An Uncertain Sound

Remember when churches had organs—pipe or electronic? They were often the mainstay of corporate worship. They still exist in some places, but not like in years past.

My husband served many years ago as a music minister in a church that was located just outside a major American military base. Well, on some Sunday evenings, after the base had engaged in afternoon artillery practice, the vibration would make one, just one, of the pedals slip off the pedal board. The low A-flat. When the organist would press that pedal with her foot, an atrocious, vile sound would emit from the instrument. (Someone said that organ was an “appliance” and not a musical instrument.) Anyway, that one note could grate on the nerves and make the congregation cringe. Finally, the organist learned to check that one pedal before she played anything. And my husband, the leader, even began selecting songs that didn’t require a low A-flat just in case.

Another time, we were at a music conference in a large auditorium. The organist began to play and after a few bars, the orchestra, who was well-rehearsed, was supposed to join. The problem was that sometime in the hours before the performance someone had accidentally (I guess) pushed the modulation button on the organ. (For those who don’t know what that is: it’s a way to change keys for the entire instrument while playing in another key—like a capo on a guitar.) Anyway, what happened in this auditorium was that the two entities, organ and orchestra, were playing the same song but in two different keys. It was catastrophic to say the least.

In biblical times, the trumpet (actually a shofar made from a ram’s horn) was blown to signal the people to prepare for war or to gather together for instructions or worship. Different sounds or series of sounds told the people what strategy or formation to heed—much like sideline or dugout signs from the coach. But if there’s a miscommunication either from the sender or receiver, there is utter confusion.

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he is writing to believers in the church about speaking in tongues and how that gift should be interpreted correctly for those who are within earshot. Through this controversy he gives them a word of warning. 

 “…if the trumpet produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle?”

 (1 Corinthians 14: 8)

Saying one thing and doing another causes the message to become distorted. It produces the uncertain sound. That is a sure way to send an unclear message—words and deeds that contradict one another.

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”1 John 3:18 

6 thoughts on “An Uncertain Sound

  1. Susie Waldrop

    What a wonderfully written blog and analogy to illustrate the Word! I can identify with the picture you have drawn….You are an amazing writer, Nan!

  2. Joy Neal Kidney

    I began on a pump organ! Pipe and electronic also became part of the mix. One time (I think it was for a wedding), I’d set up the slide bars (yes, a Hammond, with no lid) when I practiced, but a cleaning person slid them all back to dust!


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