easily convince ourselves that there is not enough. There’s not enough room at the table. We don’t have enough. We aren’t good enough. But the piano bench reminds me that it’s not about how big the table is, but how we set it. It’s not really about an amount at all – but it’s about how we respond to whatever it is we have. We could either spend our lives convinced we need more or we could spend our lives celebrating and sharing what we’ve got.

Gratitude is just what we need to counter our culture of scarcity. Instead of being fearful of losing what we have or worrying that we don’t have enough, we can instead look with joy at what is in front of us and simply be grateful. Instead of worrying about all those “what ifs” we can simply delight in “what is.” We can declare that even if it’s not a lot, there’s enough and more to share. We can pull up a piano bench and invite someone else into our lives, into our hearts, and around our tables.

Pastor Sara Olson-Smith, associate pastor

5 Comments on “In praise of the piano bench”

  • Christine VanHoy

    November 28, 2015 at 11:10 am

    Such a wonderful piece – beautifully written and so full of meaning and truth
    thank you for posting this – grateful for having read it – determined to remember the depth of its meaning

  • Carole Reid

    November 26, 2015 at 6:04 pm

    Wonderful piece, Sara!

  • Roger Schantz

    November 26, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Ironically we too used a piano bench at our table today, inviting 2 of my daughters friends for dinner.

  • Carol

    November 26, 2015 at 3:49 pm

    Beautifully said. When you share those loaves & fish you need to call more to the table.

  • Marge Irwin

    November 26, 2015 at 2:30 pm

    Beautiful! Although we don’t have a piano bench I was just trying to get 11 around a table that comfortably seats eight. Thank the Lord for three small children…in more ways than one.

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Isaiah 53:4-12

4Surely our griefs He Himself bore,

And our sorrows He carried;

Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,

Smitten of God, and afflicted.

5But He was pierced through for our transgressions,

He was crushed for our iniquities;

The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,

And by His scourging we are healed.

6All of us like sheep have gone astray,

Each of us has turned to his own way;

But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all

To fall on Him.

7He was oppressed and He was afflicted,

Yet He did not open His mouth;

Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,

And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,

So He did not open His mouth.

8By oppression and judgment He was taken away;

And as for His generation, who considered

That He was cut off out of the land of the living

For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?

9His grave was assigned with wicked men,

Yet He was with a rich man in His death,

Because He had done no violence,

Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

10But the LORD was pleased

To crush Him, putting Him to grief;

If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,

He will see His offspring,

He will prolong His days,

And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.

11As a result of the anguish of His soul,

He will see it and be satisfied;

By His knowledge the Righteous One,

My Servant, will justify the many,

As He will bear their iniquities.

12Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,

And He will divide the booty with the strong;

Because He poured out Himself to death,

And was numbered with the transgressors;

Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,

And interceded for the transgressors.

Psalm 91:9-16

9For you have made the LORD, my refuge,

Even the Most High, your dwelling place.

10No evil will befall you,

Nor will any plague come near your tent.

11For He will give His angels charge concerning you,

To guard you in all your ways.

12They will bear you up in their hands,

That you do not strike your foot against a stone.

13You will tread upon the lion and cobra,

The young lion and the serpent you will trample down.

14“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him;

I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name.

15“He will call upon Me, and I will answer him;

I will be with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and honor him.

16“With a long life I will satisfy him

And let him see My salvation.”

Hebrews 5:1-10

The Perfect High Priest

1For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of men in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;2he can deal gently with the ignorant and misguided, since he himself also is beset with weakness;3and because of it he is obligated to offer sacrifices for sins, as for the people, so also for himself.4And no one takes the honor to himself, but receives it when he is called by God, even as Aaron was.

5So also Christ did not glorify Himself so as to become a high priest, but He who said to Him,



6just as He says also in another passage,



7In the days of His flesh, He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to the One able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His piety.8Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.9And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation,10being designated by God as a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Mark 10:35-45

35James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, *came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.”36And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?”37They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory.”38But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”39They said to Him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you shall drink; and you shall be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized.40“But to sit on My right or on My left, this is not Mine to give; but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”

41Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.42Calling them to Himself, Jesus *said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.43“But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;44and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.45“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight