Dear Hyde Park Family,
In 2007, Washington Post columnist Gene Weingarten wrote an article about a fascinating social experiment involving acclaimed classical violinist Joshua Bell, widely regarded as one of the finest musicians in the world.
Bell has performed in some of the most prestigious concert halls, commanding hundreds of dollars per ticket to hear him play. But in 2007, his venue was outside a busy metropolitan subway station in Washington, D.C. Instead of wearing perfectly appointed concert attire, he wore jeans and a t-shirt and a baseball cap.
The question was this: If one of the world’s greatest musicians played some of history’s most beautiful music, but did it in a most ordinary setting, would anyone notice?
Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was asked what he thought would happen. His guess was that if a thousand people walked by, there would be 75 to 100 who would stop and take time to listen, and 35 or 40 who would recognize the beautiful quality of the music. He also predicted about $150 in his donation jar.
Slatkin’s prediction was way off.
A thousand people did pass by—1,097, to be precise. But not a single person stopped to notice the wonder of Bell’s music. And he collected a measly $32 and change.
But there was little Evan. Three-year-old Evan Parker was walking alongside his mother Sherry at 8:30 that morning, running late for an appointment. She walked briskly past the violinist with Evan in tow. And as the video would later show, every few steps, Evan kept turning back at the violinist, staring at him to see and hear the music. Even as his mother kept rushing him along, even using her body to block his line of sight, Evan kept craning his neck to catch more of the wonder that every other person seemed willful to ignore.
Sometimes, it takes a child-like perspective to capture the wonder in the ordinary.
The poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning once wrote,
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.
I don’t know what this summer holds for you. Hopefully, it is filled with times of rest, renewal, and time with loved ones, even amid your hard work and busy schedules. But don’t just “sit round and pluck blackberries.” Be more like little Evan, and less like the 1,096 people who missed a chance to experience wonder and beauty.
Don’t miss the opportunities in the next several weeks to open your eyes and see the wonder of God all around you.
Next week I hope to do that, as I spend time in beautiful Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, preaching and teaching at the United Methodist Music and Worship Arts Week. I would love your prayers for the six sermons and three workshops that I will be offering. But most of all, pray that I won’t miss the chance to catch the wonder of God, even amid my work.
That will be my prayer for you. That you would hear God’s music in the mundane, and be filled with the beauty of God.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega, Senior Pastor
Hyde Park United Methodist
VOLUNTEERS FOR VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL
Thank you to the many people who have signed up to serve the 400+ children attending Vacation Bible School next week. Most of our volunteer slots have been filled, but we could use a “deeper bench” of people willing to serve multi-purpose and back-up roles. This is a perfect way for anyone who has never served in children’s ministry to serve in a non-imposing but vital way. Help make a huge difference in the lives of children and sign up here.
MIDWEEK MESSAGE RESUMES IN AUGUST
As I do every summer, I will be taking some weeks off in July from writing the Midweek Message. I’ll resume writing them again in August. Prior messages can be found here.