Saturday, July 26, 2008

More Than a Bassoon

Does anyone out there like music? I don't mean like to listen to music while your checking your email, talking on the phone, cleaning the sink, and clipping your toenails. I'm talking about LISTENING to music. Listening for the intricacies of how the instruments work together. Listen to how they compliment each other and at times contrast each other in order to express something. Listen to how there are times when the music fades and gets so soft it is difficult to hear in order to set up the next crescendo that will blow your mind. Listen to the times notes aren't played in order to stress the importance of the ones that are. I mean LISTEN to music. I wonder what would happen if we listened to Beethoven's 9th but tuned out all instruments except the bassoon? What would that be like?

Why do we sometimes just listen to the bassoon of our Bibles? Why do we focus on a few pet passages and miss the grand symphony that is being played? We get a verse here and there from Paul and call it the gospel. Then we take "the gospels" and read them with that lens or as a batch of sayings from Jesus about how to live life. Then we work backwards from there to the quaint stories of the Old Testament that we treat as stand-alone stories to illustrate a moral. What an exercise in listening only to the bassoon. We have missed the symphony!

I have always been drawn to the Old Testament and the more I get into it the more it influences the way I read the New Testament. I am afraid we are missing so much in our churches because we don't have a clear picture of how the OT frames what the writers are doing in the NT. They are building on the salvific story of God for the world that the OT has been building and the climax comes in Jesus.

  • Matthew begins with a genealogy from Abraham to Jesus and makes it pretty clear that this Jew is a part of the story that comes before him. In order to understand him, you had better know his story.
  • Mark starts with a prophet in the vein of Elijah pointing back to the OT prophets and what they had been looking and longing for. What was that? What does it mean that John was a prophet like Elijah?
  • Luke begins in the Temple and this is important not to miss. Without the OT we don't know how the Temple influences what is going to happen in the life and ministry of Jesus.
  • John goes back to the beginning. God created and now He is creating again.

If we don't understand the beginnings in Genesis, the redemption and covenant in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy, the monarchy and Temple in the "historical" books, and the promise of the new covenant in the prophets we are going to gravely miss the point of the gospels. We won't understand what is happening and will be only getting a small sliver of the greater symphony.

Paul is then a response to the gospel or good news of the life of Jesus. His writing isn't the gospel but the follow-up to the gospel. He is also influenced by the stories that have come before him and without that background we will read him incorrectly.

The point is this; we can't minimize the Old Testament to a collection of stories, rules, and sayings that stand independently from each other and the NT. It is all a part of the same story and plan and we must approach it to make that connection. We need to rejuvenate our OT studies and let it influence the way we read the NT. We need to soak in the entire symphony rather than settling for the partial pleasure of the bassoon. The bassoon player is good and you may enjoy his playing but he is going to agree that the whole orchestra will change you life.

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