Immanuel’s Opus

You ever have those times when you realize something you already knew?  You know, like, you knew it before, but You really never thought it was a big deal.  But then suddenly you have this revelation and you’re all like “NO WAY! WHY HAVE I NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT??”

Well, that just sort of happened to me.  I was reading and praying and it occurred to me that I had never really thought about the significance of this one theme in the Bible.

In Genesis 2, it tells us that our first parents “walked with God.”  They were with him.  But in the next chapter, that state of affairs becomes shattered.

There is a musical concept called dissonance.  It’s when in a symphony there are two competing themes or notes that don’t harmonize.  It’s similar to stripes and and plaid.  These two things just don’t belong together.  Consonance is the opposite of dissonance.  When we hear dissonance, our hearts learn to long for consonance.

consananceIn the story of Scripture,  there is a deep and painful dissonance.  There is the creation order of “being with God” along with the dissonance of being separated from him by the fall.  The story of scripture after Genesis 3 is a long and beautiful symphony arcing toward consonance.  Repeatedly throughout the Bible, this theme is returned to again and again.  One of the names we use to refer to Jesus is Immanuel, which means “God with us.”  Literally hundreds, maybe thousands of times in the bible we read about the presence of God.  When we do read it, almost always there is a dissonance.

There are always things in the story that in some way disrupt the presence of God with the people.  We are reading through Judges as a church right now, and in that book we see that the people who God wants to “be with” continue to worship other gods in a downward spiral further and further away from him.

One of the most recurring words in the teaching of Jesus is “Abide,” which means remain.  He wants us to “remain in him” to stay, to live with him.

The resolution to this theme comes in the book of revelation in chapter 21.  When God announces “The dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”

This is the real arc of the story.  The story is about the dissonance of separation moving toward the consonance of presence.

Now, let me ask you, where do you see this dissonance and arc in your own story?  Dissonance is another word for a phrase I really like, “not the way its supposed to be.”  What are the broken parts of your story?

Have you been wounded by bullies on the playground?  Who taught you that people can’t be trusted?  Where did you learn that you were unloveable?  Who was the first person to reject you, abuse you, or leave you?  Dissonance.

Right now in our culture we are having a battle conversation about race relations.  Some argue that the conversation belongs in the 60’s others are saying it didn’t take place then and it needs to take place now.  We can’t communicate well.  Dissonance.

Marriages fall apart because one or both parties have a set of expectations, wounds, feelings, desires and the two people never really understand these things because communication breaks down.  Dissonance.

Friendships fail, churches split, wars break out, all dissonance.  All because we are all looking for consonance as though we can make it ourselves.  You and me are the players on the stage.  We play our instruments, but in order for the music to sound right, we play the notes we are given.  We can’t just play what we think will bring about consonance, it will only grow even more dissonant!

There is only one true consonance.  Immanuel.  God with us.  Only the composer of the symphony can provide the consonance our hearts yearn for.  But over and over again in every movement of the symphony he reminds us of the dissonance even as we we hear the echoes and longings of consonance.

Identify the dissonance in your story.  Name the places where the sounds of the orchestra don’t match up with the longings of the first movement.  Then remember that the dissonance is a longing for Immanuel.  Our own stories arc that way.  Allow the dissonance in your story fill you will a longing to dwell with God.

Consonance is building in the song that we sing.  Sing it with hopefulness, dance to the rhythms, recognize the dissonance.  But when you hear the dissonance, listen for the ways that it directs you to Immanuel.