“Life in concert with God—ultimately that is what we are practicing for.”
Time for another overlooked inspiration of the past couple years, and the 2nd of 3 to come out of that fated 2009 National Pastors Convention. This book has not only been a big influence on me personally but directly upon Growing Out, especially Season 4: Growing Others. Heck, it even inspired me to rent the entirety of Ken Burns’ Jazz series.
One could hardly be blamed for looking at the above title and thinking “yeah, huh?” But it’s an accurate description; it’s far more biblically grounded than you might suspect; and it works. And because it works, it’s a great book for unlocking the creative expression of one’s faith. And again, I know that’s been true for me.
In the words of “jazz theologian” Robert Gelinas, pastor of Colorado Community Church in Denver, “If Christ’s redemptive work was, in part, intended to restore the image of God in us and if creativity is central is central to God’s being, then creativity should become more and more a part of who we are.”
You don’t have to be a jazz fan to appreciate this, although I’m pretty sure being a general music-head helps. When I started this book, my appreciation for jazz pretty much started and ended with Coltrane. It’s expanded a ways since then. I also pushed this book on a friend who got kind of hung up on the “jazz” thing. She pushed the book back to me after maybe 30 pages; I pushed it back and told her to push through; she did; and she got it. And I have a book marked up in pink to prove it. I love those kind of moments. 🙂
Anyway, the building blocks for a jazz-shaped faith, as presented quite illuminatingly here, are:
• syncopation—”accenting the offbeat,” as Gelinas puts it. Jesus accented the offbeats he came across a lot, and challenges us to do the same. And to discover the unique importance of our own “off beat” giftedness in the process.
• improvisation—”Improvisation is about adventure, play, and experimentation. It is about being so familiar with one’s instrument of choice, the song, and the essentials that we can trust ourselves to search for the unseen—for what the moment is presenting.” If we know our “instruments”—our faith, our Bible, our identity in Jesus—we’re freed to create the brand-new works God has created us for. We can be totally in the teachable moments God presents to us and others.
• call-and-response—wherein the instruments converse with one another. If you’ve heard a good improvisational piece of any kind, you know what he’s talking about here. This idea particularly blew me away, since I’ve been defining my own doctrine, if you will, as “call-and-response theology” for years. Read the story of Abraham for a fresh and particular vivid example of what that looks like.
Still, Gelinas nails it even further: “All too often we think it is our job to get people in a place where they can call on God, but what if God has already called them? Then our role in someone’s life is to help them respond to the overtures of God.” That is the intent of his book—and this blog, for that matter—in a nutshell.
Something even more scarily empowering is this: “Every person we encounter is someone who is also on the verge of encountering Christ incognito.” The response and reassurance that goes hand-in-hand with that is this: “We’ve looked at the bad decisions in our lives and then asserted to God, ‘You could really use this stuff!’ That’s the hope in the tragedy of confession. That we serve a God who can—and does—redeem everything, including our sin.”
So let’s get out there and be used. And take along a copy of Finding the Groove for inspiration.