Photo Prayer 2022-07 — Pursue What You Love

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 of Elias Haslanger and his jazz quintet, Church on Monday, who 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 May, 2022 .
Photo and text copyright 2022 by Danny N. Schweers.

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Karen wrote:
Great lesson and inspiration! Love thy neighbor as thyself. This world needs love, and if we all share sincere love when we can, wouldn’t this be a better place!

Holly wrote:
Danny, have enjoyed the Continental Club many times! So authentic… hope it never changes!

Dave Von Bieker wrote:
Thanks for putting a smile on my face. I almost gave up my “jazz” for similar reasons. Thank God love kept calling.

Martha wrote:
I am so grateful for you Danny. P.S., when you gonna publish that book?

Rosemary wrote:
Danny, I had a student in my Solarplate class at the Academy Art Museum whose husband is Episcopal Bishop of Delaware. The family had moved from their native Memphis, where she told me that he conducted Blues Services by a river. I had been playing sedate music during the class and she asked me if we could put on something more upbeat. Then she gave me a tutorial about the difference between Nashville music and Memphis music. Enlightening in the extreme.

Bill wrote:
Good one, Danny. I like the way you wrap it up at the end. Maybe I’ll go to Jazz Church sometime.

Cecilia told me verbally that she got a bit lost in my longish theological reasoning but was delighted that I brought it all back down to earth at the end, that she can continue to listen to jazz without a guilty conscience.

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