The Orchestra of Life
Shout loudly; don’t hold back;
raise your voice like a trumpet!
– Isaiah 58:1
While I never quite fit the description of “band geek,” I have spent many days in band rooms listening to horribly played instruments. My teeth still rattle at the memories of hearing the shrill sounds of inexperienced trumpet players. So, it is not without some pause that I imagine the cacophony of sounds of a reality in which we as people of God raise our voices like trumpets.
Two years ago, Rabbi David Saperstien provided me with a new way of thinking about importance my voice in the public sphere. He told my Christianity and Public Policy class, co-taught by James Dunn and Melissa Rogers (who is now the Director of the White Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships), that if we didn’t speak up, other voices that did not share our values and beliefs would step in and feel the void. I still find myself chewing on that nugget of truth from time to time. We all have voices that speak from the wisdom of our experiences. Our voices carry our mediated memories of pain and joy, of exclusion and inclusion, and of fear and hope. Our voices are enriched with the travails and the successes of the people that have gone on before us, those who allow us to stand on their shoulders as we consider new and higher horizons.
As I casted my election ballot this year, I could not help but to hear the voices of my ancestors who were denied the right to express their own voices. I imagined the men and women who were forced to bite their tongues as they endured institutionalized silencing and oppression by way of slavery and Jim and Jane Crow. If for nothing more than to pay homage to those people, the necessity of raising my voice takes increased importance.
While in the scripture above God was instructing Isaiah about a specific issue and a specific people, I think that there is wisdom to be found in the call to resist the desire to shrink into ourselves and remain silent in times of difficulty and chaos. Too many people in our communities, in our country, and in our world are in desperate need of our voices. They need our voices to “proclaim good news to the poor…freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight to for the blind, [and] to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18). Our sisters and brothers who feel demoralized by their situations need our voices to remind them of their place at the table and to provide them with the hope that the Kingdom of God is always near.
In the great orchestra of life, I pray that you will find your voice and that you will join that great cloud of witnesses. And what a glorious day it will be when we collectively lift up our voices like trumpets for justice and righteousness.
Ashton is a third year student with interests in theology and public policy, and he enjoys eating sushi. After graduating, Ashton plans to pursue a career in religious lobbying.