Living in Harmony

One of the joys of preaching and worship in our church is working with such a diverse and gifted group of people. On this particular Sunday, our emeritus organist, Gay Dedo and I collaborated. This written format won’t allow you to hear her renditions of Rachmaninoff and Tcherepnin that she played during the sermon, so I encourage you to listen, as I did recently, to this wonderful music online at, search for Rachmaninoff.

Here is what I said in the end of my sermon: Finally, doing ministry Jesus way, means doing it in “the unity of the Spirit.” Ephesians 4:3 and 4:11-13 put it: 2Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. And 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

The Apostle Paul drew his language about unity from our Lord himself. In his final prayer for the church before he was arrested, Jesus prayed to God: John 17:20-23. “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

As I thought about how best to illustrate what this unity, this oneness, looks like; I looked at two types of classical music. The first type is tonal music; all of us are familiar with this type. It is music that follows a pattern. Or as Neil Ribe defines it succinctly: Tonality is a “musical idiom in which all pitches are organized in relation to a central pitch, or „tonal center,‟” Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# Minor is a perfect example of tonal music.

Around the turn of the last century, a movement began in classical music; it was a reaction of sorts to centuries of tonal music. There was a sense that everything had been tried and nothing was left that was new and creative in western classical music. This new music was called atonal. It is defined by Ribe as the opposite of tonal music. In other words, a musical idiom in which all pitches are unrelated to the central pitch or tonal center.

A piece called “Bagatelle” by Alexander Tcherepnin gives us a feel for atonal music. So Tonal and Atonal– two diametrically opposed types of music.

Why this brief diversion into music theory? My goal is to illustrate that the vision of the body of Christ, doing ministry together, is meant to sound like Rachmaninoff. Jesus Christ is the tonal center and all of us are unique musical pitches, diverse, but connected to our center, Jesus Christ. We were created to be connected, first to Jesus Christ the head of the body, and secondly to each other. As each of us join in ministry in the name of Jesus, we reflect the beauty of the body of Christ, like Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# minor.”