A Message from Mark

For the last couple of months, I’ve been struggling to learn a dense and challenging piece of organ music. Every bar brings new questions. What fingers to use here, what rubato there, what expression to bring out the meaning of the underlying program of the piece? I want a guide, a teacher who can give me the answers, but I know from past experience that the best teachers don’t give concrete answers to difficult questions. They open the door to more questions. It reminds me of a story, probably apocryphal, about a young composer who asked Mozart how to get started writing symphonies. Mozart answered that a symphony was a very complex musical form and it would be better to start with something simpler, a concerto perhaps. “But Mozart” the young man responded “you were writing symphonies when you were eight years old.” “Yes I was” Mozart replied, “but I never asked anyone how.” Not particularly satisfying.

On Sunday we will examine the story of Nicodemus who was grappling with some tricky questions of his own. He likely expected a simple answer, but Jesus’ reference to a second birth only created another, broader question for Nicodemus: “how can these things be?” Those who have wrestled with challenging questions can relate to Nicodemus. Just when you thought you might find the answer, another question. Not particularly satisfying.

This week raised many troubling and challenging questions and I wished for a Mozart or Jesus level guru to answer my questions, even as I concede that their answers would not likely satisfy my questions. If there is a silver lining in difficult and troubling questions, perhaps it is the motivation they give us to struggle to expand our view of the world and to seek community and fellowship while we explore the questions. When we want concrete answers to difficult questions, this is not particularly satisfying.