When jazz pianist Rich Harney became a Christian, he was told he had to give up playing the devil’s music. He loved that music but he loved Jesus more. What was he to do? What he did was to leave that fundamentalist church, become an Episcopalian, and play jazz for many decades.
Love finds a way. It may not be a way strewn with pink cherry blossoms. It may lead to suffering and death. But since that is true of those who do not pursue what they love, I say follow your heart!
Let me say it stronger, if only to see how it sounds: God is love. To pursue what you love is to be on God’s path.
Well, that sounds OK but, like all succinct declarations of faith, this statement can be taken many different ways. I like that because we go in different ways. What I do not like about the statement at first glance is that it suggests that any pursuit is godly, even the most selfish, if done out of love. Shall we say that those who love money and pursue it are godly? Shall we say that those who love power over others and pursue it are godly? Shall we say that those who love only themselves are godly?
Let me say this. Love is always good, even when it is for lesser things. We are all on our way, learning to set aside lesser things to love the better things. We are learning love’s hierarchy. What is best? Jesus told us that loving God and our neighbors are the best things to pursue. If I understand, this means that loving God and our neighbors benefits us even as it benefits our neighbors and makes heaven rejoice.
Yes, pursuing a better thing may mean setting a lesser thing aside. To bring this short essay back to its beginning, I believe that loving God and neighbor seldom means giving up jazz, a better thing than many.
(PHOTO: Elias Haslanger and his jazz quintet, Church on Monday, play every Monday evening at the Continental Club in Austin, Texas. Elias played in a jazz tribute to Rich Harney at St. James Episcopal Church, Austin, in November, 2021.)
Click here to listen to a podcast by Rabbi Neil Blumofe about jazz pianist Rich Harney.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Danny N. Schweers serves on the Vestry at SsAM and wears other volunteer hats as well, including webmaster for this website. Every week he writes a prayer to go with one of his photos and sends them out to subscribers. Click here to see his Photo Prayer website.
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