Monday, June 11, 2012

Listening and learning from jazz as a spiritual discipline...

As I get ready for part one of my summer vacation (in 2 short weeks) I've had to prepare 5 weeks of liturgies so that others can be on vacation, too.  During that time, I had the chance to think about what I the Spirit might be calling us to emphasize upon my return - and I think it has something to do with listening and creativity.  Listening to one an other's deep stories, listening for God's still speaking but always quiet voice within the whirlwind, listening for the prompting of the Spirit towards truth, beauty and freedom. And learning to listen from the master's of jazz.

Given the blessing of having a jazz genius for a music director - and some of the key jazz performers in town in worshipping with us from time to time - I think that the time has come to take this groove deeper and explore what Marsalis taught when he wrote:

Through improvising on the blues and tending to the collective rhythm that is swing, (the jazz masters) worked out a perfect way to co-create... (It has to do with listening carefully and then responding with) a belief in the power of collective decision making. Bad or mediocre decisions will be discarded or absorbed by the band in pursuit of a "better way" guided by feel and good taste. When a group of people working together feels something, when they trust that all are concerned for the common good, when they determine to be in sync no matter what happens, that is swing - the feeling of "our way" IS my way... Just think about how whole congregations recite things in church every Sunday, almost together and completely unrehearsed.  They proceed by feel.

And also careful and compassionate listening.  He goes on to say:  In jazz, the size of your heart and your ability to play determine you position in the band... respect and trust flow from this truth.  Parts of Psalm 37 once AGAIN keep singing to me:

Do not fret because of the wicked;
do not be envious of wrongdoers,
for they will soon fade like the grass,
and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him, and he will act.
He will make your vindication shine like the light,
and the justice of your cause like the noonday.

Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him;
do not fret over those who prosper in their way,
over those who carry out evil devices...

Wait for the Lord, and keep to his way,
ad he will exalt you to inherit the land.

We're going to be chillin' to one of the great jazz festivals of all time during part of this vacation - I can't wait to listen to Bill Frissell in Club Soda - as well as Esperanza Spalding and Victor Wooten, too.  I am so pumped to experience the free performances all over Montreal each day that celebrate the creativity of local artists. Who knows what treasures we'll find as each day opens up and calls us to be fully alive? 

And as I soak all of this in - an extended jazz Sabbath if you will - I have a hunch that we'll be playfully experimenting with more and more jazz on my return.  Not only in liturgy and song, but in methodology:  jazz as part of our spiritual formation.

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