In years that, to my aging eyes and perception, have seemed to fly by, I have attended high school reunions, then college reunions and after that, various graduate school reunions, always in the same hurried succession.
At every one, whether the celebration is of 10 years, 25 years, 50 years, or, as my college frames it, “after the 55th, when every year is considered a reunion year,” when we gather for conversation that should be “meaningful,” we often stumble clumsily through accounts of varying degrees of prosperity (or sometimes of outright want) and tales of families that look great in handy photos, but turn out to be failing in one way or another.
Typically we then retreat to the comfortable territory of the “organ recital.” The reference is not to a musical performance but instead to comparisons of our ever-accumulating physical ills as we wear out physically, piece by piece: bodily organ by organ.
No one is left out or wishes to be. And in this realm nowadays, the reportage often becomes eerily brisk as we share and compare what we have suffered, for how long, what remarkable thing or things have been done or not done to address our situation(s), the details of our current pharmacology … and tales of our blessed overcoming — or of our pronounced failure to overcome and persistent decline.
When contemplating the account in Luke 13:10-17, when Jesus in Galilee “was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath,” and “there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for 18 years … a woman who was bent over and quite unable to stand up straight” … we might well wonder if there aren’t important “organ recital” lessons there for us:
• To share (within reason) tales of our infirmities, as the obviously crippled woman must have in her various “organ recitals” over the referenced 18 years.
• To take note of the infirmities of those around us, in their “organ recitals,” and help address them, as Jesus did.
• When responding to others’ “organ recitals,” to be boldly “hands-on” (figuratively speaking), as Jesus was in addressing the pastoral needs of the crippled woman.
• Like the woman, once gifted with her healing, to give Divine embellishment to her “organ recital” praising “God from whom all blessings flow.”
• To recognize that such succor from Jesus, responding to another’s “organ recital” is never inappropriate (much less unlawful measured against biblical standards) at the heart of worship or otherwise on the Sabbath. Rather, addressing the needs of others shared with us, in “organ recitals” or otherwise, constitutes the very essence of what faith and worship are all about … their objectives being, at once, to inspire discernment, bestow healing, and rouse acknowledgement of the Divine … all eminently embodied in “organ recital” exchanges, at reunions or anywhere else.
— The Rev. Dr. Wesley S. Williams Jr., K.St.J., is Washington National Cathedral Priest Scholar and Chaplain and member of the Dean’s Council and service rotas; he previously served as Bishop’s Dean/Sub-Dean for St. Thomas and St. John and vicar and assistant priest for congregations in the Episcopal Diocese of the Virgin Islands (U.S. and U.K.)