“How is it that music can, without words, evoke our laughter, our fears, our highest aspirations?” ― Jane Swan
Lesslie Newbigin’s description of the church’s mission to be a sign, instrument and foretaste of the kingdom of God is beautiful. In this series I’m looking at each of Newbigin’s images to see how they enlighten our missional practice.
Stories are powerful. They are more than just a collection of words. They speak to us at a personal level. Stories capture us. We relate to them. And we connect with stories emotionally because we see similarities with our own life. And so, we ‘feel’ stories.
The same is true for music. A single melody has the power to move you from tears to laughter, from the depths of despair to heights of joy. Music bypasses our mind and speaks to our hearts.
When asked about music creation, Michael Jackson’s response was profound:
‘People ask me how I make music. I tell them I just step into it. It’s like stepping into a river and joining the flow. Every moment in the river has its song.’
If followers of Jesus are to be an instrument of God’s kingdom, how do we step into the river and join the flow?
The Singing God
‘The LORD your God is among you,
a warrior who saves.
He will rejoice over you with gladness.
He will be quiet in his love.
He will delight in you with singing.’
– Zephaniah 3:17
It’s strange to think of God singing. And yet Zephaniah uses this image. God is a deliverer but he is also tender. And he is ‘among you.’ This phrase reminds me of Jesus – God with us. As you tune your life to Jesus you hear the melody of the singing God. He is singing the song, will you join in?
Joining into the Flow
To be an instrument of God’s kingdom means joining his melody. You will never play the melody of God’s kingdom unless you are intimately connected with God. To step into the flow, to hear the melody of God, requires relationship with Jesus. When you disconnect, the melody will be out of tune.
Here’s a few ideas on what being an instrument of God’s kingdom looks like:
An Identity –
Jesus Focused –
People who play God’s melody look to Jesus. They ‘listen, observe, and ponder Jesus’ words and actions in the Gospels’ (Carolyn Curtis James).
J.R. Rozko expresses this really well. ‘We open our lives, homes, and hearts to others in a sincere attempt to know and be known, seeking God in prayer, in Scripture, and in the everyday spaces of our lives.’
People who are instruments of God’s kingdom listen. They try to hear what others are really saying and ask how they can incarnationally share the love and grace of Jesus (Karina Kreminski, J.R. Rozko).
Understand the Song –
The song of God’s kingdom is ‘beauty, justice, mercy and healing’ (J.R. Woodward). Aren’t these the words that come to mind when you think of Jesus? To be an instrument of God’s kingdom means ‘promoting justice, peace, salvation and beauty in our world. In that way we can model the story of the reign of God and then invite others to join with us on the journey’ (Karina Kreminski).
A Second Instrument
Tools are also instruments. Doctors and dentists use instruments every day. Scalpels, bone saws, and even the dreaded dentist’s drill are all instruments. There are disastrous results when these instruments are in the wrong hands. But they perform wonders in the hands of a skilled doctor.
Instruments bring transformation in the hands of a doctor. With a scalpel skin cancer is removed, a gangrened leg is amputated. Even though no-one wants to see them, a dentist will remove decay with their drill. These tools, instruments, look to change that which is bad.
If we are to be instruments of God’s kingdom in this sense we must be God’s tools to bring change within our society. We must call for justice where there is injustice, love where there is hate, and freedom where there is oppression.
Being an instrument of God’s kingdom is to be an agent of grace. We are instruments in the hand of God, carrying his presence into our communities and neighbourhoods. His reign is made known to others through us as we join with him. We have a role to play. We are the soundtrack playing behind the movie of life. It goes unnoticed but the movie is hollow without it.
In May 2016 the Mariinsky Orchestra performed an outdoor concert among the ruins of war-torn Syria. Beauty from ashes. A hope of restoration. Isn’t this the Gospel? Jesus steps into our brokenness and restores. Using Michael Jackson’ image, this is the river, the flow into which we step in.
Can you see how joining its flow causes us to join in God’s song?