Jump Start # 2045
Proverbs 2:20 “So you will walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.”
This weekend it was off to the symphony for us. An amazing program, Holst’s Planets was the feature piece. While the orchestra played, a giant screen showed actual pictures of each planet. The images were provided by NASA. On top of all of that, there was a guest conductor from Omaha, Thomas Wilkins. This was our first time to see him. He’s very good. He is black. There are not many African-Americans in symphonies, especially conducting. Before each performance, there is a lecture about the major piece to be played. The feature speaker at the lecture was the guest conductor, Thomas Wilkins. He was asked to tell his story. It is incredible.
He grew up in a housing project in Norfolk, Virginia. His mom was a single parent. In the third grade, his class took a field trip to the symphony. He had never seen anything like that. He had never been introduced to classical music. He was spell bound by the conductor. There at age eight, he decided he wanted to be a conductor of an orchestra. He told the story of lining up his green plastic army men and standing in front of them, with an imitation baton, conducting them. He jokingly said, ‘My first performance was a military band.’
But, here is the reason I bring this up. He said, knowing what I wanted to be, made the choice of who I would hang around with, what college I would go to and what I would do with my time. He was asked if it was hard for a kid from the projects to pursue something that seemed so removed and different, especially conducting. He said all the people in his life encouraged him and supported his decisions.
What a great story. What a successful story. And, in many ways, a story that ought to not just be shared with others, but it should mirror our story. Our choice to follow Christ, ought to make certain decisions for us. It ought to decide who we hang around with and who we listen to. It ought to make the choice for us about how we fill our time and how we pursue the righteous life in Christ. What Thomas Wilkins did with music, ought to be what we do spiritually.
Maybe some of our troubles come from not fully deciding to walk with Christ. We know we should. We know it’s the right choice in the end. We know this is what pleases God. However, we drag ourselves to the church building, not fully committed, nor excited about fellowshipping one another or worshipping God. We keep one foot in the world and we wonder why our progress seems so slow. We have the same battles within our mind about what choices we ought to be making. We struggle with the same sins, over and over.
For a long time we’ve looked at what has been taught at church. Out of touch lessons. Topics we’ve heard before. Outdated preachers. Long winded teachers. We’ve parked our car at these excuses, when possibly, unlike conductor Wilkins, we just have fully made up our minds. As an 8 year old, he wanted to be a conductor. He came to that decision because of one orchestra event he went to. That impression stayed with him. It stayed with him when he was a teenager and so many of his friends were playing ball. It stayed with him when he started dating. It stayed with him when it came time to graduate and actually find a college to attend. He never mentioned his struggles, but I can only imagine. During the lecture he gave last Saturday, he was the only black person in the room. In a world of stuffy, high brow, ego driven musicians, who are white or Asian, a black man didn’t have many role models of his same race. Yet, he was driven. He had a goal for a long, long time. He worked hard. He stayed with it. He overcame. And, today, he is not only a successful conductor, but he did things that I have never seen before. We have been to a lot of symphonies in the past few years. We have seen a lot of conductors. I have never seen a conductor, at the end of a piece, walk across the stage to where the big bases are, and shake the hand of the first chair player. I’ve never seen a conductor, as he is leaving, reach down and shake the hands of children in the front roll. He brought a kindness and a warmth to the program that is often stiff. I left wondering what it would take to hire him to be the conductor of our symphony all the time. He left an impression upon us.
And that’s what I liked even more than the NASA photos. Here was a man who had been impressed by a conductor a long time ago. And, now, he is in that same position, and he is doing all that he can to leave an impression upon all of us. I wondered if there was a child in the audience who after that performance, went home and announced, “I want to be a conductor when I grow up.” He was impressed and now he impresses others.
Take that thought spiritually. Many of us who preach today were impressed by a preacher a long time ago. That stuck with us. For me, it was in high school. Our congregation had hired a new preacher. His first Sunday, he wore an all black suit and his hair was jet black. I thought he looked like a Russian, and back then, that wasn’t good. I told myself, I’ll never like him. But that changed. I got to know him and even like him. He baptized me into Christ. Very shortly after that, he had me giving an Wednesday night invitation. I hated that. He was kind. He asked me to write an article for the bulletin. I liked that. Slowly, without realizing it, I was being impressed by a man of God. It was my senior year in high school. I went off to college never thinking about preaching. But an impression had been made. Two years into college, I decided to switch majors, schools and dreams. I wanted to preach. Now, nearly forty years later, I’m still doing that.
You ask your preacher. Most of us have a story like this. We have been impressed and now, it is our turn to leave impressions. But it’s not just preachers, it’s all of us. It’s elders. It’s moms. It’s deacons. It’s Bible class teachers. You pour your heart into what you are doing, never realizing that there may be an eight year old boy out there, who is watching and deciding I want to do what you are doing some day.
From our verse today, the choices we make, decide what paths we journey on and who we will associate with. Choosing to follow Christ, makes other decisions for us. It opens certain doors, as well as closes other doors. It puts us around the best people on the face of the earth. It decides what we will do with our Sundays. It decides what choices we want to make.
Above all things, you and I have been impressed with Jesus. His life, His words, and His love is what has led us to give up all to follow Him.
The music was grand. The pictures from NASA were amazing. But the black man conducting was what I will always remember. He left a wonderful impression. Are we doing the same? Are we doing that with one another? Are we doing that with our visitors? Are we doing that with eight year olds?
We have been impressed by others. Now, we need to leave amazing impressions for others. It can change their lives. It can change their eternal choices.