The Piano Man

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man; sing us a song tonight.  

For we’re all in the mood for a melody, and you’ve got us feelin’ alright.

It’s time for dishes and the after dinner clean-up.  In our house, this means it’s time for music.  We have a rather eclectic taste in music, enjoying a wide variety of musical genres.

Thursday night, The Piano Man came on.  As the soap suds and food particles mixed, and my hands began to prune, I listened to Billy Joel describe the menagerie of people who frequent the local bar at 9:00 on a Saturday.

  • There’s the old man sitting next to the piano.  He wants the Piano Man to sing him a sad and sweet melody he remembers from his youth.
  • There’s John at the bar (who’s quick with a joke, or to light up your smoke).  John is a nice enough fellow, but we find that he feels like he’s slowly dying in his current profession and wishes he could make a go of it as a movie star.
  • There’s Paul, the real estate novelist and lifelong bachelor, who is talking with Davy, the career Navy man.
  • There’s the unnamed waitress who is an amateur politician, and the businessman who is smoking his way to oblivion.  They make an unlikely pair, but they share a drink as they discuss their loneliness because “its better than drinking alone.”

All of the people in the bar have one thing in common – they are all miserable.  Dissatisfied with their current lot in life, they come to the bar to drown their sorrows, hoping the Piano Man will assuage their depression for a few hours.  While the sounds of the carnival roll off the ivories, the Piano Man plays the part of the court jester, providing enough distraction that the miserable ones can “forget about life for awhile.”  But nothing ever changes; the misery never ends.

One of the great things about music is that everyone listens through the lens of their own experience.  I am a preacher, and I can relate to the Piano Man.  At 11:00 on a Sunday, the regular crowd shuffles in, hoping for some distraction.  A joke here, a clever story there, a melody that takes them back in time.  And after a little while they leave, back to their lives, feeling a little better for having come.

But I am not the Piano Man.

I am not a court jester; I am not here to entertain and distract.  I am not singing melodies that create feelings of nostalgia.  I am not here to make people feel better about their lives.

I am the Preacher.  I don’t tell stories; I speak truth.  I don’t distract people from the misery of their lives; I affirm their misery.  And I point them to the One who bore their misery to bring them joy.  My job is not to get people to forget about their life, but to think about their life, to think about their sin.  My job is to get people to think about guilt and judgment and wrath.  And then my job is to tell them of the sin-atoning, guilt-removing, judgment-bearing, wrath-absorbing death of Jesus Christ.  My job is not to bring people distraction, but to bring people into their destiny.

I am not the Piano Man.  I am the Preacher.

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