“The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4: 7-11 (NIV)
I’ve been playing bagpipes for nearly fifty years and you’d think by now I would know pretty well everything there is to know. Well this past summer of performing in the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo and in the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo proved otherwise.
It was mid-January and as I sorted through the music for this year’s adventure, I determined I was facing the need to learn a combined total of forty-six tunes in just over twenty weeks. It normally takes me about a week, of about thirty minutes a day, to learn one new tune and get it to a basic performance standard, and then it takes another week to solidify it into memory. Clearly the usual approach was not going to produce the necessary results. Not only were there a significant number of tunes to learn, but the degree of difficulty for many – particularly the Edinburgh tunes – was simply humbling.
I upped my practice time to an hour a day and by end-March I was well behind where I had hoped to be, so I doubled up to two hours a day. Things began to take shape, but with two weeks to go before the first Tattoo, I had to stop work on the Edinburgh tunes to focus on polishing those for Halifax. I was now on practice chanter for up to three hours a day plus an hour on bagpipes. Needless to say, family time was beginning to suffer. With a few days left in the Nova Scotia Tattoo, I started to refresh and commit to memory the twenty five pieces for Edinburgh. While home for ten days between the two, I went right back to the “three plus one” routine – sometimes more. When the time came to fly over the pond, I thought I was ready. Unfortunately at our first full practice, we discovered that the tempos we had been aiming for were much slower than the Tattoo Musical Director was demanding – in some cases by a good 20%. So in addition to the daily hours of combined practice, most of us spent another couple of hours working to increase our playing speed. Thankfully, by the time the dress rehearsal arrived, we were pretty well there. While chatting with my band mates, I discovered I hadn’t been the only one who had been tempted to throw in the towel and just quit. It hadn’t been easy changing a routine of many years but, in the end, the sense of accomplishment was well worth the pain.
Someone once told me, “You cannot expect different results if you continue to do things the same way” and my summer adventure proved this to be true.
The past few years have been quite challenging for our congregation. We have faced turmoil, anger, frustration, change, disappointment, loss, and I am sure there are others. Most of this was as a result of circumstances beyond our control, or changes we didn’t want to face. That was then and this is now.
As he was preparing the disciples to carry on the ministry he had begun, Jesus gave them two very important pieces of direction. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” and “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” 
Recently, someone said during our worship service that it’s time for a new beginning. I couldn’t agree more. That said, a new beginning is not a “re-start” as that implies doing again. No, we need a new approach, a new attitude and a renewed love for one another and for Jesus Christ. We need a new beginning!
Our focus must be forward. If we continue to lament about what was, what could have been, or what should have happened, we cannot hope to move forward. Just try driving a car down the street while looking out the rear window.
Should we launch our new beginning by focussing on the new commandment with view to being better at implementing the Great Commission?
Before we jump on our horse and ride off in all directions, perhaps we should pause, as one body, and take it to the Lord in prayer. Jesus can and will calm the sea – the anchor holds in spite of the storm.