The Rev. Jennifer Adams – April 30, 2017 – Easter 3, Year A: Luke 24:13-25
I knew at some point last week that it was going to be silly for me to try to preach from up front this morning. I didn’t want to spend the whole time saying “Hey, you hoo…up here?” while you all tried to sneak in looks at this astoundingly beautiful organ that we’re beginning to welcome into our sanctuary. And so rather than ask you to turn away from it, I’m going to ask you to turn toward it, and I’ll make it easy on you and talk from back here this morning.
I also realized that this is probably the last Sunday for what could in all reality be hundreds of years that this organ is silent. There are a few pipes that have been installed as you can see, but there are hundreds, maybe still over a thousand that are yet to go in. Hence the wooden crates out in the commons. They’re full of the pieces of this organ that will make each note and each tone that each of the about 1200 pipes was created to make. By next Sunday, the organ will be able to make a few sounds and over about five weeks, it will grow into its fullness before our very own eyes and ears.
And so this is the last Sunday that this organ is a beautiful but silent presence among us. More on that in a couple minutes.
Now there have been many wonderful dimensions of this past week. And one of the big ones has been welcoming Martin Pasi and his team, Marcus and Grant to Grace Church. And Martin is here with us this morning. I’ll have questions for you later this morning, Martin, but I want to say first that you are an incredibly skilled and gracious team. And so, we’re learning not only about organs as this plays out, but about how genuine artisans go about their work.
You’re bringing this organ to life in a way that very genuinely invites us into the process, and I’m sure that’s not always the case. We actually helped carry the pieces of this organ into our church. It was hands on for any of us who wanted to and could be a part of that day. And we didn’t drop anything. Although there few of us who didn’t breathe much as we carried pipes and beautiful wooden pieces from the massive moving truck into our sanctuary. Thank you, Martin, for the trust communication in that. It was meaningful to us.
I’ve also seen you, while very focused in on and hopefully enjoying the process of building this organ, take moments here and there to interact with varieties of people as they come to observe this installation. And so we are grateful not only for what you have brought to us in this instrument, but also for the way in which you are present with us these days.
Now another significant piece that happened this week is that the donor of this gift became comfortable sharing who she is probably to some extent out of the pure celebration and relief of it all. We, it made it to this moment! And so this morning and at various points along the way, I will share with you that this organ was given by Melinda Heiberg in memory of her husband Eric. And actually, Melinda has said that “Eric gave us this gift,” but I’m going to give you both credit as we go along here.
Some of you knew Eric. He died several years ago now but was a gracious and wise presence among us. Melinda describes Eric as a “not highly musical person” certainly not a trained musician. But Eric loved music and he sang for years and years in the Grace Church choir alongside of professionals and lay musicians alike. Eric appreciated the nature of Grace’s music – the fine musical tradition of the Episcopal Church held closely with the practice of including and actually encouraging anyone who wanted to sing. Now I’ll tell more of Eric’s story here and there over the next many weeks, but today I want to say that one of the most beautiful things about Eric Heiberg was his ability to listen. Eric was kind and wise in a way that allowed whoever was in front of him to be present too.
And so I’d like to circle back to the silence of this instrument, because soon when the outward build is complete later this week, the organ will begin to be brought into voice. It will as I understand it be “listened into voice.” Martin, you talk about your role as “facilitating that process,” which is probably on the humble side of explanations, but we’ll take it.
This whole process started with its creation in Roy, Washington but this organ’s music will come into being here via the facilitation, the invitation to sing. Each pipe has a sound to make, and so the voicing process involves attention to each pipe on its own, but also to the music that it will make with other pipes. You can see why this instrument will be a fit for us here at Grace! (And why I’m basically set with sermons for weeks to come.) The voicing process itself will take about four weeks.
And so something is being slowly but surely revealed to us these weeks. Grace is on a road of sorts, to tie in with this morning’s gospel story. And we begin in the silence of what becomes revelation. Like Jesus did with the disciples, we begin by listening. Like Eric Heiberg did too and like Martin does in his work we begin by listening. We begin in the kind of silence that carries the stories we bring to this day – including Eric’s and Melinda’s. Including Martin’s, and Marcus’, and Grant’s, including the disciples’, and the story that is Grace Church.
And over this walk we’ll be given glimpses of something of God’s grace. Now I don’t expect you to “open up all of the Scriptures” for us, Martin, like happened in the gospel today. But I do expect (because it’s already happening!) that Christ will be present through this process reminding us in surprising moments that new life comes, that redemption happens – through gift, through silence, through art, through song, through memories, through, vision, through welcome, through grace.
And so I do have to move back up front this morning, but please take time after the service to see what’s happening back here. This organ is meant to be ours, shared gift, and it will teach us things even as we welcome it into being among us.
In the meantime, we’ll pray and we’ll bless and we’ll break some bread and we’ll share it. And given the gospel passage we just heard, something is bound to happen in the midst of all of that too.