Summary: God wants to do things in and among us that we cannot possibly do ourselves.
Introduction – Mr. Holland
One of my all-time favorite movies is “Mr. Holland’s Opus.” It’s the story of a musician who really just wants to be a composer. Rather grudgingly, he takes a job teaching music at the local high school, supposing it will give him time to write music while providing an income for he and his wife.
One of his students is a very serious red-headed girl who plays the clarinet terribly, even though she practices constantly. As Mr. Holland works with her to try to help, he learns that she is the youngest in a family where everyone excels – except her. Because she has tried so hard and failed, she considers herself a failure, too.
One day she comes into the music classroom and tells Mr. Holland that she’s going to give it up and if he knows anyone who wants her clarinet, he can give it to them.
As she walks away, Holland asks her, “Is it any fun?” With a shrug, she answers, “I wanted it to be.”
“You know what we’ve been doing wrong, Miss Lang? We’ve been playing the notes on the page.”
Confused, the girl asks, “Well what else is there is to play?”
“There’s a lot more to music than notes on a page. Playing music is supposed to be fun. It’s about heart. It’s about feelings and moving people and something beautiful and being alive and it’s not about notes on a page. I could teach you notes on a page. I can’t teach you that other stuff.”
He takes away her music and tells her to try it. She tries a time or two, each time coming to a point where she her clarinet squawks and squeaks and she starts to kick herself for her failure.
“What do you like best about yourself?” he asks. With a shy smile she says, “My hair – my dad says it reminds him of a sunset.”
“Play the sunset.”
And she closes her eyes, and she begins to play – really play, not just the notes, but the music. She is so amazed when she does the hard part perfectly that her eyes pop open and she stops. Mr. Holland shares her amazement and says, “Don’t stop!”
And so, on she plays: eyes closed, head beginning to sway with the rhythm of it. And we know that this time, it’s fun.
Sometimes I wonder if some of us aren’t guilty of doing the same thing when it comes to our relationship with God.
We try to get everything right. We follow the rules, try to do what the Bible says, go to church – thinking maybe if we do it all right, maybe God will think we’re OK. Most of us know that it’s not our works that win us God’s approval, but we also know the Bible talks a whole lot about obedience.
And it’s true, God wants us to obey His Word. But just like music is a whole lot more than notes on a page, the Christian life is a whole lot more than obeying rules.
The verses I just read are the closing words of a prayer Paul offers on behalf of the Ephesian church. Paul is not so much teaching us about God as much as he is breaking out into a doxology – a song of praise to God.
In doing so, he tell us something very significant about the character of God. And he tells us something significant about us, too.
He has asked God to grant the Ephesians some staggering things. In a sense he asks God to enable people who have been trying – not always successfully -- to play the notes on the page to play music. He is asking God to take musical dropouts and make them into virtuosos.
How’s your prayer life? If you were to rate yourself from 1 to 10, what would it be? More importantly, what would you base your rating on?
How much actual time you spend praying?
How consistent you are on a daily basis?
How organized your prayer list is?
If organization is anywhere on the list, I’m in trouble!
What if the rating wasn’t based on any of those things? What if it was based on how big your prayers were? I don’t mean how long they were, I mean how big.
We’ve just passed through the Christmas season, which is a time when, especially if you’re a parent, you hear a lot of requests, “Mom, I want this! Dad, I want that!” Kids know Mom and Dad (and others) will be buying presents and they want to just help them out a little so they get the right ones.
If you were a child in a desperately poor family, what would go on your Christmas list? Probably not a Sony Play Station 2 – this year’s hottest new video game system. You would know that was impossible for your family. Past experience would have taught you that was just not the scale of things you got. So you might ask for warm socks, without holes, or a coat that fit. I read something about a child in a very poor country who just wanted his own toothbrush.