The Lord works on us with strong, skillful hands

Published 5:08 pm Thursday, October 27, 2022

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By Alan Neale

Zion Episcopal Church Rector


Some days ago, the Zion church office received an email from Mr. Gene Lloyd. Mr. Lloyd hoped to arrange a visit to the 1966 Zimmer Pipe Organ housed in Zion Church. He wrote: “I have an interest in visiting the 1966 Zimmer Pipe organ in your church. I began my studies in organ on that instrument in the fall of 1966 at East Carolina School of Music. I took all of my lessons on that organ and played my senior recital there.”

Zion Episcopal Church bought the organ from ECU in 1996 when they decided to purchase the Lauch portative organ (Opus 49) for in-house practice and moved recitals to the Fisk organ at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (Opus 126). It has been well-maintained at Zion since its installation.

We were enthusiastic about the prospect of Mr. Lloyd’s visit and, consequently, he visited Zion church earlier this week. During his visit he talked so very interestingly about the organ’s history and, more generally, about organs in general. Before he left, Mr. Lloyd generously presented a thirty-minute organ recital that Jim Hackney recorded. To hear it, please click here: We look forward to Mr. Lloyd returning for future recitals.

Mr. Lloyd explained how pipe organs tend to have intrinsic imperfections; the longer an organist spends playing an organ, the more he/she recognizes these imperfections and works with them to create beautiful and inspiring music. For a long while electronic organs were markedly different as they presented a perfect sound; interesting that now even electronic organs are made with imperfections to more closely resemble a pipe organ!

I see profound spiritual lessons here. Like a pipe organ, each of us carries imperfections; sometimes as life increases these imperfections diminish, sometimes not and sometimes they are exchanged by “newer models”. But, like a proficient and experienced organist, the Lord works with us to create beautiful lives, beautiful music for Him and His world.

The Lord works on us with strong, skillful and sensitive hands just as the master potter works on his clay.

In Jeremiah 18:1-4 we read how the potter’s clay was spoiled but he re-worked it into another model. And so, the Lord works with gracefully, patiently and with holy intention. And St. Paul writes: “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (and) when I am weak, then am I strong for the power of Christ rests upon me” (2 Corinthians 9-11).

All this reminds me of Kintsugi – the Japanese art of putting broken pottery pieces back together with gold — built on the idea that in embracing flaws and imperfections, you can create an even stronger, more beautiful piece of art. Simply put, cracked vases allow the light to shine through!

It was as if we saw two friends re-united when Mr. Lloyd sat down on the bench and began to play; a truly blessed and happy experience. I was deeply moved to hear the organ sing, and deeply encouraged to be reminded of the Lord’s faithful and gentle dealing with us all.

Alan Neale is the Rector of Zion Episcopal Church, Washington.