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The World’s Greatest Pianist

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By Dr. Kenneth Faught

  “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he was to receive as an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was to go” (See Hebrews 11:8-16, RSV).

One of the greatest pianists who ever lived was born in Russia. Vladimir Horowitz was born in Kiev, Ukraine,vin 1903. His first piano teacher was his mother. At age nine he entered the conservatory in Kiev. Early in his career he was paid with bread, butter, and chocolate! He went on to perform in Paris, London, New York, and other great cultural centers of the world. He became an American citizen in 1944, and did not return to his Motherland until 1986 (when he was 83), when he gave a triumphant recital in Moscow.

Vladimir Horowitz teaches us that “home” is where we come from. He came from Kiev.

Each of us has a birth certificate which tells us where “home” is. My own birth certificate (and my wife’s) says Kentucky. My three children are from Louisiana, Virginia, and Tennessee. (Apparently, we preachers like to move.) We all have signs of local identity: a favorite team, a particular accent, or a favorite regional food. What about our spiritual identity? Where were we “born again”? Do we bear any resemblance to our heavenly Father? Are there character traits that reflect Jesus Christ? A reporter who accompanied Vladimir Horowitz to Moscow described the exuberant welcome he received. After 60 years he had not been forgotten. He was “home.”

Horowitz also teaches us that “home” is where we are. It is where we live and what we do. I have been “at home” in five states. I try to live where I am located. I change my driver’s license and my voter registration and my church affiliation. I am grateful for where I have been; I am proud of where I am. In 2007 our daughter was born in Knoxville. She was baptized with Tennessee spring water. She sleeps in a bed made of Tennessee red oak. If you listen closely you might hear a slight preschooler drawl! Home is most especially the people with whom we live. “Home” is inseparable from family. Whose voice speaks the language of home to you? For Vladimir Horowitz, born in Russia, New York City became home. His wife, Wanda, and their daughter, Sonia, were there.

Horowitz further teaches us that “home” is where we are going. Do you like to “go home?” When I’m out, no matter how great the time I’m having, there always comes a time when I want to go home. A few years ago I attended Duke Divinity School in the summer. I enjoyed it immensely. However, I drove home (from Durham to Knoxville) 45 minutes faster than I had driven to Duke! For Christians, we know that heaven is our real home. We are pilgrims, aliens, and sojourners here. An old hymn reminds, “This world is not my home; I’m just passing through.” Vladimir Horowitz came from Russia, became a New Yorker, and is buried in Italy. His story is our story. Where are you from? Where are you now? Where are you going?

 

 

 

Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.