Our life in God illustrated through the crafting and playing of an instrument
The Master Musician: Meditations on Jesus (2015)
Author: John Michael Talbot
Publisher: InterVarsity Press (Zondervan edition - 1992) www.ivpress.com
Of all that John Michael Talbot has written, The Master Musician draws more from his experience and education in music more than any other work. It makes me want to listen again to this master musician, whose careful craftsmanship is evident in his many albums.
Don’t get me wrong. This is not primarily about music. It’s more of a means to illustrate our life in God. It’s a book that few, if any, other than Talbot could write. His command of the subject, coupled with his devotional life, and simple, concise wording makes it unique.
He summarizes it as follows: “The work is divided into three main sections: God’s grace, our human response and life in the church. The first is likened unto the crafting of a fine guitar by the Master Musician. The second, into our learning how to play under the Master’s instruction. The third, unto learning how to play with others in the symphony orchestra or band” (5).
Like Jesus, and the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15, Talbot continually follows a principle found in Scripture; first the natural, then the spiritual. The craftsman’s choice of wood for a guitar is but one of many examples: “Some knots are permissible and even desirable. Some craftsman and musicians think that knots add character to the instrument. Knots keep it from appearing artificial and sterile, more like a plastic computerized copy of the real thing. The same is true of our lives. Many of us still have knots in our lives. We are far from perfect. Perfection is not required—only the willingness to submit to the hand of the Master. He and he alone will craft us into a thing of beauty. He even uses the things that the world considers flawed to bring forth his perfection” (11-12). This kind of gentle wisdom is found on every page.
This use of symbolism is primary, but its repeated use may be tiring to some readers. It’s also quite basic, but I believe in the power of fundamental truths; not just expressed but lived-out. Perhaps that’s why this is termed a “meditation.” It can be read quickly, but that is obviously not the author’s intent. It’s only when I started to read this again that I more fully appreciated these life-changing, foundational thoughts.
I also enjoyed asides like the following: “Music is everywhere—in the home, the car, the office and the high-rise elevator. It is even in the church. Yet there seems so little real and lasting beauty in any of it … so little to uplift the soul. It has reflected the chaos and inhumanity of our culture well, but it has done little to change our culture for the better. The music of our modern world is little or nothing like the music of the Master” (23).
I appreciate John Michael Talbot because he not only recognizes where we are as a culture, but in his own way is changing it for the better. His many songs and even his writings are a reflection of the music of the Master.