Devotions to Pentecost. “Do not be afraid.” Matthew 28:1-10.

The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen just as He said. Come and see the place where He lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.’ Now I have told you.”

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell His disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them, “Greetings,” He said. They came to Him, clasped His feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”
footsteps

Women are the first witnesses to the resurrected Jesus, the first to proclaim the good news. They see the living Lord, fall to His feet, and worship Him. At His feet, Jesus commissions the women to tell the disciples all they have seen and heard – to testify to the truth of the resurrection.

From a posture of worship they move into mission, trembling with fear and stumbling over one another in joy. There is no pause in their actions. They do not stand around wondering if they should trust their vision. They do not take time to discuss how best to share this news. The Lord calls them to be His messengers and their response is reflexive and immediate. Their witness to the disciples becomes the witness to the world.

The women at the tomb did not hesitate to tell the good news of the risen Lord. May the Holy Spirit help us today – to take away whatever may impede our response to tell the good news of Jesus Christ.

Devotions to Pentecost. My Father is your Father, my God is your God. John 20:15-18

Aside

cross pic at sunrise“Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardner, Mary said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him and I will get him.” Jesus said, “Mary!” She turned to him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary Magdelene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.

In the earliest hours of Easter morning, Jesus reveals himself to Mary. Seeing a living Jesus, she cries and reaches out to him. But Jesus commands her not to hold on to him. Why would the Lord say that to Mary knowing that she would desire comfort and reassurance after the terror of the night?

It is as if Jesus is telling Mary, and so us, not to contain or limit Him – to cast off what is known and safe. Let me be who I am made to be. Let me do what I am made to do.

The revelation of the resurrected Jesus signifies His transformed relationship with Mary. In a tangible way, Jesus moves Mary away from His physical presence towards a spiritual relationship. And this is good news for us too: we may not have the physical Jesus with us in each day, but He has given us the gift of His Spirit to guide and comfort us.

In that moment, Mary, clouded by grief, may assume that Jesus has returned as He was before. That life and ministry can go back to how they were before His death. That nothing has changed.

But we, like Mary, cannot desire for life to remain the same. Without Jesus’ death and resurrection, we are still separated from God. Jesus invites Mary, and us, into a right and reconciled relationship with God. “My Father is your Father, my God is your God.” To know Jesus, to be in relationship with Him, is to know God the Father and be known by Him.

Easter Sunday. There is a balm in Gilead.

St. Anne's ChurchChrist the Lord is risen today! And by our risen Lord we are offered an eternal balm to heal our sinsick soul – an invitation into a right relationship with our Heavenly Father – a commandment to share the good news of salvation. “For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but save the world through him.” Surely, there is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. Come, receive your Risen Lord and Savior and be made new.

Good Friday. O sacred head now wounded.

A song for Good Friday: O sacred head now wounded. The journey has ended. Though mine is the transgression, Jesus takes my place on the cross and suffers death that I may live. O Lord, may I never, never outlive my love and gratitude for you. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSUk8dxjGsU&feature=youtu.beDL_112http://youtu.be/nSUk8dxjGsU

JAZZ IN SACRED SPACE

The jazz trumpeter steps up to the microphone. Light outlines his horn. With closed eyes, he begins. The crowd settles, quiet and reflective, as the tune hangs in the air. A saxophone’s bellow enters in, then the bass’s moan, finally the pinpricks of the piano, and the steady rhythm of the drums. It’s Sunday, the song is “Amazing Grace,” and it’s time for church. sacred jazz

My musical odyssey began at the Hartt School of Music (West Hartford, CT) where I gravitated to Bach, Mozart and oratorio, and often the jazz department. The two genres collided for me at The Riverside Church of New York City where I sang Duke Ellington’s sacred songs, igniting an interest in sacred jazz.

Moving to Chicago, I discovered Dave Brubeck’s vast sacred music collection, and William Russo, who invited me to perform some of his compositions with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble – including the premiere of his final work, Jubilatem, featuring soprano soloist, trumpet soloist (Orbert Davis), and Gregorian chant sung by a choir.

Sacred music informs and supports who I am as a person and as a musician – be it a hymn, a modern jazz composition or an aria from the traditional classical repertoire.  In my experience, jazz in worship easily engages an intergenerational congregation – a congregation that values traditional hymns and spirituals, while embracing them in new jazz arrangements.

Jazz in worship began in earnest for me when I met Andy Tecson, founder of the Chicago band, Churchjazz.  His artistry and vision, along with the budding sacred jazz movement, should not be confused with pop-inspired praise music or even with gospel.  Sacred jazz is jazz, pure and simple.

I joined the band for Fourth Presbyterian’s regular jazz vespers services in 2002, and have worked with them ever since. Trumpeter Bobby Lewis, pianist Bobby Schiff, bassist Stewart Miller and drummer Jerry Coleman – master jazz musicians with thousands of recording sessions, concerts and tours on their resumes with names like Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, and Tony Bennett. Tecson and his high school music teacher, Ken Jandes, son of a Chicago big band leader, round out the band on dueling saxophones.

Along with original compositions, Churchjazz regularly swings out with familiar hymns by Martin Luther, the Wesleys, and Fannie Crosby. Bobby Lewis taking the soaring lead on The Church’s One Foundation is stunning.  As Tecson affirms: “There are no [musical] boundaries with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has opened wide the doors to this music.”

Humanitarian efforts for Churchjazz include concerts for Chicago Food Pantry, Jimmy Carter Center, Clarke Cares Foundation, Wheaton College’s Student Global Aids Campaign, World Vision, and Chicago-based World Bicycle Relief.

Its the close of the service and Churchjazz and I lead the congregation in a joyful rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” with every musician taking a final solo.  Let dancing in the aisles begin.

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