Two Parables about Excellence (Part 2)

Part 2: “Fear and Loathing on Sunday Morning”
Joanna was always afraid when she played music in front of people. She learned to play the guitar from a very dictatorial instructor. He would catch every wrong note and would hold her to a very high standard. Out of fear of disappointing her teacher, Joanna worked to become very proficient and could exactly reproduce each note on the page.
Through the work days, Joanna got involved at New City Fellowship. One day she slipped and mentioned to her friends that before coming to New City Fellowship, she had 12 years of classical guitar lessons. For the next few weeks her friends were always nagging her about joining the team. Finally, she decided that it was the right thing and she didn’t want to disappoint her friends. She was glad that Kirk was able to give her the music far enough in advance, but she would panic whenever the band started getting creative with the arrangement or even sometimes improvising.
One Saturday, Kirk asked her to play the intro to the communion song. It seemed easy enough, so she reluctantly said “ok”. After spending all the rest of the day practicing the intro over and over, she came in on Sunday morning with her stomach tied in knots of tension. When the moment finally came for the intro, her eyes were glued to the music stand. She felt so vulnerable with that huge circle of people surrounding the gym staring at her. As Kirk whispered the count, she fumbled out a few notes, and then completely froze. Realizing that she was lost, Kirk jumped in with the intro and started the first few bars. Hearing Kirk playing, Joanna’s mind cleared enough for her to join in and finish the song.
After the service, Joanna smiled while her friends showered her with compliments about how moving the communion song was, but inside, Joanna was devastated. She was so ashamed and embarrassed. She was angry with her friends for making her play on the team. She was upset with Kirk for putting her on the spot. Mostly, she was angry with God because she had spent so many years studying the guitar and yet she knew that she was mediocre at best.

  • What was Joanna’s motivation to practice and prepare?
  • Why did Joanna join the music team?
  • What was the source of Joanna’s embarrassment which made her unable to receive her friends’ compliments?
  • How would Joanna define excellence?

2 Samuel 6:13-22
13 When those who were carrying the ark of the LORD had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. 14 David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might, 15 while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets.
16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart.
17 They brought the ark of the LORD and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the LORD. 18 After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD Almighty. 19 Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.
20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel–I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

  • Did David’s worship to the Lord display preparation and skill?
  • If you know what happened before this passage, what motivated David’s preparation?
  • Why was Michal ashamed?
  • Why is it safe to be “undignified” in worship before the Lord?
  • How can the NCF music team pursue this kind of excellence?

What is our hope?

1 Corinthians 15:56-58
56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

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