The Gospel Trumpet
My mother introduced me to the wonderful world of brass when I was very young. I remember those first painful lessons, coupled with the memory of losing my baby teeth, growing a new set, and then braces! I recall how patient she (and the rest of my family) was to me as I practiced. I remember my first instrument, a squat brass Yamaha cornet. How many hours we played together! It has long since been replaced by a Bach Stradivarius trumpet, but I still have the old cornet.
The brasswind family of instruments were great teachers to me. I learned not only to practice new techniques, but also to exercise techniques constantly. If you did not practice and exercise, you would not be able to play proficiently when it was needed. As they say, “your lips would give out.”
You can’t do anything quietly on a trumpet. Its not the kind of instrument that is discreet unless you decide to ‘mute’ it. (A mute is a tool that muffles the sound coming out of a trumpet.) I remember as the newest member of a concert band, trying to ‘blend in.’ Holding back was more work than just playing out! I would find myself out of breath at the end of a piece whenever I held back.
If I’ve spend hours practicing and playing, I have spent hours cleaning my cornets and trumpets through the years. In addition to better looks, a clean horn sounds so much brighter than a dirty one! I’ve disassembled, repaired, cleaned, and polished my trumpets so many times, I could almost do it blindfolded. The only disappointing thing as I admire a freshly cleaned horn, is the fact that I have to put my grimy hands back on it again if it’s going to make music.
Sitting next to me in my office is my trumpet on its stand on the right side and on the left side, is my Bible propped open. For many years, those two have been my companions to the church, to street corners, and to my study. I am thankful for the chance to learn and teach them both, and each one has taught me so much. Some of the things I learned from the trumpet, I may apply to the Gospel.
You cannot be born knowing the Gospel, any more than you can play a trumpet. The proper use of the lips, tongue, breath, and finger position must be taught, they are not accidentally discovered. When I first learned that Christ died for my sins, the only thing I knew naturally was that there must be a Creator who made me. The difference in what I knew naturally and what I learned is like listening to a bird sing and playing John Williams’ Olympic Fanfare.
The Gospel was meant to be proclaimed. Although it can be whispered in a hospital room, or sung in a nursery, its true form is the bold, bright trump of the unashamed witness. Paul says,
“And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.”Ephesians 6:19
Isaiah the prophet says,
“Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”Isaiah 58:1
As a muffled or mute peal of the bugle is untrue to its design, so is a timid or shy preacher of the great grace of Jesus Christ.
And of course, a clean messenger makes the Gospel so much clearer than a tainted one. When I polish my trumpet, I see my image reflected in the bell. So a messenger and his Message should compliment each other. Yet, just as my instrument, the more I handle it, the more the synchrony is smudged. But should such an exquisite trumpet as the Gospel be merely polished to silently sit on a shelf? No, that would be the ultimate travesty!
So God “hath committed to us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Cor. 5:19) as a “treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7) — though we taint the Gospel by our human handling of it, it was given to us to proclaim, to put our hands on it, as much as it is to polish: to let it shine for itself.
When I’m playing my trumpet, I don’t sing. I don’t respond. I don’t speak. I can’t. My every breath is used by that instrument, and every expression flows through it. May I never consider the Great Commission to “preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15) any less involving than when my lips first pressed to the mouthpiece of that cornet so many years ago.