A Love Song
Note: audio will be up later. Due to technical difficulties this morning, I will have to record at home tonight.
It was 1957. A man from Hamlet, NC had gained some notoriety as a jazz musician. He had played with the likes of Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie and Johnny Hodges. He had begun to make a name for himself as one of the best side-men in the business. The way he could blow that sax was like nothing people had heard since the hey-day of Bird – Charlie Parker. Smooth and elegant – tight and crisp. When he would blow – be it bee-bop or cool – the melodies coming from his horn would transport you to new places.
He had been a side-man since the mid-40’s and was just beginning to make it on his own. He was trapped, though. Trapped in heroin addiction and alcoholism that were spiraling him out of control. I don’t know all of his experiences with the box he was in, but I do know people who have been in that same hell. When you need a fix – you can’t breath. You break out into cold sweats. The quietest noises sound like explosions in your head. You bowels tighten – your bladder loosens. You can only call out like a baby crying out for mother’s milk. Everything disappears but your own pain and all you can hear is your heart beat.
He was trapped in hell. dum-dum. dum-dum.
Nothing. dum-dum. Mattered. dum-dum.
The sound of the beat. The sound of the beat.
A light. dum-dum. A sight. dum-dum.
Spirit. dum-dum. Overflowing. dum-dum.
A voice. A song. dum-dum. Of God. dum-dum.
A love supreme. A love supreme. A love supreme.
The love song of the Divine entered into John Coltrane’s life in 1957 and helped him to fight his demons. The love song of the Divine broke into his life and changed the world of Jazz music forever – as he, in 1964 composed A Love Supreme as a “humble offering” to the Grace of God.
Today we hear words of Jesus telling us that all we need to do is follow the laws of love. Loving God with our whole selves and loving our neighbors as ourselves. We Jesus laying down the melody for the ages. On these two things hang all the other laws and the words of the prophets.
The laws of the covenant we created to maintain a relationship between God and God’s people. The were created as a way for God’s people to be grounded in the grace of God – the God who had brought them out of the land of tyrants and into a land of promise and hope. A land of love.
The laws of the covenant were created to make certain that in peoples everyday lives they maintained a connection with the divine composer. That in their business and familial dealings they acted as if they were encountering God in the the other.
The laws of the covenant were not meant to be chains that weigh down the people. They were not meant to be a new form of bondage to a newly freed people. No, the laws of the covenant were meant to be the score to the love song between God and God’s people. They were meant to be the grace note that played a love supreme. They were meant to that love song that carried God and God’s people to new and beautiful heights.
But the people did not like the song. The people grew tired of the melody and began to rebel and so God sent new band leaders to correct the course of the song. The prophets were sent into the dance halls and jazz clubs of the world to lay out a new tune – a tune that calls the people back to the divine song leader. The sang their song in a minor key. It wasn’t always the bring and melodic tune of the covenant, but this song by the prophets – this love song still – this song was full of dissonance. The notes slamming into each other causing the hearer to take note and hear that not all was right.
This song of the prophets blew through the dance halls and jazz clubs and sometime the clashing notes resolved themselves back into the soothing song of the Divine – the melodic love song of creation. The tones of the covenant, but more often than not – this song, this song of the prophets went ignored. And the love song of the Divine was drown out by they cries of people caught in a club of war and blood.
The songs of the prophet ignored led to a cacophony of sounds slamming into each other trying to make some semblance of a love song, but it was always broken. False melodies would be written but their line would never resolve. Always there was a note missing. And as theses new songs were written there were those who remembered the old song of the covenant – the song that long ago signaled their love line with the divine.
They remembered the notes and began to teach the theory. They began to demand that the people begin to play each note of the covenant song with precision and strict adherence to the note on the page. They thought that if they could recreated the notes on the page that they could connect once again with the Divine.
But these teachers of theory began to burden the people with added instruction that was not part of the love song of the divine. They started adding notation that contradicted the very message of the song. Adding downbeats where the note was to be held. Taking away a crescendo where the Divine Song Writer intended there to be a loud exclamation. They saw the theory and did not have the love.
And into this – into this contradiction, the Divine Song Writer sent a new band leader. Into the noise of the convoluted song – in came the new band leader. Jesus came and began to compose a new stanza to the Song of the Divine.
He came into the dance halls an the jazz clubs and began to blow a new tune. A tune that sailed high above the other noise. He began to blow a melody that tied the song of the covenant and the song of the prophets into a cohesive score. Above the noise this new tune began to blow and is was a breath from heaven. It was a sound that penetrated the hearts of the people. It was a song that flowed from every pore of the player. All of his heart, mind and spirit were imbued in the tune. This new love song came in and touched the hearts of the poor and the outcast – those who had been untrained in the strict theory of the pharisees. This new love song came in and touched the soul of the leper on the outskirts of town. This new love song came in and brought hope to the woman mourning the death of her son. This new love song came in and threatened the powerful.
But Jesus, there on the steps of the temple The Temple that is the grand dance hall of the Divine – there on the steps Jesus sings and tells the leaders that the song of the divine – the love song of the divine is to love God with ones whole being and love neighbor as self. With those two notes the world can change. Those two notes contain the scores of the songs of the covenant and the prophets. Those two notes will bring the singers into the song of the Divine.
The love song of the Divine carries through time and space into this place. Sisters and brothers. The love song of the Divine -the love supreme – plays and asks us to join in the song. There are only two notes and when we play them the world will change.
We are playing them, but it takes us all to make the full sound of the love song of the Divine. We are growing in our congregational live and in our ministries. We have heard how Shelby came to our congregation and found a place to use his gifts by creating the art for the bulletins every week. But God is calling us to even larger ministry – to start an art school here at Emerson Avenue Baptist Church. To sing the love song of the Divine to kids in our neighborhood and to give them the score to the song. To give them opportunity and teach them how to earn a living in art. God is singing this song, but we need your help too. We need the band to step up.
The love song of the divine is playing in our Food Pantry ministry. People come in feeling lost and alone and leave feeling filled and seen. The love song of the divine is alive in the basement of this building, but as we make moves to sing the song louder – to teach the song to our guests – to teach them how to cook what they get – how to shop wisely – how to make the dollars stretch through programs like Smart Choice Foods – we need more singers. We need the band to step up.
The love song of the divine is playing in our Sunday Schools as the Children’s Sunday School has begun and the Wednesday and Tuesday Bible Studies continue to grow – we need the band to step up and help us sing the song.
The love song of the divine is playing in this building – with our doors open to all who need to a safe place. But it is old an old dance hall and needs lots of care and upkeep and problems pop up and we need the band to step up help us keep playing the song.
The love song of the Divine is playing in this place my friends – can you hear it? Can you hear it singing to you? Can you hear it? It’s lyrics are calling out saying love God – love neighbor and the song will never end. Step up and play these two notes and the song will grow. Love God. Love neighbor. Play these two notes and you will experience the soul shaking song of the Divine that calls you beloved. That calls you friend. That calls you neighbor.
Love God. Love Neighbor. Play these two notes and you will be connected to the love song that called the world into being. That crossed the red sea. That made it through a fire furnace. That came int town on a donkey. That took a breath on a cross on calvary and Began to blow even louder on that Sunday in Cemetery.
Love God. Love Neighbor. Play these two notes and you will be connected with a love song that will come to you when you are caught in the cacophony of the world. The love song that will come to your lips when all around you is the song of hate and anger – solitude and greed.
The love song of the Divine has never disappeared. It may have been overshadowed by the other songs, but the love song of the divine is the song that pulls us out of our pit, out of our fear, out of what ever song is playing louder. The love song of the divine is sings out. It sings out and if you listen you can hear it.
A love supreme. A love supreme.
Thanks be to God.