Tuned in to Love
By Lu Mountenay of Independence, MO, USA
For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. The one who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and has human approval. —Romans 14:17–18 NRSV, adapted
I wandered into the music library at the Temple looking for a book. There I saw the internal parts of an upright piano, exposed and waiting for a musical surgeon’s finishing touches. The black and white keys were lying akimbo on a table, professional-looking tools lined up waiting to go to work. I had come upon a piano makeover in progress. The person responsible for this beautiful “disarray” was Dennis Gabriel. I went back to my desk for my camera, asked Dennis for an interview, and voila! A story of generous discipleship!
Since the age of five, Dennis has been a piano player—plus. When the tuner came to the house, his mother made him leave the room—otherwise he would get right in the middle of it. As a teen he practiced over two hours a day on the piano, organ, and trumpet.
As a young adult, he watched a piano tuner at work and decided to tag along. He decided he could do a better job! So he found a teacher and spent years learning and improving—43 years, to be exact. When he retired, he began his long-held dream of volunteering to tune and preserve pianos throughout the church.
Dennis remembers, “I started this voluntary ministry at Whispering Pines campgrounds in Arizona where I resurrected an old upright. I had six or seven piano projects in Hawaii, and spent a full week on a grand piano in Arizona.” Congregations and campgrounds in Texas, Michigan, and Missouri have all benefited from his visits.
As well as working with instruments at the Temple in Independence, he has contributed his tuning ministry to the Salvation Army, the Baptist church, nursing homes, and other charitable organizations. He not only shares his piano restoration skills, he shares his witness while on the job. “Wherever I can, I want to enhance the worship of an active, living God.” It is a labor of love—parts included.
He recalls the words of Dr. Jan Kraybill, Community of Christ principal organist, “The highest calling of any instrument is to enable an encounter with the Divine.”
Dennis’ wife, Sue Knapp Gabriel, travels with him and brings her own ministry. Just as Dennis has a keen ear, Sue has a keen eye. While he is busy tuning, she looks around the buildings and sees what needs fixing besides the piano. She has taken on large tasks such as shampooing sanctuary carpets. “She leaves the place looking better than when we came,” said Dennis, who tries to leave places sounding better.
Besides their priceless witness, anyone who has paid for piano tuning and maintenance knows what a valuable contribution the Gabriels make as they journey from site to site. And as today’s scripture passage says, their servanthood has great “human approval” (and appreciation).
Prayer for Peace
Tuner of the Universe, tune our ears to hear your words of love. May we live in harmony with Christ’s mission of peace.
Spiritual Practice: Teacher–learner
The first disciples of Jesus followed to hear his teaching, to learn a new way of living, and to practice what they learned in daily life. Prayerfully consider your role as a teacher–learner, disciple–apprentice, a people cultivator in Community of Christ. In your journal, write the names of several people you discern as teachers or mentors and several you feel called to nurture and encourage in specific ways. Ask for God’s blessing on you and your congregation as a community of learners.
Today, God, I will use my giftedness to further Christ’s mission.