by Mike Clemmer
As a young boy, I enjoyed going to my grandparent’s house to explore the many knick-knacks that were displayed around their home. Of all the fun items to see, the one that intrigued me more than any other was my great grandfather’s tuning fork. I would spend countless hours repeatedly striking it against the heel of my shoe and then holding it to my ear to listen to the sound of the vibrations – a concert A – over and over again. I would then attempt to match the pitch that I heard in my ear with my own voice while imagining myself as a chorister leading a hymn. The inscription pressed into the metal on one of the tuning fork’s tines stated “A = 440 vibrations guaranteed,” meaning that the sound in my ear would always be the same – guaranteed! But although I always heard the same pitch in my ear, somehow my ability to match that pitch with the sound of my voice was less than a perfect match.
Years later and still having the tuning fork in my possession, listening for the perfect pitch has become both a labor of love as well as a conduit for lessons of faith. As an Anabaptist follower of Jesus, I hold Jesus at the center of my faith – he is the “perfect pitch” on which all of my life is centered. Indeed, as Hebrews 13:8 states, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Yet, just as I often struggle to match the musical pitch perfectly with my tuning fork, so I too often fail to match the way that Jesus set forth as the center of my faith. Maybe I am simply not listening close enough? It also gets tricky at times – both in life and music, that is – because all songs do not start in the key of A. Some are written in a minor key and some in a major key. Some songs even use the same words but have a different melody. In those cases, I need to begin with the perfect pitch and work at deriving the correct starting note from that center place. This takes work and practice. In fact, I find that often times, I need to go back and strike the tuning fork again and again just to hear the Concert A clear enough to find the correct pitch needed to start the song that I am leading or living. In both music and life, I believe I would be further ahead if I would take time to listen to the guaranteed vibrations of Jesus and allow his perfect pitch to resonate within my heart, mind, and soul.
Mike Clemmer is Lead Pastor at Towamencin Mennonite Church, and a LEADership Minister for Franconia Conference.