Maybe you've heard of "Faded Glory," ya know, the Wal-Mart clothing line. We're not talking about that kind of glory here. Although, maybe we are, in a sense of the word. There is this sort of glory that men and women the world over are striving after, a glory that can seemingly be obtained by possessing the right stuff. That is the glory, which is fading.
My good buddy, Fred, gave a teaching last night on 2 Corinthians 3:1-11. He spoke about "glory" and he got me thinkin.
Did you know that the Advertising industry in America spends about $145 billion each year. Just to get us to buy more stuff. Stuff that is supposed to make our lives more "glorious." Huh.
I've been reading a really good--and long--article in the Washington Post over the past couple days. Maybe you've heard about it. It's been on the news. But after last night, thinking about fading glory versus glory that lasts, the real life story has taken on an altogether new meaning.
The article is about a man named Joshua Bell. Maybe you've heard of him. He's only, like, the best violinist on the planet. The Washington Post got an idea in its head that it would ask Bell to bring his $3.5 million dollar violin to the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station of the D.C. subway and set up for a little recital. He'd open up his violin case, play some magical violin music and see how the busy D.C. commuters would respond. Bell, who doesn't seem to take himself entirely too seriously, at least not enough to balk at such an idea, agreed. Donning some blue collar clothing and a baseball cap, he set up shop at the L'Efant station and prepared to wow the unsuspecting subway crowd, a bunch that likely is subjected to varying degrees of musical artistry in the subway tunnels on a daily basis. It was a free concert with a world-renowned violinist this time, though. How do you think the crowd responded? If you don't want to know and would like to read the article for yourself, stop reading this post.
Bell could have taken any composition and played it masterfully, but instead, he chose one of the most difficult pieces ever written, "Chaconne" by Bach. Bell says of the piece, "it's not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It's a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect." Bach's "Chaconne" is also considered one of the most difficult violin pieces to master. Many try; few succeed. But Bell played it and he played it well.
So, what happened?
The people barely noticed. That's what happened. A few at least paused in their stride, to hear a few notes. The man is a musical genius, playing one of the most beautiful violin pieces known to man, and the busy commuters barely noticed.
Says Bell, "It was a strange feeling, that people were actually, ah...ignoring me."
"At a music hall, I'll get upset if someone coughs or if someone's cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change."
Bell played something that was really, fundamentally, glorious. The music was beautiful. It displayed the creativity of a master. But hardly anyone seemed to care. Focused on reading their newspapers, checking their daily schedules on PDAs or finishing up the latest Sudoku, the D.C. commuters ignored the glory and beauty of Bell's violin playing, and traded that glory for the temporal, fading glory of the everyday, benign pleasures of this world.
How often do we do this very thing, each and every day? Trading the unsurpassing, marvelous glory of our Creator for the fading glory of the world?
I'll leave you with a final thought, a quote from Fred last night: "In a world that praises glory that is fading, we, as Christians, must re-calibrate our lives to recognize glory that is unseen."