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Protestant Work Ethic vs. Grace

Make a joyful noise…

Psalm 100 opens with this iconic phrase that has excused many a poor rendition of Christian music, celebrating heart over excellence of presentation. Noise… ‘Noise’ is the call of the people of God, yet Webster defines ‘noise’ as a sound that lacks an agreeable quality or is noticeably loud or unpleasant. It is hard to reconcile ‘noise’ with a joyful celebration of the people of God. Perhaps we are better served to return to the original language to understand the call. The Hebrew word וּיע ִ֥ ר ָה is better translated “shout.” Express your joy in loud and exuberant ways. Find a voice that the world cannot ignore. Share your joy for the world to hear far and wide, so that there is no doubt that our God is an awesome God! That kind of joyful ‘noise’ is what Bianca Lee has brought into the worship of Lenape Valley for the last 10 years.

Ten years ago, Diane Daly (the Director of Worship for Lenape Valley) was tasked with a seemingly impossible assignment- to replace the gifted musical leadership of Mel Wolff and Joyce Meyle with a new organist. That musical legacy would be hard to follow. The job posting was placed, and the applications flooded in, yet many of the applicants were just interested in the opportunity to play our famed Academy of Music organ. But then a young, quiet, Korean-born musician came for her audition. Diane sat in the pews to listen as the organist took her place. The audition soon became more than just a study of notes and keys. From the organ bench came a joyful noise that expressed a deep faith. Diane knew without a doubt that God had brought a good partner who would help to birth the next chapter in the worship life of Lenape Valley.

Byoungson Min, known to us as Bianca, was born and raised in Seoul Korea in a family deeply committed to the Lord and to their faith community. Twenty years ago, Bianca and her husband Seung immigrated to Pennsylvania to build a home and raise a family here. Her son Ryan is now a Sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh and Ellen is a Junior at CB South- both children gifted musicians following in their mother’s footsteps. Bianca brings breadth and depth to the music ministry with her versatility on organ, piano and synth. She can draw forth both power and sweetness from the organ that looms over her head. At the piano, Bianca blesses us with a broad variety from classical to gospel to jazz, often combining those gifts with Kevin Hamp to create inspiring duets. Her skill on the synth rounds out our musical experience giving us the sounds of flute, trumpet, strings, and bass. Recently, Bianca has teamed up with Kevin and Tim Campbell to offer jazzy walking music at the end of our worship. Lenape Valley is blessed to have such creative, gifted artists on our team.

How fitting to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Bianca’s ministry with Lenape Valley on Labor Day weekend, because she is known for her dedicated work ethic. Each piece is meticulously practiced, phrase after phrase, each transition carefully worked, until the music seems to flow effortlessly from her fingers. Those who work in the church office during the week can attest to the hours of practice that go into each piece. We have witnessed Bianca’s continued study with a Korean organ master to refine her skill ever further- those lessons often resembling the discipline offered by a drill sergeant. Bianca never stops until the work is done, and the piece is ready for worship. I am so humbled by her dedication!

As those who have been raised to honor a Protestant work ethic, our Korean-born organist seems like a perfect fit for our ministry. Since Max Weber coined the phrase in the early 1900’s, we Protestants have embraced the concept that we are born to work, that our value is found in work, that we best express our faith in our work. By all accounts, Bianca seems to live a good old-fashioned Protestant work ethic that blesses our worship with the most beautiful noise. Yet, to spend time with Bianca, one quickly comes to realize that her work is not an effort to earn her value but rather is a cry of gratitude for all that Jesus has already done for her. Her fingers dance across the keys in joyful appreciation of God’s free, unmerited gifts…. each note declares God’s goodness… each partnership with our Lenape Valley musicians a joyful cadence that draws our faith community into the celebration. In the midst of an increasingly grace-less world, Bianca celebrates God’s grace with every note she plays. And her humility in the offering, reminds us to thank God for the many others who selflessly give their gifts to raise that song of gratitude to the Lord. Bianca’s joyful noise invites us all into our fall theme Living Grace-fully.

I look forward to exploring the riches of God’s grace in the weeks ahead as we prepare to be a Church that Leaves the Building (CHLB) to serve on God’s mission field. That good work will be our joyful expression of gratitude for all that Jesus has already done for us! Join the Kick-Off of Living Grace-fully on September 10th and share in best joyful noise around at our September 17th Picnic and Concert on the lawn! Bring a friend to share the joy!

With you… and Bianca… making a joyful noise to the Lord!
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