God is Good (4)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1.1, 2
One of most popular and successful singing groups of the ‘60s and ‘70s was the folk trio, Peter, Paul and Mary. Their albums sold in the millions. They drew large crowds to concerts all over the world, and performed on college campuses, television programs, and at large outdoor venues.
Mary Travers died in 2009, and Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey make public appearances only occasionally. But their music is beloved by hundreds of thousands, who delight in their combinations of lyrics, melody, harmonies, and guitar accompaniment. Even today, PBS uses a 50-year commemorative of their career as a primary fundraiser, and their YouTube videos (thanks, Tony Peacock!) are still enjoyed by hundreds of thousands.
One critic described the group as a violin and two cellos. Only a few of their songs were solos – Peter pleading in “Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime,” Paul cavorting in “On a Desert Island,” or Mary lamenting “The Last Thing on My Mind.” And while these and other solo pieces are charming, it’s when the voices are soaring and lilting together that the true goodness of Peter, Paul and Mary comes across.
While most of their songs were based on fairly simple folk melodies, their complex and interchanging harmonies make you want to listen again and again, ever more carefully, and with increasing delight – which, according to William Cowper, is a true sign of something beautiful and good.
A single singing voice can be good, but add complementary harmonies that wend around the melody and are passed around by all the singers, and you have a formula for goodness that reflects the goodness of the divine Trinity.
God is harmonious
God is one God in three Persons. But this does not mean the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the same divine Being. The three exist in a bond of unity and concord, characterized by holiness. Each of the Persons has a different function – a different economic attribute, as theologians put it. The Father ordains, the Son executes, and the Spirit animates. The Father wills, the Son obeys, and the Spirit accomplishes.
We can see this from the beginning of God’s self-revelation in Scripture. God created everything. The Father decreed the extent and means of creation, the Son (Word) executed the decree of the Father, and the Spirit, hovering like a hen over her chicks, coaxed the creation to life, and sustains it there.
We can see this also in the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth, as it is in heaven: The Father ordained the Kingdom, the Son brought it near and occupies its throne, and the Spirit is the animating power Who brings righteousness, peace, and joy to the world.
At times this harmonious interplay overlaps and conjoins so tightly that we cannot distinguish the work of one Person from another. But never is there any discord between Them, as They sustain the world and all its beauty and goodness, and advance the work of redemption among the children of men.
The harmony that exists among the Persons in the Godhead is a seamless cloth of co-operation and collaboration that brings the glory of God to light in even the most ordinary circumstances and mundane things. The good that is God thus comes to light in a harmony of shared existence and endeavor, with the glory of God and the good of His creation as the objective.
Harmony is good
The atonal music movement of the early- and mid-20th century never achieved anything like the following of Peter, Paul and Mary. Though the compositions were intellectual and complex, and famous orchestras played or recorded many of these works, atonal composers were never able to convince the listening public that all that dissonance, cacophony, broken rhythm, and motif-less music was good. You probably have a Peter, Paul and Mary tune running through your head by now, but I’ll bet you can’t think of a single John Cage composition, or any movement from any atonal composer.
When our lives achieve harmony, that’s a good thing. A marriage where husband and wife work together, share duties and interests, create a home, raise a family, and devote themselves to mutual flourishing is a picture of the harmony of God. So is a workplace where every worker embraces his vocation, respects his co-workers, and strives to help others succeed. The best athletic teams demonstrate a harmony of talents and roles that makes them a delight to watch, even though they may not always win. Architects, painters, choreographers, writers and editors, landscapers, urban designers – all kinds of people and professions recognized that the human soul resonates with things harmonious, disparate objects and themes joined and working together to create a single, overall, good effect.
Harmony is good, because harmony in every aspect of life reflects the being of God and the many and varied expressions of His work in time.
1. Why do great hymn composers write their hymns in four parts? How does such harmony enhance the goodness of the hymn?
2. How might you tell, walking into a new church on a Sunday morning, whether this was a harmonious congregation?
3. What makes a situation unharmonious? Has God called us to bring harmony to the roles, relationships, and responsibilities of our Personal Mission Fields? Explain.
Next steps – Preparation: What opportunities will you have today to bring some harmony into your world?
T. M. Moore
What are you doing at 8:18 am? If you’re with Bruce Van Patter, you’re observing the goodness of God in your immediate surroundings. Take a look at Bruce’s column, and let your world come alive with goodness (click here).
Our Mission Partners Outreach can help you follow God’s call to share the Good News of Christ and His Kingdom with the people in your Personal Mission Field. The training and materials are free, and the program is available in two formats, and can be used in your Bible study group or Sunday school class. Watch this brief video (click here), and download the informational flyer to learn more.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.