A few years ago, I sat in the sanctuary and watched our church’s Joy Bell Choir practice for their big fundraiser. The ten members and the choir director went over the selected music, note by note; playing and stopping until they all were in sync with each other.
I would come to learn that each individual hand bell is not a separate instrument. It’s only when they are together do they make one instrument, in one octave?
While each musician can play the different bells, in different notes, and sometimes even in different timings, what makes it work so perfectly is their willingness to all play in the same key. Because they shared a common ground, they actually make a joyful noise unto the Lord!
As I watched and listened I asked myself what might it look like if the world were orchestrated like this this group? What if countries learned to play together in harmony? Sure we might play a sour note from time to time, and if that were to happen we could always stop, regroup, and then start over.
Now, the common assumption about Lent is that it’s an individual practice. This is true on many levels in that each one of us has to struggle and fast alone as Jesus did. But if hundreds of millions of individuals are fasting together, then doesn’t that suggest this is a communal struggle as well? After all, aren’t we all struggling to do the will of God?
Like the Joy Bell Choir we are separate people but one humanity. We may not always see eye-to-eye, or agree on who plays which instrument, but we are playing the same song called, “Life.” Together we are lead by a Divine Conductor, whose love for us unites us all together as one great orchestra.
This is why love was the centerpiece of Jesus’ ethic. The challenge for us is not so much saying the words, “I love you,” but to live them in such a way that shows our love without ever uttering a word. As Jesus said, "They will know you are with me by the way you love one another."
Fun Fact: the Bible frequently replaces the word "love" for the word "forgiveness." If we are to find real peace and joy in our life and in the world, then we need make forgiveness a top priority. The two are one in the same. Forgiveness needs love just as much as love needs forgiveness. Without either, there can be neither peace nor joy; in both the individual as well as in the world.
Let’s use our time in Lent to read from the same sheet of music and share the love of God with the instruments that we’ve been given. And may we never forget when we love as God loves us, we become one instrument of God's joy.
Prayer: Lord God, you love me so much that you will forgive me of all my wrong doing, no matter how big or small they might be. Show me ways to love and forgive others just as you have loved and forgive me. Amen.