Everyday Spirituality: Sacraments and Piano Lessons

Part of an ongoing series on Everyday Spirituality, this is a guest post by Linda Peacore. Linda and I were classmates at Fuller Theological Seminary in the early 1990s. She went on to get a PhD in theology from King’s College, London, and she now resides in Pasadena and teaches at Fuller. I recommend her book, The Role of Women’s Experience in Feminist Theologies of Atonement, which I wrote about here.

If you’d like to write a post for this series, please contact me through my website.

Tony’s recent posts on “Everyday Spirituality” very much resonate with my Christian life. As a mother of two school-aged children and a part-time professor of theology, spiritual disciplines take on a particular shape in the routines of parenting and work. Reflecting on this kind of everyday spirituality got me wondering about sacraments specifically, and how they might look in an ordinary life of someone like me.

In the church, we speak of sacraments, which primarily refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper, two important practices which signify God’s grace in our lives and in the Christian community. They are the traditional ecclesial acts that represent God’s promises and mark God’s people. Sacraments serve as vehicles by means of which we confirm our participation in the grace God offers us through Christ and consequently in the fellowship of the covenant people. And through them we confess our faith; they are enacted pictures or symbols of God’s grace in Christ.

While baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the principal sacraments of the Christian church, we also speak of sacraments in a more general way, and this is where I find connections to everyday spirituality. Sacramentality is the idea that God uses all kinds of physical objects, experiences, and actions as a means of extending grace to us.

In my teaching on this subject I often use a clip from the film Babette’s Feast to illustrate this concept. The film culminates in an actual feast that Babette prepares and which could be considered a sacrament of grace as it brings reconciliation and celebration to the community. We might also say that Babette herself is a sacrament as her talents are a gift of grace to those around her. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the people are transformed as a result of the meal and the person of Babette. What might our lives be like if we were attentive to these sacramental experiences, these moments when God’s grace is presented to us as a mysterious and lovely gift?

Once a week I take my daughters to their piano lesson. This is a sacramental time for me (and for them I suspect as well). Our piano teacher is an extraordinary woman — an Armenian immigrant who has had a challenging set of life circumstances, to say the least. She’s a grandmother who loves her family dearly and extends this love to the children she feels called to teach. To sit in her home watching her teach my daughters with patience and kindness is truly a gift.

There are moments during our lessons which simply blow me away: the sheer beauty of the music, the tender care of the teacher, and the genuine interaction between teacher and student striving to make the music better – these come together in an experience of divine grace. Truly, God is present in that room with the green carpeting and two black upright pianos. I am blessed to watch the teacher and student side by side, seeking after and participating in the beauty of this world.

For me it is a weekly reminder that God is present in all moments and all aspects of our lives, desiring to fill our hearts with peace and trust in the promise of God’s faithfulness. There is no bread or wine, but there is the beauty of music and relationships which are vehicles through which we participate in the grace that God offers. Indeed, piano lessons are sacraments, symbols of God’s grace for which I am grateful to receive.

Where do you find sacraments in everyday life?