He did not look at all like I expected. His grey-flecked hair pulled back into a knot at the back of his head, he strode confidently out to the sleek black grand piano at the front of the cathedral. His white denim button-down shirt hung casually un-tucked over his black pants and black leather slippers. Could this really be the pianist?
I had expected a tuxedo and shiny black patent-leather shoes. Every classical performer I had ever seen had always been dressed to the nines. In college, we were told that we should always dress one degree more formal than we expected the audience to be dressed as when we performed.
This man had been teaching classical piano for twenty-five years. He was performing the last three Sonatas of Beethoven. Surely black tails were going to be in the scenario.
But no. And the surprise was rather pleasant.
I listened as the petite man, with the assistance of an African Drum, went into excited detail about his discovery that the last three Sonatas of Beethoven--Opus' 109-111--had been played wrong, rhythmically, for 200 years, and not only that, but were, in fact, one Sonata in three long movements that Beethoven had passed off to his publisher as three to get paid more for them, and to fulfill contractual obligations.
By the time he was done, I was convinced. I had never heard the Sonatas before, but I was willing to take his word for it, without any outside research of my own. His enthusiasm was contagious, and his performance was quite enjoyable (aside from the fact that as he played, I kept thinking of a bobble-head doll--his style kept his body so loose that his head bobbed all over the place to the music, eyes closed. I kept my
eyes closed sometimes to avoid the distraction).
As I listened, I reflected on the use this church was usually put to. It was all vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, burnished mahogany, and steeped in the traditions and trappings of a very, very old denomination. I studied the pulpit, raised high on a platform, which I had a clear view of from my vantage point behind the altar.
How many other people sat in these pews, week after week, blindly accepting the things that were told to them without any research of their own? Surely on a matter as important as one's eternal destiny, the numbers would be small.
Sadly, I knew this was not the case. I was reminded of the matronly woman who had been in my house that morning, tracts in hand, who had once attended this church. She looked exactly as I expected, even though I had not met her before (although the wisp of a woman behind her on the sidewalk had visited previously.) I've lived in Peace River my whole life,
she said. I know everyone.
She had been proud of how many people came into their faith from other denominations. This just made me sad. It showed me how many people do not take responsibility for their faith, and do not do their own study, so that when someone came along presenting a different "truth" than the (perhaps) lifeless religion that was served up to them on a platter every Sunday morning, it looked attractive, and had the seeming appearance of being right.
The Bible has been used to justify everything from the merciless slaughters of the Crusades, to divorce, to which colour outfit to buy. All this despite the fact that it says very plainly, "You shall not kill," and "I hate divorce." (I don't think it has any direct quotes about whether green or blue would be better attire for this year's prom.) I can only imagine the sorrow Father God must feel as he looks down and sees how his children have abused and misused his name, and his Word. All that, when He paid the ultimate sacrifice of love for us--and we so often let our lives be shaped by hate.
"You better stand for something, or you will fall for anything," the saying goes. You better know why you believe what you do, or you will be led astray by the first person who comes along that sounds like they know more about what they're talking about than you do. It's so NICE to meet someone who studies the Scriptures,
she gushed, after I had just proved to her from her own inaccurate Bible
that the trinity does, in fact, exist.
That is the challenge: when you speak the same language, but the words have different meanings to both of you, how do you know that you are getting your point across?
Unless you know
what compound metre is, and why it would be all wrong to play a passage as 12/32 in three groups of four instead of 9/16 in three groups of three, how can you know whether what the man tells you rings true, or if you believe it simply because it was delivered to you as truth with an unusual amount of enthusiasm?
I welcome challenges to my ideas. They encourage me to study more, and find out more things for myself.
So while I may be willing to accept something as unimportant to my destiny as the rhythmic interpretation of Beethoven on blind faith, when it comes to True Faith, I refuse to enter blindly. I will search for truth. I will understand what can be understood.
I will "test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil." (1 Thess. 5:21)
Because whether the pianist is wearing a tuxedo or not, the truth is in the manuscript. The melody is sometimes the more subtle line. There are things that are hidden that are not always obvious. What we've been told is not necessarily the way things really are. And history will show one's work for what it really is.