Luke 1:3-4 ŇI too decided, after investigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the things about which you have been instructed.Ó
I had the privilege yesterday of preaching in one of AmericaŐs oldest churches, KingŐs Chapel, which was founded in Boston in 1686. The current building was constructed in 1754 and the bell ringing from the tower was cast by Paul Revere. If you come to Boston, you can visit KingŐs Chapel as part of the Freedom Trail. The architecture inside the church remains the same as at its founding. The pews are still boxed with numbered doors on each one. Many of the boxes have seats facing each other and people moved from one to the other depending on whether they were watching the musicians in the balcony or the service in the chancel. The pulpit is up in the air with a steep, twisting stair leading to the door into the rounded pulpit. As I tried to ascend the dark, narrow stair and open the pulpit door (which opens out) without tripping on my robe, I wondered if such a setup wasnŐt instituted to remind pastors of the dangers of preaching the Gospel.
Ultimately, however, it was a different architectural feature that caused me to reflectÉpretty literally. Of course there were no electronic sound systems in the churches of 1754, but it was still necessary for large crowds to be able to hear a single speaker. Churches were constructed with that in mind. Hanging above the high pulpit was a matching cover to allow the sound to be magnified rather than being lost in the high ceiling of the sanctuary. When the liturgist and I moved from the box below the pulpit to the altar for the prayers and communion service, I was instructed to face a bit toward the decorated wall behind the altar. It, too, was designed as a sounding board for those speaking from the altar. It was an odd thing to direct my speech toward a sounding board rather than toward the people.
And so I thought about sounding boards and wondered if the life of Jesus doesnŐt serve that function for Christians today. Too often we face our lives out toward the people, thinking that is the best way to have our message be heard. In reality, however, it is often lost in the busy-ness of the crowd. We respond by trying to make our lives louder and if people donŐt pay attention we become a bit frantic, resorting to stunts and gimmicks to get people to pay attention to us. It becomes difficult even to hear ourselves or to realize how we are coming across to others.
But what if instead of speaking toward the people, we directed our lives toward the sounding board of Jesus. The connection of our message with the life of Jesus would magnify our lives enough to catch the ears of our listeners. Of course, because the message would be obvious bouncing off our Jesus-board, there would be no way to cover up if our lives combined with the life of Jesus caused dissonance. The noisy gong and clanging cymbal of a life out of step with the Christian way would be just as obvious as the soaring melodies and subtle harmonies of a life in the center of GodŐs will. When we are out of step, we are more likely to hear our errors if we continue to face the Jesus-board. If we turn to face the people we could look the fool and never know it.
I chose the above passage for today because if we are to use the life of Jesus as a sounding board for our own lives, we have to know what the life of Jesus was all about. In other words, we need to know the content of the Gospels. Read them. All four. Over and over. Then adjust the position of your life so that it can bounce off the life of Jesus before getting to those who are watching you. Your witness to the Gospel will be heard, loud and clear, without any need to raise your voice or perform any stunts.
Help us, Jesus, to match our lives to yours. Amen.
Copyright by Anne Robertson, 2008
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