Ignacy Jan Paderewski was a Polish pianist who gained worldwide fame in the late nineteenth century.
At the age of 12, in 1872, he had been admitted to the Warsaw Conservatorium, graduating in 1878 and making his musical debut in Vienna just nine years later.
In 1891, he travelled to the United States where he was hugely popular, and it was there, after a lunchtime concert, that a small boy is said to have climbed onto the stage as people were talking and brought the room to a standstill with a very rough attempt at ‘chopsticks’.
The immediate response was outrage at the unmusical interruption and anxiety for the valuable piano the child was hammering. But the pianist was unperturbed.
Quickly joining the child at the concert grand he began to improvise a brilliant and beautiful tune around what the boy was doing. All the time he whispered in the boy’s ear “Keep going, keep playing, don’t stop, don’t give up, don’t ever give up”.
As I write this we are still in the wonderful season of Epiphany when we are called to open our eyes and our hearts for signs of Christ is our midst. When we remember the Magi who travelled far to find the Christ child in an unexpected plce, when we remember Jesus’ baptism by John, revealing him to be the Son of God.
And as we journey through this season we are conscious too that all too soon we will be heading into Lent.
Lent, as everyone knows, is a time of discipline. Whether you are planning to avoid a luxury item such as chocolate or alcohol; being intentionally counter-cultural by giving up television or social networks; or following a more traditional line of replacing certain meals with times of prayer; or signing up for a Lent course, you are bound to encounter some inner resistance.
It may even be that you slip up through forgetfulness or habit or a moment of weakness. The advice in such situations is not to waste time in regret or self-recrimination, but simply to return to your discipline. Those who believe in Jesus find that it is his way to take us from one beginning to another, and if we fail then it serves as a reminder that we are human.
Our efforts are often clumsy, less than impressive, and others may even find them unwelcome. But by his Spirit he is present. He delights in us. He weaves around our offering something creative, unpredictable and beautiful. And all the time he whispers in our ear, “Keep going, don’t stop, don’t give up, don’t ever give up”.
The Rev’d Deb Smith