It is the same way with lifeless instruments that produce sound… If they do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is being played? And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? (1 Cor. 14: 7-8)
I once had the privilege of spending a day with a man named John Hines. He had been the Presiding Bishop in the Episcopal Church during the 1960s. Perhaps more than anyone else, he led this church into the civil rights era. Many left over his leadership. Many withheld money. Many condemned him. Many believe the Episcopal Church has been in turmoil ever since his tenure.
John resigned from his office earlier than was expected. He stepped down because he was tired of the battles, the politics, and the pain of leadership.
While saying goodbye to John at the end of our visit, I felt moved to ask for his blessing. Standing before him, he laid his hands on my head, and gave me this blessing: “Jim, if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? Play loud and strong for Jesus.”
Jesus played His bugle so loudly and so powerfully that He was condemned and crucified. He was killed because He didn’t play the tunes others preferred. Jesus knew His playing was going to turn some people against Him. He knew that playing God’s song was dangerous and risky. But still He played.
Jesus has never stopped playing the bugle of God’s love. And, He desires that we will play God’s song strongly and clearly. The song that says we’re all God’s children, red and yellow, black and white, we’re all precious in his sight.
Some thought John left his office a broken and defeated man. They’re wrong. He may have left tired, even wounded, but he left a legacy of openness, inclusion, and fairness that allowed him to die in peace.
Playing the bugle of God’s love for all painfully cost John. He did so for two reasons. First, because he wanted to be faithful to Jesus. Second, because he knew that not doing so would’ve cost more—the cost of prejudice, racism, and exclusion.
I encourage us to follow our first bugle, Jesus, who played out His life and heart for all of us.
- As you consider our first bugle, Jesus, what are the notes He has played in your life?
- The notes we hear from Jesus are the notes He wants us to play for others and to the world. Are you playing those notes distinctly and clearly, or tentatively and anxiously? If the latter, what would give you courage to play strong for Jesus?
- Paul implores us to play distinct sounds so that we can get “ready for battle.” What are the battles that Jesus may be calling you to face into?