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  • "A Musing Pastor"

Watch for your cue.


I remember the first moment I tried to play handbells (one evening long ago). Worst three weeks of my life!! The conductor was kind enough to label each note with their corresponding letter. I think I may have been playing a 'C' and one other noted bell. The instructor told me, "All you need to do is follow the music and when you see your letter then ding your bell." She also mentioned for me to watch her and she would nod her head when it was time for me to ring the bell.... (So, I needed to follow the music lines and still keep my eyes somewhat focused on the conductor? I was feeling pretty overwhelmed since I don't read music notes nor have ever been known to be one who possesses rhythm.

Several days ago, we had the pleasure of enjoying a patriotic concert in our town square. the vocalists and the community band were splendid! I marveled at the conductor of the band and how she knew what she was doing. She could read music, knew how the piece was to be played, and knew when each instrument grouping was supposed to respond. Her crisp movements were fun to watch. She definitely loved what she did and did so with a professional class. She had learned her craft from a reputable school somewhere. She left no doubt in anyone's mind what they were supposed to be doing or when they should do it.

Later at home, I thought back to the concert and wondered what would have happened had each instrumentalist decided to not pay attention to the conductor. What if each person decided they knew better than the one who was up front leading. Imagine the drummers deciding to go 'rock and roll' instead of the marching cadence. How about the trombone players going all 'New Orleans' jazz instead of the more traditional patriotic sound. Pure chaos would have ensued, the people enjoying the concert would have been less entertained and more offended. The conductor would have turned five different shades of red and then probably just stepped off the podium. The current state of our world seems to be filled with many who are playing their own music and not paying much attention to the conductor. I'm speaking of the church.

God's inspired word has stood the tests of time, challenges from those critical of it, and even been able to change the coldest atheistic heart. Yet, the greatest danger to God's word is when one steps away from a classical view of scriptural authority and interpretation. It would be the same as those playing instruments in the band to apply their own interpretation to the music. Consider the prophets in the Old Testament, the apostles of the New Testament, the early Church Fathers, all the theologians over the last 1900 plus years who invested their lives into the study of an invisible God as described in the scriptures.

When I see our world filled with folks choosing to set aside the creator of scripture (God) and disregard the conductors of scripture (prophets, apostles, Church Fathers, theologians, pastors, and teachers) I get a bit concerned that sheer chaos is about to ensue. I would like to think I have been classically trained to interpret scripture in direct relation to the Holy Spirit as chief interpreter. I have been taught to 'never' make the scriptures say something God never intended them to say. Yet, I sense there are many who close their ears to the exposition of God's word from a classical view and decide to do their own thing with Holy scripture. A general feeling running through our current culture is one of newness and moving away from the 'old' interpretations of God's Word. Progressively moving away from the foundational source of truth can become a dangerous slope of freefall. It is akin to band members choosing their own way forward in John P. Souza's march.

I'm painting a picture here of the church following the lead of the conductor who would be the pastor. All the while, God sits in the audience section listening, watching, and responding with loud applause when the conductor and church come together in purity and spirit. How do you view scripture? Is it a nice compendium of sayings and obscure suggestions on how to live, or is it the living Word of God offered for regenerating dead people to life and transforming lives cursed in sin and death into those who are redeemed by Christ?

PS: Listen! Can you hear God's appreciative applause when we get it right?

PSS: There is such a thing as bad theology (folk theology). Yes, you should look it up.


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First United Methodist Church, Lewistown, PA 17044  ~  717-248-4618   ~  fumc200@outlook.com