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Jazz Gospel

Jazz Ensemble (Photo used by permission viz Creative Commons by JanetandPhil)

When reading through the Gospels, I sometimes hear a jazz ensemble in the background. Matthew lays down a steady beat with a cool tune exploring an expected birth that still comes as surprise. Luke joins the sweet sounds with a variation on a theme and adds to the surprise with another birth that comes unexpectedly. But then some minor chords from the song of Herod’s rampage break in with discordant strains that threaten the melody line.

During Epiphany, we focus on the great melody that surprises, delights, and fills with the wonder of God become man. This song seems to fully flower on Transfiguration Sunday, sending light beams of peace and love in all directions. During Lent, we pay more attention to those minor chords, playing a tune with a threat of discordance.

If you listen to those discordant sounds, the hints keep reappearing. Immediately after the baptism, the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness to face the tempter. Think about that for a moment. The Spirit comes down and the Father speaks, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” Right after this moment of glorious authentication of Jesus’ life and ministry, the same Holy Spirit drives him into the threat of the evil one.

Those minor key’s in Herod song resound in the Satan. Or rather, we discover the true singer of discordant songs, the evil one. His song works against the theme, attempting to question, challenge, unravel the glorious melody at every point. After Transfiguration, the discordance becomes more pronounced.

In fact, the stories have a bit of an edge. Think of the debates between Jesus and the Pharisees in John. Instead of the sweet miracle stories, we hear fighting words back and forth, back and forth. The dialogues are almost irritating, unsettling.

As the music moves toward Golgotha, the melody is virtually lost in the dissonance. The sounds sound more like noise. Voices shout. Mobs growl. Fists raise. The form falls. The song dies. Discord rules.

But then, suddenly the major chord kicks ups in full brilliance and the melody overwhelms with complete resolve. All we can do is cheer.

As we focus on the minor scales of Lent, life may seem to be playing the same troubling song. Discordant sounds encircle. Our world may reverberate like the chaos of crisis resounding from the evil one.

People hurting. The world in confusion. Problems with no answers.

Stop a moment and listen.


Beneath the roaring cacophonies, a sweet melody still plays. It keeps playing and playing, steady unyielding, upholding, moving toward complete resolution.

If you’ll listen, you’ll hear echoes of a Choir surrounding the Risen One.

We’re waiting in hope for the great resolution. Though tarries, we don’t fear. We don’t lose heart.

We wait and listen.

Really listen.

This tune’s got a great beat and you can dance to it.

Categories: Lent, Music
  1. April 4, 2011 at 3:51 pm

    And dance, dance, the church will dance. The bards will harmonize. The voices of the sackbutt and trumpet will herald the invitation: COME to the dance,dance !
    Who-so-ever-will may come.

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