When I first joined the marching band in high school, I was still learning how to play the clarinet. For the most part, I could read music, as I’d been playing piano since I was in elementary school. But I wasn’t a good sight reader and had to work hard, counting out every note in every measure, to play the piece correctly.
Since I was a beginner, the director put me in the third section. The best players were assigned to the first section, while the least accomplished ones played what we called “third clarinet.”
Now, playing third clarinet meant my part generally was not the melody, which I would easily recognize if I knew the song. Then it would have been easy to figure out. No, third clarinets played harmony, an accompaniment with sometimes off-beat, syncopated notes that didn’t sound like anything I recognized.
That’s the way it was for the entire band. Usually only one section played the melody. The rest played different accompaniment parts that, when put together, if we were in tune with each other and following the director’s timing, turned out to be a beautiful song. Diversity, when working properly, created unity.
That’s the way it is with the church. God, the composer and director, has given each member a different part to play. Only a few have the obvious parts, the melody. The rest have parts that accompany the melody, adding to it, expanding it, supporting it, making it more effective.
But all parts are interdependent. If I were to play my third clarinet part alone, listeners would have no clue what I was playing. And I had to play the notes I was given. It wouldn’t do to be a maverick and play what I felt like playing. Even though you can’t hear the individual parts when everyone is playing what they’re supposed to be playing and following the director, just let one person hit a wrong note, be out of tune or get off time, and the whole song was discordant. But I was part of a whole, and if every part did its job well, the result was something beautiful and effective.
God has given us each different gifts to use to build up His church. St. Paul listed them in his letters to the believers in Corinth and Rome: serving, teaching, encouraging, giving, administering, showing mercy, exhorting, comforting. Once we discover our gift, it is our responsibility to develop it so that it can be used in His service, for His purpose. It wouldn’t do for me to show up to band practice or a performance unpracticed and unprepared. I had to work at my part to get it right so that it would blend with the rest.
Sometimes we feel as though we’re off beat and out of step, but if we’re following His direction and His timing, our efforts will blend into the whole, creating the unified, harmonious, beautiful song of God’s love.
Dear God, help me to follow Your direction and timing. Help me to play the notes You have given me. Amen.
Special-Tea: Read 1 Corinthians 12: 12-31; Romans 12:4-8