On a number of occasions I’ve come across the story of Mendelssohn and the Freiburg organ. The story may be apocryphal, but it still serves its purpose as a vivid illustration. I love this telling of the tale by J.R. Miller and the important lesson that accompanies it.
A perfectly holy life would be a perfect song. At the best while on earth, our lives are imperfect in their harmonies—but if we are Christ’s disciples, we are learning to sing while here, and someday the music will be perfect. It grows in beauty and sweetness here just as we learn to do God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven. Only the Master’s hand can bring out of our souls the music that slumbers in them. A violin lies on the table silent and without beauty. One picks it up and draws the bow across the strings, but it yields only wailing discords. Then a master comes and takes it up and he brings from the little instrument the most marvelous music. Other men touch our lives and draw from them only jangled notes; Christ takes them, and when He has put the chords in tune He brings from them the music of love and joy and peace.
It is said that once Mendelssohn came to see the great Freiburg organ. The old custodian refused him permission to play upon the instrument, not knowing who he was. After much persuasion, however, he granted him permission to play a few notes. Mendelssohn took his seat, and soon the most wonderful music was breaking forth from the organ. The custodian was spellbound. At length he came up beside the great musician and asked his name. Learning it, he stood humiliated, self-condemned, saying, “And I refused you permission to play upon my organ.” There comes One to us who desires to take our lives and play upon them. But we withhold ourselves from Him, and refuse Him permission, when if we would only yield ourselves to Him, He would bring from our souls heavenly music.
Come what may, we should make our lives songs. We have no right to add to the world’s discords, or to sing anything but sweet strains in the ears of others. We should play no note of sadness in this world, which is already so full of sadness. We should add something every day to the stock of the world’s happiness. If we are really Christ’s, and walk with Him, we cannot but sing.