For musicians, almost nothing compares to the ecstasy of evoking pure, reverberating tones with brilliant clarity in a difficult piece of music. Such performances cause audience members to involuntarily lean forward so as not to miss a single sound.
That’s what I was expecting in eighth grade. A budding French horn soloist, I’d spent several months diligently practicing special music for worship. It was almost perfect until the middle of the second page when I puckered up to play a high G. Something resembling an F flat emerged. The harder I tried to find my place, the more wrong notes I played. Peripherally, I could see my brother Cody’s shoulders rocking with muffled laughter.
Then the accompanist caught my eye. With a reassuring smile, she held her chord long enough for me to take a deep breath, as if to say: “Come on, Cari. You can do it. I’m here to help you.”
I learned that beauty comes not just from one instrument, but from the gift of accompaniment.
What a perfect analogy for our walk with Christ, who gifted us with empathy, compassion and the ability to support one another in moments when we can’t stand alone.
In Luke 24, some of Jesus’ followers walk, devastated and perplexed, down a seven-mile stretch of road toward Emmaus. They try to make sense out of Jesus’ crucifixion and reports that his tomb was empty. When they meet a stranger, they tell him of their sorrow. They don’t realize he is Jesus. But he doesn’t make a glorious reappearance or offer easy answers. Jesus simply walks the seven miles with them, explaining Scriptures about himself. When he breaks bread at the evening meal, they finally recognize him.
When the disciples’ grief and confusion keeps them from being able to endure on their own, Jesus isn’t in front, telling them what to believe or how to proceed. He walks alongside, offering the fellowship, strength, encouragement and wisdom they’ll later use to proclaim the gospel.
The story doesn’t stop there. For centuries, Christians have been called to follow Jesus’ example and accompany one another. But we miss the point if our view of mission centers on “one-time, feel-good” giving and quick fixes. Accompaniment is long term. It means we take time to truly see one another as equals, not as donors and recipients. It requires continued conversation and work to understand issues and situations that caused the problems we’re so eager to correct. It requires support and Christian love in times of joy as well as in times of need.
When we view global mission through the model of accompaniment, it’s clear that we, too, are equal recipients of this amazing gift. We’re lifted up in prayer, cared for and accompanied in beautiful ways by companion synod congregations worldwide. ELCA missionaries are witnesses to incredible blessings bestowed on the church every day by Lutherans with hundreds of different languages, cultures and ethnic backgrounds. Consider: At this moment Christians in Palestine, Nicaragua and Tanzania are praying for you and your congregation.
© 2016 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers