Whose Line is it Anyway?

A161127 Advent 1 and the baptism of Carah M. Lee

Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

I don’t know how realistic you think old Isaiah has been with us this morning … Do you think he heard this correctly? Is he for real, or is all of this just “mamby pamby” talk, this talk of swords into plowshares, etc.… all the nations working together? And what about Jesus coming? Can we decipher all this “End-time talk”? This apocalyptic reading can throw us many directions; maybe especially when we pull them out and read them as single lines.1

N.T. Wright talks about a composer friend he was watching scratch down a clarinet line. It was on one line, and there were already some other parts, violins and brass, several staves below. It stood out to him how that clarinet line is a part of a whole; a part of something much bigger, a larger symphony; a larger work of the composer.

Some read these lines of Scripture and try to act like it’s all about the one line—at least that’s all they’ll play for you. Like the whole symphony or the whole composition is about this one line, this one part. Wright says some only play the one line about “the coming of the Son of Man,” and reminds us there is so much more to the score.2 I get irritated with those preaching the “left behind” lines… but maybe they get aggravated with me preaching the lines that say, “God is going to have us beating our swords into plowshares”!

Maybe it is enough for us to agree (is it unrealistic?) that the Composer is indeed composing a larger work. How long has this composition been in progress? Who do you think would conduct this glorious, epic work? What if Advent is the season of watching and waiting for the Composer to somehow come and take the maestro’s stand, and raise those hands like Marin Alsop and have us begin the majestic symphony that God’s very Spirit has been writing and building instruments for all this time?

Can you imagine us all “in concert” (pun intended!)? Think of the glorious double meanings of that word—you and me—you and me and others, making that beautiful music of the Lord! Hear the music Isaiah heard if you can. Imagine this time he is talking about, when, finally, bows and arrows become properly bows for the violins and basses; and the arrows are turned into drumsticks for the percussion section! When the pentagon becomes a piano manufacturer. No–better still—all five sections of the Pentagon making pieces for the orchestra… brass, woodwinds, percussion, strings, and a whole section of the Pentagon for the choir! What?! Now tanks and grenades can be turned toward knocking out walls and digging out spaces for the amphitheater and the orchestra pit—to make more space for this growing crowd and the musicians!

Oh, church, let us long for that day!

We begin this morning–Day one of Advent–just like we should begin every morning—KNOWING that the great Composer is going to show up, and every last one of us is going to get in on this music! Oh, and those parts we tend to struggle with; those places we are caught out of tune and in discord, those parts that give us fits, the Maestro will help us with them! We will see exactly how God wants us fitting into the larger work! Look at the nations all getting in on it in Isaiah. I know we don’t know when all this will be exactly, but keep your phone charged! The Composer may call us in; we must show up ready to play!

You and I know that the Creator is giving each of us a line in the greater symphony and the orchestra. YOUR LINE IS IMPORTANT. The Composer may have written GENEROSITY for you, or you may have the kindness line. You may have the MERCY line. Your gifts bring wholeness to the Composer’s SYMPHONY. It’s not all improvisation… (I know, SOME ACT LIKE IT IS!) But our being well prepared and knowing our line will help the whole orchestra when things seems shaky! Our practice and growth and participation—our dedication—gives us a much better availability for the greater symphony to sound and feel like the Composer has intended for us.

We know that we must keep practicing on our instrument. Keep attending your tuning and practicing your line… Hup!—easy on that attack, beautiful sounds, beautiful sounds… think your line, sing your line… listen to your partner…” All of us are preparing our parts for the Composers greater work—getting and keeping ourselves –ready, staying awake and PRACTICING our pieces of the peace—bring your pieces of the peace, God’s people!

And little sections like our church— “How Beautiful the Body of Christ,” gang? This little gathering is a section of the orchestra–like a violin section gathering to practice our unique piece of the greater work. This is a place we can learn our parts, help others learn their lines; checking each other’s tuning; helping each other listen and work together; making sure we are ready to pitch in with the larger orchestra. Have you seen that Andy Griffith episode where Barney Fife joins the choir? Oh, boy was it terrible! But they even found a way to make even Barney sound good and look good! That’s what our little section of the orchestra can be, gang—a place of redemption and healing for people.
We want our children watching and listening and learning from the best musicians we can get them around, don’t we? How beautiful the body of Christ? Think of how important your work in this church is, friends. We want our children to be brought up by those who share the Composer’s heart and Spirit. We want to be around those people, and we want our children around those people that remind us to keep our eyes lifted up to the Maestro’s direction… and conducting. How beautiful the body of Christ! This is why Carah’s mom and dad bring here for baptism today. They know that we need those folks in our section that’ll remind us we are a part of something so much bigger than our single lines, that we aren’t simply playing what we want to hear, but we are making music that is to harmonize with all God’s orchestra into movements of the Maestro’s design and vision.

MATTHEW 24:44 Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.

Watch and practice and be ready. It is Advent…the Maestro is on the Way. Let us be ready to bring our pieces of the peace. Amen.

1 This idea comes from N.T. Wright’s commentary on the apocalyptic passage in Matthew. See {Wright, 2004 #1631}, 120
2{Wright, 2004 #1631}, 121