As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
(Matt. 4:18–20 NRSV)
In his book, On The Way: 100 Reflections on the Journey of Faith, James Rawls makes the observation that the gospel accounts of Jesus calling his first disciples are very detailed. They provide specific information about the geographical location of the event, and they also supply us with the names of those first called: Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Rawls also believes that the storyline is very simple, with Jesus calling the two pairs of brothers to “follow me”, and they in turn do exactly that: they follow him.
However even though the storyline might be simple, Rawls thinks it raises two fundamental questions: (1) Who is Jesus?, and (2) What does he want? Rawls then uses a musical analogy to answer these questions. I am going to follow Rawls’ idea of a musical analogy, but I will use my own music example in place of his.
Rawls quotes Stanford University music professor William Mahrt who believes that music “opens a space for us to experience God, both during a performance and in the silence afterward”. I can certainly relate to that. My own preferred genre of music is Rock, and my favourite instrument is the guitar. One of the rock bands I enjoyed listening to as a teenager, and whose music I still enjoy listening to today, is Pink Floyd, and their lead guitarist (and vocalist), David Gilmour, is my favourite guitarist. He has often been referred to by his peers in the music industry as “God’s guitarist”, due to the clarity and perfection of the sound he has produced in some of the most amazing guitar solos of all time.
After listening to certain songs by Pink Floyd, I have often found myself experiencing the feeling of God’s presence, and on those occasions I have been able to engage in ‘spiritual discernment’ and identify how God might have been calling me to fulfil his purpose for me. So I would agree with Rawls that music can be “an aid to prayer and worship”. But as Rawls says, “How does music help us answer the question, who is Jesus?”
If we think of musicians such as David Gilmour, who invest themselves so totally in their performance, their whole being is saturated with the music they are playing. And while the piece of music they are playing itself might be brilliant, it takes someone with the brilliance of a David Gilmour to make it audible and visible. Rawls develops a metaphor for this where the composition or music is God, and the performer is Jesus Christ. “Jesus performs God so perfectly that we perceive in Jesus the very essence of our Loving Creator”. Through his talent and the emotion he invests in his performance, David Gilmour enables others to be made present. So too Jesus: through his life we see the performance of who God is and what God wants.
If music helps us understand who Jesus is, it can also help us understand what Jesus wants. We can think of ourselves as members of a rock band, or perhaps a choir or orchestra for those of you who don’t share my love of rock music! As Jesus makes the music of God audible and visible to us, he invites us to join him in the performance. Each of us brings our own particular skill and talent to the band, choir or orchestra, and we are asked to give ourselves so fully to the performance that we become one with the music.
As Saint Paul wrote to the church at Colossae, “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27 NRSV)