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I Almost Failed to Give Him the Key

The early years of the 19th century were troubled times in the German confederation. Rumors of revolution and rioting had the federated government in panic. Klemens von Metternich, the chief statesman of the confederation, ordered thousands of young men drafted into the army to guard the borders and put down internal revolts. Across the countryside, young men in uniform tramped off to an unknown destiny.

In one German village stood a grand old stone-walled church with and ornately carved facade, beautiful stained glass, and a stately pipe-organ. The organ was famed throughout the region for its beautiful, rich tone. One day the aged caretaker of the church was interrupted during his chores by a knock on the great oak door of the sanctuary. He opened the door to find a young man in uniform on the steps.

“Sir, I have a favor to ask,” the young soldier began. “Would you please permit me to play the organ for one hour?”

“I’m sorry, young man,” the caretaker replied. “No one but our own organist is permitted to play the organ.”

“But sir, I’ve heard so much about the organ of this church, and I’ve walked so many miles just to see it, just to play it for a single hour!”

The aged man paused, then shook his head sadly.

“Please,” the soldier pleaded. “My commander gave me a 24-hour leave. In a few more days we move to another province where the fighting is expected to be heavy. This may be the last chance in my life to play the organ.”

The caretaker reluctantly nodded. He swung the door open and beckoned the soldier inside. Then he took a key from his pocket and held it out to the soldier. “The organ is locked,” he said. “Here is the key.”

The soldier took the key and unlocked the ornate cabinet of the organ. Then he began to play. A billow of majestic chords rolled from the great golden pipes of the organ. The caretaker stood transfixed as the glorious music washed over him, bringing tears to his eyes. He moved to one of the pews and sat down, as if entranced.

Within minutes, people from the village gathered at the church doorway and peered in. Removing their hats, the villagers stepped into the sanctuary and sat down to listen. Streams of beautiful music filled the sanctuary for one hour. Then the gifted fingers of the organist struck a final chord and lifted from the keyboard.

The young man closed and locked the keyboard cabinet. As he stood and turned, he was surprised to see that the church had nearly filled with parishioners who had laid aside their chores to listen to his music. Humbly receiving their compliments, the young soldier walked down the center aisle to return the key to the caretaker. “Thank you,” the young man whispered.

The old man rose to his feet and took the key. “Thank you,” he answered, grasping the young soldier’s gifted hands. “Young man, that was the most beautiful music these old ears have ever heard. What is your name?”

“My name is Felix,” replied the solder. “Felix Mendelssohn.”

The old caretaker’s eyes widened as he realize whose hands he grasped—the hands of the young man who, before he was 20 years old, had become one of the most celebrated composers on the European continent. The old man’s gaze followed the young soldier as he left the church and disappeared into the village street.

“To think,” the old man wondered aloud, “the master was here and I almost failed to give him the key!”

So it is with us. The Master is here. God is with us. His grace envelops us. If you give him the key to your heart, he can make unimaginably beautiful music in your life—music that will make the world stop, listen, and wonder. The Master is here and he is ready to transform us by his grace. He is ready to give us a new beginning. It is not only our duty but our joy to give him the key to all that we are and have.

Ron Lee Davis, Courage to Begin Again, (Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR; 1978), pp. 184-186