Ode to an Organ

Sharon and I spent the day Saturday at an auction. That, in and of itself, isn’t particularly newsworthy information – we go to auctions as often as we’re able to. Being the king and queen of the low bid, we don’t usually buy a lot, but we really enjoy the chase.

Saturday’s auction was a special event. A team of enterprising folks at a local church came up with the idea of having an auction to benefit the church’s drive to pay off their debt. The idea was to have members donate good, salable items and have a full-scale auction day. Strange though it may seem, it actually worked out according to that plan, and in fact better than anticipated.

Among the huge selection of items to be auctioned were a number old pianos that had been gathering dust in the corners of the church for several years, and three electronic organs. Organs #1 and #2 were little “home organ” jobs, but organ #3 was a retired console-size church organ. At first glance, it looked a little rough. It had been out of commission for a number of years, retired when the church bought a pipe organ in the 70’s. It had lived in a corner of the choir room for a while, and was used regularly at choir practice for a number of years. In recent years, with a shift in worship style, the old organ was less useful, and taking up valuable space, so it was moved into a storage room. Now, its life cycle in the church at an end, it waited to retire to the home of the highest bidder.

As the auctioneer made his way toward the wall lined with pianos, I strolled over to the three organs, lined up like soldiers waiting for honorable discharges. The other two organs were plugged in, and prospective buyers were playing with their bells and whistles, while the old church organ sat silent, as it had done for many a weekday in its lifetime. I sat down on the bench, and stroked my fingers over the dusty keys, and found myself wondering what tales this old organ would tell if it could talk. I thought of the hundreds of Sunday morning invitations that had been issued while it played softly behind the preacher. I could see, in that moment, all of the babies that had been dedicated, the couples that had been married, and the widows who had mourned, and the lost who came to Jesus while this old instrument faithfully fulfilled its calling. In the twinkling of an eye, I understood the great heritage of the instrument that I was seated at, and I was filled with a very reverent awe and respect for this aging electronic servant.

Times have changed. The console of the fine pipe organ that replaced this old Conn 632 is now in storage, having been replaced with a praise band and a more celebrative style of worship. It was a good change, a change that was and is an important part of that church fulfilling its mission, and I would never want it to go back – but neither would I want to forget the road that led them here. Where we’ve come from is an important part of where we’re going.

As the bids were popping on organ #2, I realized what I had to do. I knew in my heart that I had to bid on this old instrument. I couldn’t really afford to buy it, but something inside me was driving me onward. The bidding was slow to start, with the auctioneer working his way down to $25 before he finally got that opening bid. Then, there was nothing but auctioneer. I sat there for a moment, turned and bid $30, and a moment later Sharon’s prayer was answered, and we owned a console organ. The $25 bidder later thanked me for bidding, as he didn’t really want the organ – he was just trying to get the bidding started. With all of the people who were there, not one other person bid on the old church organ. It was almost as though God had called me to give this faithful old servant a home.

We spent the afternoon Sunday cleaning her up, removing years of dust from her innards, burnishing key contacts, touching up and polishing. The old girl isn’t perfect – she’s still got a key or two that needs work, and she’s got a few battle scars, but she’s found a retirement home where she’ll be revered and honored, a place where her contribution will never be forgotten.

This old organ was a good and faithful servant, and it fulfilled its calling well. I hope someone can say that about me someday.

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