By Brandon Brown
HE IS GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL.
HIS WAY IS IN LOVE, THROUGH WHICH WE ALL ARE.
IT IS TRULY – A LOVE SUPREME.
-- John Coltrane, Liner Notes from A Love Supreme
There is within my life a constant motif of jazz music. I encounter jazz as something which stirs my heart and has worked its way into my person. I do not limit my love for jazz to any specific sub-genre, as it all shares the common language of jazz. This has also influenced the way I experience God and God's grace. Much like the way jazz flows and changes unpredictably, so does God's grace. It gets into the cracks and crevices of life, working its way into the smallest cracks in hardened hearts. Flowing grace has the potential to transform.
This week I was watching an episode of Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty on HBOMax and this idea came up regarding basketball. Jack McKinney who follows Jerry West as coach, is explaining his motion offense to a skeptical team. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar comments that what McKinney is describing is chaos and even calls it "street ball." But McKinney is quick to give an analogy between the contemporary style of NBA basketball play and the motion offense, knowing Kareem is a jazz fan. McKinney compares the typical offense to classical music, in which the conductor directs the orchestra to hit the same notes in the same place every time. This is stodgy and predictable and structured. But the motion offense is like jazz, wild and unpredictable, improvisational, flowing and changing based upon moments on the court. That flow can develop patterns, but they are unpredictable and the players on the court control the flow as they respond to one another and the general flow of the game. This idea was frightening to some players, but intriguing to Kareem and Magic Johnson, who can sense the possibility in the motion.
Can you sense the possibility of grace moving in those patterns like jazz? God's grace is constantly moving and flowing, working into the cracks of life, flowing with the Spirit. As we respond to that flow and recognize grace as it flows, we become part of the combo playing along and improvising in the work of God. Like the musicians within a jazz performance, we see the shape and pattern of God working in the world. We become better able to respond to that work rather than resisting the work as we recognize the flow of grace. Holiness plays a part as well, because as we become more like Jesus, we become better able to recognize the flowing of grace around us and thus respond to that grace. As we respond, we grow in grace and maturity.
Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, Season 1, Episode 3, HBOMax