From Precious to Powerful
On Sunday, the carillonneurs from Iowa State worshipped with St. Paul at the 11:15 am Open Spirit service before unloading their instrument from a large freight truck and setting it up on the North Lawn for the 3 p.m. concert. When they greeted me as they left the sanctuary, I was delighted to hear them enthusiastically appreciate the music, the vibrancy, and the spirit of that worship service. It is a precious thing to be a community that can draw hearts and minds, voices and spirits into alignment to praise God. The same joy and excitement are what carry gospel graces out into the world around us – near and far – as faithful worshippers become fantastic servants of God’s word.
As I later walked across the North Lawn, where the roadies were assembling the carillon, I noticed one of the carillonneurs standing apart. Her brow was furrowed slightly, she was focused intently on the deliberate, calculated movement of a pallet jack inching four large bass bells into place. With incongruous delicacy, their action levers slipped smoothly into sockets on the main frame. Her fingers tensed almost imperceptibly on her forearms as she unconsciously mirrored the jack operator’s movements in her own nervous system. I realized how very precious the instrument is to her, and how profound is her attention to its construction, care, and maintenance.
“Every time,” she said. “Every time I watch them unload it and assemble it, it’s a stressful moment.” With something so precious, even if it is incredibly familiar, careful attention and diligent engagement are always appropriate. When she stepped to the keyboard, she relaxed into the easy posture of a confident veteran. It was the discipline of practice, experience, and performance that undergirded the free-spirited tripping of hammers through melodies that made the precious into something playful.
My encounter with the carillonneur has me thinking about what’s most precious in my life. I know with my closest relationships and with my favorite activities, the cost of neglect or inattention can be painfully high. In my faith life, too, the presumption of familiarity can exact a high price. The regular practice of prayer, frequent participation in a worshipping community, and a steady encounter with Scripture all keep my life with God in Christ fresh and vibrant, and powerful. Without them, I too easily fall back on bland truisms about God, rather than being shaken awake again and again by the surprising presence of God in some of life’s most unexpected places.
I cherish the delight of life lived with Christ as an easy companion and God as a sure comfort and support. As a gift of God in my baptism, this life is always as close as the hand at the end of my arm, with which I can trace out a cross and recall what it is. It is as precious as anything can be. For just that reason, I pray that I will be constant in prayer, in communal worship, and in reading Scripture, so that it will be a joy forever.