Friday, April 1, 2011

Follow the Leader

Another break from cancer.
This is a piece I wrote several years ago; perhaps because the performance of Verdi's Requiem is only two weeks away, the reference to another choir and composer made me decide to post this.

“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ,” Saint Paul exhorts the people of the church in Corinth. I grew up in a church that favored the King James Version, in a time before the explosion of updated translations and paraphrases in modern lanugage. So what I heard was “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” It seemed a pretty gutsy claim, even for Paul, who was never presented to me as a particularly modest person. Who among us would dare to invite others to follow us as an example? How could anyone claim to be following Christ, who himself had issued the invitation to follow?
            I got a bit more insight on the idea this week at Messiah rehearsal. For six weeks or so every fall, a group of people comes together at Sulphur Grove United Methodist Church, forming a community chorus. We perform two free concerts the first weekend in December for anyone who wants to come listen. Most of us aren’t professional musicians; only a few have formal training. We’re members of church choirs, or not. We don’t audition; we show up.
            Every section is blessed with a few people who have been professionally trained and know a melisma or an anacrucis when they see one and what to do with it. The rest of us make honest attempts. I’ve been doing this about five years now, and every year I land on a few more right notes.
            All of the altos know who our professional is. We tend to fall to pieces if Carla misses a rehearsal; we were in utter panic last year when she got sick. This week I got to sit next to her. I tell you, I sang better than I am capable of singing. I followed her.
            Throughout Scripture, we are exhorted to follow. We’re sheep, the Bible says, and sheep are better at following than leading. They will evidently follow someone right off a cliff. Find a Paul, someone who is clearly a Christ-follower, whose faith and manner of life is unshakeable. Watch and listen for how they exemplify Christ. Imitate them, as the New Revised Standard has translated it. The Greek word Paul used is mimos. Perhaps you are old enough, as I am, to remember the purple-fingered days of mimeographed copies. Follow the person who seems to you most like Christ; become a mimeographed copy of his or her essence, and so of Christ.

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