This past Sunday, the new Goulding & Wood pipe organ was dedicated and blessed at St. John’s Cathedral. I preached at the service, reflecting on Jesus’ healing of the deaf and mute man. In healing the man who could not hear, Jesus began with touch.
When we gather to worship, we work with symbols and signs, we work with images and instruments, we work with things both longstanding and solid, with things ephemeral and unseen. Our desire is to worship the God known through the Christ, to be touched and moved. In being moved, we are then sent out into the world to tell others who we have met in the encounter. We have met the God of grace.
In the days ahead, as we all continue to monitor news related to the Coronavirus and the ongoing need to take wise precautions, if you find yourself not gathering as often with others in person, please remember there are other ways to stay connected to community and communion. So much of the Good News is an encounter with story, with sound, with hearing. Good story and moving musical sound are the means by which the Church has taught the faith since our earliest days. Many of our parish churches make good use of their websites to post sermons and worship services.
So, keep connected to the best advice of our public health officials and keep connected to your parish church community, either in person or through web offerings and teachings. Our diocesan homepage, dioet.org, is a good source for online content that feeds the whole person in faith.
I close by sharing the last portion of Sunday’s sermon with you.
I mentioned this organ has three keyboards. While that is a large number of keys, there is no one key on this organ that either Jason or EJ can touch that can arrest a cancer cell. However, all the keys have the ability to create sounds that touches the soul that resides in the body that needs to know another day in this world is possible.
There is no one key on this organ that can be touched which immediately makes every neighborhood in Knoxville safe and whole. But all the keys have the ability to create sounds that touch the soul that resides in the body that is now inspired to work for the long haul, when every child will play safely in the city streets.
There is no one key on this organ that can be touched which immediately resolves all the divisions that exist in our land, that can heal all the fractures which now run through neighbor and kin. But all the keys have the ability to create sounds that touch the soul that resides in the body which then remembers that God has made of one blood all the peoples of the earth and has sent the blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and those who are near.
This pipe organ is more than the sum of its parts. All the pipes and all the keys and all the wood casing and all the solid things, which are seen and unseen, are not what finally makes a pipe organ.
For a pipe organ to be complete, you need a musician. You need someone to sit on a bench and prepare to play. They play by touch. They see the note called for from the page of sheet music and they touch what is called for. Or they play from memory, recalling the notes and their ordering, which they learned over time.
You need a musician to touch the keys to make a pipe organ.
You also need air. You need the air to move through the pipes to create the sound. With touch and with air, the instrument comes alive and touches all who hear.
When the Risen Jesus enters a locked room filled with frightened disciples, he says the word Peace to them. But he also breathes on them. The Resurrection brings air into the room and the ones who were afraid now can catch their breath and take in peace. Our breath is a holy gift.
There is no price tag that we can finally put on an instrument like this. An instrument of healing, an instrument of mission, an instrument of grace, can never be completely understood with dollars and cents.
This instrument will carry us to baptisms, to weddings, to funerals, to ordinary Sundays, where when we least expect it, something extraordinary occurs. This instrument will play at organ concerts, where young couples will show up, thinking Knoxville is a romantic getaway. And they will leave those concerts, knowing then they have been touched and they have been opened.
The writer, Kathleen Norris, once wrote, “For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn’t know we needed and take us places where we didn’t know we didn’t want to go.”
This pipe organ will be an instrument of grace. It already is.
When keys are touched and air moves through pipes and sound is made, you might not recognize the composer or know the name of the music. But what will touch you, what sound you will feel and what sound you will hear, you will know what that is.
God is the composer of grace.