I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
The leader of the band is tired
and his eyes are growing old
But his blood runs through my instrument
and his song is in my soul
My life has been a poor attempt
to imitate the man
I'm just a living legacy to the leader of the band
I grew up in the eighties, but in many ways I am a cultural child of the sixties and seventies, thanks to my parents' influence. In my adult life, I find myself drawn over and over again to the music of my childhood- James Taylor, CCR, John Denver, Simon and Garfunkel, and countless others. There is a peace about their music that connects with me these days. This weekend I was streaming a station in our living room, introducing my daughter to this genre. But when Dan Fogelberg's single Leader of the Band played, it stopped me in my tracks.
I'd heard it so many times in childhood, but never in the way I did this weekend. It was written as a tribute to the artist's father, reflecting on his father's life and how it continued to impact his own music.
But as happens with good art, I heard the song through a new lens this time. Perhaps it's worth a 4 minute pause to listen to it yourself in a quiet space:
Go ahead and listen in, and then come back to this.
Did you hear it? How it speaks to a life of discipleship?
Sometimes I do wonder if God gets tired. Yes, I know that on the biggest theological level, God does not grow weary. Yet I also see the heaviness in Jesus in the gospels. The spark of passion for the kingdom is often tempered with exhaustion as his disciples struggle to grasp how big and beautiful and transformative it all is. They want to follow, but selfishness, violence, fear, and pride often get in the way. As Jesus says, the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.
Yet Jesus continues to trust the imperfect ones to play the music of his kingdom. That's all of us who are children of God but don't always live up to the family heritage. He breathes his spirit into them, loves them, sends them.
I love the image of Jesus as a master musician, even though my cover version of the songs can't compare to the original. But what I found profound about the song this week was that the artist did not dwell on his feelings of inadequacy nearly as much as the gift the father gave him. Yes, the attempt to imitate was very imperfect, yet he still new his life was a living expression of the legacy he received.
Today's encouragement isn't for the victorious. It's for the ones slogging a bit right now, who feel like they just can't quite live up to Jesus' example even though they try. It's for those who are walking through the grey times of exhaustion and might be at risk of forgetting their identity as the beloved of God. It's for those who have forgotten that the spirit of God flows through us and we have received it to share it with the world. It's for those of us who, as we get older, realize that who we become and how we love is infinitely more valuable than what we accomplish or how we are perceived by others.
I cannot count the many times that my own life has been "a poor attempt to imitate" Jesus. Yet a child of God I continue to be, and so do you. And both of us are invited to continue the mission of Jesus, sharing his love, grace and rescue with the whole world.
His blood runs through my instrument
and his song is in my soul....
I am the living legacy to the leader of the band...
Is there any more beautiful way to see our lives in Christ? I pray that today, the song of Jesus might be in the very depths of your soul. And that you would walk forward full of grace and wonder, knowing that you are a living legacy of the love of God.
Jesus, I trust you to keep giving grace as I try to imitate you. Help me express your kingdom through my life.