Not long ago I had met a stranger on a sidewalk. He was waiting for a ride, sipping a Starbucks, and I was sipping mine, so, having that in common, we struck up a conversation about the brew of the bean. One topic lead to another, and before long he asked, “So, what do you do?” I hesitated telling him that I am pastor, not because I was ashamed, but because it typically makes people nervous, or they make an awkward attempt to clean up their language, or they confess their list of sins, or they suddenly remember they have to leave for an appointment.
But he asked, and I could not lie, so I told him. “Pastor,” he said, “you don’t look like a Pastor” (thank God, I thought). “Anyway,” he continued, “I don’t care much for organized religion. I meet God when I walk through a forest grove.”
Then the stranger’s ride pulled up to the curb. “See you in the forest,” I said with a smile. But behind my smile was a heavy heart for him and others who see the church as a self-serving institution that has little to do with authentic spiritual revitalization. If I ever see that stranger again I would like him to know that a walk through the woods is great, but it’s not enough to tune-up our soul.
The Gospel of John begins famously with these words: “In the beginning was the Logos.” “Logos” means both “Sound” and “Word.” Jesus is the Word of God, the Word that must be heard. Or, as Leonard Sweet says, “Jesus is the Sound of God, the Song Made Flesh.”
If I ever see that stranger again I would like him to know that the “sound” of Jesus is our tuning fork to our Creator. I would like him to know that as our lives get out of tune, we seek ways to tune our souls. For some it’s a walk in the woods. For others, it’s a walk down a fairway. And on one level that recreation can, as the word suggests, “re-create” our soul. But to tune our lives with God and his creation, we must dial into the frequencies of God’s Spirit and match the resonance of our actions and attitudes to Jesus who is God’s perfect pitch.
Musical instruments are tuned at 440 cycles per second for perfect pitch. One can tune an instrument looser and achieve a “relative pitch.” But a “relative pitch” sounds good only when it is played by itself. When played with other instruments, relative pitch creates dissonance. In a similar way, recreation is necessary for personal renewal, but it is limited to a “relative pitch.” After a walk in the woods or a walk down the fairway, we may sound okay to ourselves, but when we play alongside others we discover a dissonance and a need for perfect pitch so that we can play in harmony with others.
One of the great values of worship is that it helps us find “perfect pitch” as we tune the pitch of our lives to the perfect pitch of Jesus Christ. That’s one reason why Christians through the years have guarded Sunday worship as an appointment for soul revitalization, calling it the day of resurrection–the day of new life.
This Sunday begins what Christians call “holy week.” It begins with Palm Sunday, travels from there to Good Friday and ends at the empty tomb of Jesus. It’s entirely Jesus-focused, and its one way we tune our lives to the perfect pitch of Jesus.
God so loved the world that he sent his son as the perfect pitch of God. May your life, tuned to him, play the notes that bring harmony to your world.