“I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it” (Isaiah 43:19a)?

 

“And the one who was seated on the throne said, ‘See, I am making all things new’” (Revelation 21:5a).

 

I have a digital acoustic guitar processor (AKA a “stompbox”) that I bought a few years ago to supplement my little 15-watt amp and Korean-made Ovation guitar. It features thirty-six pre-sets, each with ten adjustable parameters, modeling various kinds of guitars. I can dial in and save settings that suit my tastes, my playing needs, and/or my sense of how something should sound. Or I can leave the pre-sets just as they are. In short, the processor is eminently tweakable.

 

I went on a kind of tweaking binge recently with the stompbox. I picked up one of my guitars, then another, and plugged them in turn into the unit. When I started playing and listening closely, I found that some of the factory models which I wanted to use left something to be desired. Others were irrelevant to my style of playing.

 

The twelve-string simulation, for example, sounded too processed and not like any such guitar I had ever heard or played. But with a bit of fiddling with this and that, I got a tone I felt was much more authentic. So that was a little bitty tweak.

 

Another whole set of simulations (to make my electric sound acoustic) needed moderate tweaking, but then I tried one that was supposed to sound like an instrument from the Far East. I didn’t need that, so I decided to almost completely rewrite it to make the pre-set useable. Nearly every setting got tweaked. All I retained were the bare bones of gain and pre-amp characteristics. I kept at it with minor adjustments till I had something useable and very personal. It’s now one of my favorite pre-sets. But it took extensive tweaking to get it.

 

Reflecting on that process, it occurred to me that we may also need to do some tweaking from time to time in the Church with our “pre-sets.” That is, documents, rules, and traditions that somebody else put in place at some other time and offered (or insisted on) to/for us for use in our life in the community of faith. These are ways of thinking and acting and governing that somebody thought worked pretty well and considered reasonable approximations of what Jesus wants us to do and be. Rather like the manufacturer of my stompbox selling me thirty-six models that their engineers had worked hard on perfecting.

 

Suppose, for example, that a church board has an out-of-date Manual of Operations that once was fine, but now keeps the governing body bogged down in inefficiency and bureaucracy (major tweak needed, such as eliminating committees, reducing the membership of the board). Could be that the order of worship is largely OK, but still doesn’t quite flow properly (minor tweak, like moving the location of a prayer or a hymn). Perhaps a procedure is in place that has the pastor or a committee chair having to consult the entire board before he or she can take care of a routine request for property use (moderate tweak, such as authorizing the pastor and a lay official to make the decision). Maybe there’s a tradition that one lady prepares the flower arrangements for Sunday, as she has done for 30 years, and nobody else (perhaps more talented and faithful in worship attendance?) has a chance. (OK, that one takes more than a tweak!)

 

My point is, we don’t need to be stuck when procedures no longer fit our needs, the language or order of worship isn’t user-friendly, our buildings aren’t welcoming, and our traditions don’t authentically reflect the Gospel of Christ. Sometimes just a little change, and the imagination and boldness to try it, can mean a great deal.

 

Well, gotta go. Time to plug in and play with my tweaked stompbox, user setting B4.

 

© 2009 Tom Cheatham

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