Matthew 11: 2-11 (NRSVA)
2 When John heard in prison what the Messiah was doing, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’ 4 Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. 6 And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’
7 As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: ‘What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? 8 What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. 9 What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.”
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.
During the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow there was a rickety old piano stood outside the Gallery of Modern Art (GoMA). A jaunty raggamuffin of a piano. It didn’t have it all together, it wasn’t perfectly in tune — but it didn’t expect you to be either. It may not have been to great heights, but it had depth. People of mixed confidence (and ability…) had a go at playing a wee piece while others gathered around – festival spirit breaking into the everyday.
A few weeks later I remember noticing through a window that a bank in the city had installed a shiny grand upright piano in its foyer. I never went in to see it but it looked impressive with all the plush furnishing around it. I never heard it play, and I don’t know if anyone ever did.
These two pianos told two different stories. Both were theoretically accessible but I suspect only one was a centre of life-giving music.
One piano told a story of prestige, the other of carnival. One made a display of power, quality and luxury while not conferring any of these things on the people awkwardly waiting around it. Who knows, maybe there was even a little rope keeping the lid firmly shut. Maybe once in a blue moon a prestigious musician gave a short recital.
While the other had no visible sign of power and prestige but gladly offered the mantle, a chance to have a go, absurd and intriguing, to anyone who wanted it. It is easier to picture Jesus leaning on the GoMA steps tapping his feet while this piano played than it is to see him perched in the bank.
In our reading I imagine Jesus telling the disciples to listen to the music. “What do you hear? Do you hear the music of people coming together and discovering new life? Or do you hear the soft swish of ornate robes and the austere silence of shut up instruments?”
Let’s glimpse togetherness, surprise and wonder.
Let Glasgow flourish.
And may we all.
help us to hear you
to be moved by you
and move with you
in the movement
of your love.