Saturday, March 2 – A Love Supreme (John Coltrane as a Companion in Fear)

Saturday is a good day for music. This morning’s companion in fear—joining Jesus, Peter, John, James, and Jane Kenyon—is John Coltrane. If you’ve got a copy of his A Love Supreme, go put it on and listen to the first movement, “Acknowledgement.” If you don’t have it, you can find it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Pi5ZJZ07ME.

Coltrane wrote this after years of spiritual searching spurred in large measure by the drug and alcohol addiction that cost him a job with Miles Davis, and he does as good a job as anyone could of allowing music to be a conduit that expresses the presence of God. Let the opening swells wash over you, listening for the underlying musical idea in the bass riff—all of four notes, melodically suggesting the phrase, “A love supreme.” Then sink in, bringing with you whatever fears you’ve been focused on this week, acknowledging them, but relegating them to only part of your being. For that is the genius of the song—all is held in the supreme love of God. About five minutes in, that becomes explicit—that four note bass riff from the beginning takes life in Coltrane’s saxophone. But listen to what he’s doing with it: he’s modulating it, repeating it over and over, but in different keys. In all twelve possible keys. That’s the beauty of it: all of your turmoil, all of your fear, all of your pain is relative. It is real, but not ultimate, for it is encompassed within the all-enveloping being of God.

Luke 9:28-36

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

Let Evening Come by Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon

shine through chinks in the barn, moving

up the bales as the sun moves down.

 

Let the cricket take up chafing

as a woman takes up her needles

and her yarn. Let evening come.

 

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned

in long grass. Let the stars appear

and the moon disclose her silver horn.

 

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.

Let the wind die down. Let the shed

go black inside. Let evening come.

 

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop

in the oats, to air in the lung

let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t

be afraid. God does not leave us

comfortless, so let evening come.

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