Although the word ‘harmony’ does not appear in the Scriptures even though it existed in Greek diction at the time when the New Testament was written, a cognate or synonym is used frequently in the Scriptures. That word is ‘reconciliation’. Though the word itself is not used, the idea of harmony is central to the history of salvation.
“God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself…” (2 Corintians 5:19) could be rendered “God was in Christ harmonising the world with himself.”
I do not propose to talk about the mystery of reconciliation. Despite our best theological explanations it still remains a mystery. It is a truism that all our talk about God (theology) tells us more about ourselves than about God. So, let me reflect on the idea of harmony in relation to ourselves.
The term itself is a musical one. It denotes the agreeable effect of the apt arrangement of parts to form a harmonious whole. To harmonise, everyone vocalising, or playing an instrument, has to be playing or singing from the same music score. To use a contemporary idiom, they need to ‘be on the same page.’ Each may be playing a different instrument or part, but the music score has to be the same. Each part compliments the others to form a harmony. So, differentness is essential to harmony; and harmony is the result of the reconciliation of diversity.
For harmony to happen, playing different parts and instruments alone is not enough. One essential ingredient is that each person needs to listen to the others in the group to ensure that complimentary volume and tone are maintained. Where there is a conductor leading it’s relatively easy; but where no conductor exists, listening to what is happening in the group – or being in sympathy with each other – is vital to creating harmony.
Harmony also requires a good sense of timing. A note held too long or truncated by any one member of a group can spoil the harmony of the piece. Timing is critical if harmony is to be the result.
As a metaphor for a week celebrating multiculturalism, harmony is a very apt one. The differentness each of us brings creates the potential for beautiful harmony in our community. However, as we have observed earlier in regard to music, it requires us to listen carefully to each other. That means sharing a philosophy of life and world view created through careful and patient listening. It also requires us to have a good sense of timing to know where and when our contribution is to be made, as well as the volume and tone of our contribution.
As a multicultural country, creating a harmonious community is not easy. Apart from the fact that those of us who are already here come from diverse backgrounds and cultures, the dynamic nature of our society makes the task even more challenging. By that I mean, the constant influx of new migrants. Imagine an orchestra where the number of participants frequently increases thereby changing its composition. That would be a challenge for any conductor, as well as for those in the orchestra. But that is the nature of Australian society today.
The task of reconciliation (or harmony) for God in Christ, and the process of reconciliation between us who are the body of Christ alone, is no easy one. So we should not be surprised that it is challenging for us as a community and country. I would call it an odyssey – which the Oxford Dictionary describes as a long arduous journey”.
Without reconciliation there can only be chaos or indifference. Without harmony there is just cacophony. Clearly, God prefers harmony and came to us in Christ to create it at great cost. Harmony is always costly and effortful. But the price of chaos and cacophony is no less! So let’s commit ourselves to harmony.
Rev Solomon Gokavi