Summary: Our God-given gifts are offered not for individual glory, but so that we would join together in serving God’s Kingdom.
I would like to begin by sharing with you today an event in my life that at the time felt like the worst thing that had ever happened to me, but which in retrospect has proven to be a significant and defining point of my life. This seems especially true as I think about that particular event from the perspective of the Scripture we heard just moments ago.
It was the Fall of my senior year in college. I had declared my Music Education major almost three years before and hadn’t looked back. I spent at least one hour, but usually more like three or four hours in the practice room every day, exercising my trombone chops and improving and honing my skills. I was in at least three different ensembles every semester. The Spring semester prior, I had been appointed by the Band Director as trombone section leader for the Marching Band in that season. Though I was not the best player of the bunch, my seniority and leadership landed me that position – an honor, really. The trombone section was great that year; we had some awesome parts and had a lot of fun playing them for the football crowd every Saturday. We went from hardly being able to remember our parts and moves to “wowing” the crowd every week. As the football season drew to a close, and we stood on the brink of concert season, I was on “Cloud 9.” It was my senior year, and things were going great. I was practicing hard and getting ready for Wind Ensemble auditions. Wind Ensemble is the best of the best, the competition is stiff. I pushed myself in the practice room more and more, even as I felt a sense of confidence about the upcoming try-outs.
So the day came when I had to go into a room where my Band Director and Trombone Instructor sat behind a screen, and I played scales and an audition piece. I remember vividly that I had the unfortunate schedule that day of Biology lab right before my audition, and in biology lab, we had to dissect a frog. So, the nervous butterflies in my stomach were compounded by a slight sense of nausea. Nevertheless, I left the audition feeling pretty good. But still, I was nervous to see the results.
The next day the Band Director called me into his office. He asked me if I would be willing to play euphonium in the Wind Ensemble instead of trombone. He said that there were not enough euphonium players and that he thought I could fill in well there. He didn’t tell me that I hadn’t played well enough to make the Wind Ensemble on my trombone, but I knew. I begrudgingly accepted my Band Director’s offer, knowing that it was that or no Wind Ensemble at all. Then I left his office seething. I was mad at him for not being straight-forward with me. I was mad at myself for not practicing enough and pushing myself, and for being too proud. I was mad at the situation which put me on that crazy schedule where I had to dissect a frog right before I auditioned. It took me days to settle down, but as Wind Ensemble kicked-off that year, everything was fine. I really enjoyed learning a new instrument and appreciated the opportunity to play with the Wind Ensemble in my senior year.
And here’s what I learned. I learned that it was okay not to be the best trombone player, or even to not make the Wind Ensemble on my primary instrument. I learned that the Wind Ensemble was better that year because the better players were there in the trombone section. And I learned that my greatest gifts had been offered and brought to fruition as I led the trombone section in Marching Band that Fall. We are not all gifted in the same way, and we may not even be gifted in the way we would like to be, but we all have something to offer. For me, a senior at Furman University, my gift was not that I would be the best trombone player, but that I would be a strong leader among my peers. In short, I learned that we all have different gifts.
You see, we all had a common bond in the band at Furman. We wanted to be a part of something great. But not only did we want to be a part of it, we wanted to contribute to making it great. For me, that meant offering my gifts of leadership to the best of my ability when called upon to do so, and then being willing to step aside when different gifts were needed. That give and take made us all better and it also allowed for the building-up of the entire program. We were all there for the same reason; to offer great music to our listeners, but accomplishing that goal to its fullest meant each of us had to bring our individual gifts to bear in different ways. The same is true in our journey as Christians together in the Body of Christ.