NPR Music recently profiled Tift Merritt and Simone Dinnerstein. Merritt is a rising alt-country star and Dinnerstein is one of classical music’s great new talents. When these two young women became friends and decided to make music together, they didn’t know how to meet in the middle. It is not clear where alt-country and classical music can comfortably merge. Merritt sings by ear and Simone plays the music that is on the page. They had to learn how to develop a musical language to speak to each other. They found the space to collaborate when neither of them tried to be masters of the music, but servants to the task of sharing the songs.
Dinnerstein said about working together with Merritt, “It felt at first that what it meant to be a classical pianist in this situation would mean that I would need to play a lot of notes—to show that I could play a lot of notes because that’s what I do all the time.”
I think about this quote when I consider what it means to have a conversation with someone who has a strong faith but does not necessarily know the vocabulary of the church. I know I have wanted in those situations to show how much I know—to show that I know all the fancy words. As the conversation goes on, I find there is no fruit in demonstrating that I am the master of a lexicon of words. I don’t know about your experiences, but I am convinced that conversations that become demonstrations of knowledge do not help to invite a person to believe in Jesus.
Merritt, commenting about her adaption of the lyrics of a Franz Schubert piece, said, “So I tried to rewrite it as this very plainspoken sort of cowboy poetry. … In a lot of ways that’s exactly what the folk tradition is about—where the fundamental principle is, you take a song, and you serve it. So many of these beautiful songs have been handed down and handed down, and you are part of the tradition that keeps those songs alive, but you try to bring something of yourself to it.”
We are servants to the story of Jesus. When we share Jesus with someone, we are giving them a story that has been handed down from generation to generation. None of us can claim to be masters of the story of repentance and faith. We are servants to the Word of God and we try to find something of ourselves in the story of Jesus. When I share the good news of Jesus with someone else, I hope they find themselves invited to be a part of the story.
There are thousands upon thousands of people who have heard the story of Jesus and have identified with it in some way. My sin deeply grieves me and yet I wonderfully rejoice in my savior. I am rescued and delivered into life by Jesus.
This Easter season, have some purposeful conversations with people who do not know that they are part of God’s story written in the suffering, dying, and rising of Jesus. You don’t have to be a master of the vocabulary of the doctrines of the church to share the story of Jesus. In sharing your story you can say, “I was lost but now I have been found, I was dead but now I live, I was broken but now I am whole.
Sharing your story only makes sense because you are a part of the story of Jesus. None of us are masters of this good news. We are servants to this story that has been shared from generation to generation.