Wednesday, September 07, 2005


"Emily, a young woman in Thornton Wilder's play "Our Town"...dies in child birth, but is granted a unique experience: the Stage manager allows her to return from death and live one more day of her life with her family. Although Emily has high hopes for that one day, she is disappointed. Just before she returns to her place in the cemetary, she reveals her frustration to the Stage Manager.
Emily says: We don't have time to look at one another. (She breaks down, sobbing.) I didn't realize. So all that was going on and we never noticed...Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?
Stage Manager: No...The saints and poets, maybe--they do some.
(from Space for God, Don Postema, p14)
I would add Jazz Theologians to Wilder's list of those who live life for each moment. JT is all about about the convergence God in the now--Theomoments.
What about Jesus the master Jazz Theologian? Can you think of times when he lived life for the moment? In the moment? Can you think of times when Jesus took what was known about God, then improvised...producing a fresh experience of God?


Blogger Pete Gall said...

If you could set aside all of the theological terminology - if you need to set aside all of the theological terminology - and pick one word of advice you'd expect Jesus to offer about how to live, what would you pick?

I think that's part of what Emily wanted to know.
It seems like Jesus lived an answer.
I get glimpses sometimes - glimpses like Christmas Eve standing in church with my family, everyone having shared dinner and now clad in sweaters holding candles as we sing Silent Night and see the snow blowing outside the church windows. Or moments when I get lost in my wife's eyes. Or even just watching the dogs play in the river. The answer is in those moments.
It's also in moments when doing work in line with my calling I feel the Chariots of Fire "when I xxx I feel God's pleasure."
The answer exists sometimes as Mary, sometimes as Martha.
Is the one word "Jam"?
Is it "dance"?

Help me find a hook - a first note from which the rest of the jazz standards flow.

Can you?

7:15 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Oh my friend you ask the impossible! You seek the key to jazz (see thumbnail). As we will discover, defining jazz is like defining God. There comes a point that all one can say is what God is not. There is a default that one must retreat to and offer words of contrast.

What is jazz? It is a history, a style, a culture, a reaction, a subversion of the dominate paradigm while at the same time an inclusiong of the dominate paradigm, oh yeah, it's also a musical tradition!

I have been offering you a hook to han everything on. Moments--jazz is all about the moments and Jazz Theology is all about Theomoments.

But if you must find a first note, a word from which the rest of jazz flows..then I offer you the following:


9:49 PM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

I may be a little slow on the uptake, but I'm starting to bite down on the convergent church thing.

I played trombone for a few years as a kid (until the band teacher suggested I take chemistry - true story), and I feel a certain kinship with that part of the band. I think my experience as a follower of Jesus would look like that too - content with the baseline, but very much aware that the baseline drives the flashier stuff, willing to enjoy and celebrate the trumpets and the guitars, eager to get their backs. Sometimes I want to stand up and wail out a few notes, but it doesn't take long before I'm ready sit back down.

A trombone by itself is a pretty boring instrument. In the mix of a band it does some cool stuff.

Different churches work that way, too. Maybe it breaks along deominational lines, but I think it may be more helpful to think - at least in small towns like I'm familiar with - in terms of individual churches within the community. My church is a bit of a trombone church - gold-plated though it may be. It's a flagship sort of church in the PCUSA, but it's not real flashy in town. It's more about playing its role, looking to the long view, encouraging solo churches as it goes.

It would be a pretty boring church if it didn't play such a vital role in the band of churches. Within the context of a community of churches, it represents the plumbline, the steady and solid, the thoughtful if late adopter of new fads. It's the baseline the other instruments return to when they're ready to move the music forward.

The convergence doesn't just happen when it's time to move the music forward and the instruments return to each other - convergence is happening when the trombone's slide gestures for the spotlight to focus on the soloist...the church or person or endeavor racing ahead, in part because of the push the church gave it.

I dig that. I like what seeing myself or my church can mean for being able to focus on my/our strengths, rather than trying to be everything to everyone. What great news it is to think that as churches and Christians are themselves - in community with others - they can relax and know the music will play and people will be moved (within and outside of the church/my own private world).

[birth of the] Cool.

7:01 AM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Yes! Yes! Yes! Your are seeing it. Feeling it. I'm not against emergence but jazz emerges and converges. It is about community and about the whole being more than the sum of the parts. You have described it so well. Jazz is a convergence of history, sociology, pain, skills, the audience into a moments.

Jazz theology lives with the question, "What if?" What if different churches, traditions etc. converged what would exist that would not could not have existed before.

Listening...why do you think I said listening?

7:37 PM  
Blogger Pete Gall said...

I don't know.
Does it have something to do with the fact that my toe is starting to tap?

9:37 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

In time...all in due time.

10:47 PM  
Blogger Phil said...


I saw your response to Adam Ellis' blog, and in seeing your profile, I saw that you'd mentioned Cone's Malcolm, Martin, and America. What a great book and a great conceit that Cone used to examine the two men in the context of their religious beliefs.

At any rate, through that I've found your blog and I'm looking forward to perusing it a lot more. Thanks for your thinking.

6:04 AM  
Blogger olympiada said...

Good question Theo, and thanks for the ancedote. I would have died in childbirth had it not been for modern medicine.

I am a babe in the faith, but I think of the five loaves and the two fishes that Jesus spread among the masses. That seems like an improv to me...

11:58 AM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Five loaves and the two fishes...nice choice Oly. Tell me more about what you seen that moment in the life or our Lord.

7:25 PM  
Blogger olympiada said...

Hi Jazz Theo, I like you, are cool. You could teach theology, you know that.

Well in that moment I saw Jesus teaching his disciples to have faith. I mean after all He was the Son of God and He was with them, and they were doubting. I am sure I would too if I were there. That is what I see.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Constantine said...

Wow! What a vivid post jazztheo.

Also, I love your answer/response in this chain of comments where your offer up..."Listening." Very Buechneresque.

2:40 PM  
Blogger jazztheo said...

Yes Constantine, listening I believe is one of the essential aspects of jazz and must be at the core of our theology. Why do you think this is?

Buechner, do you whisper secrets to? One must listen carefully to hear a whisper.

My favorite Buechner quote is, "Calling is when our deep gladnes and the worlds deep hunger meet." (paraphrase)

10:12 PM  

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