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Pulpit blues

One of my favourite preaching books of all time is Kirk Byron Jones’ book The Jazz Of Preaching.

He explores a number of interesting themes in this lively and provocative book. One of them is the idea of syncopation – the combination of two different rhythms so vital to jazz. In a similar way two rhythms, such as Old and New Testaments, or sadness and joy, can be combined in one sermon.

However, for me his richest theme is the origins of Blues music in great sorrow. As mellow music arose from great trauma – so preaching can be born in the midst of great sorrow:

‘When it comes to preaching through times of emotional strain and pain, the question is not how to preach when your heart is not in it.  The question is how to preach with a different heart, a wounded heart’

Oh yes, Dr Byron Jones, yes!

New words, old sentiment

There are times in everybody’s life where you ‘mop up’ encouragement wherever you can find it.  This week I have been drawn into a conversation with a man at the other end of the world through a shared passion to support hospice care. He has picked up the Littlest Star torch, and is carrying it to places in the Southern Hemisphere where its journey may continue.  Both of us have personal motivation to support a cause such as this.  Just as I was heading for bed last night, he sent me a lunchtime greeting from New Zealand: “Kia kaha”.  This two word Maori phrase means ‘be strong’, and is deeply embedded within New Zealand’s culture.

At the time of the second Christchurch earthquake, numerous New Zealanders living around the world  made videos of the greeting and sent it back home. Below is a video that was actually made  in Christchurch, in a garden shed, just a few days after the earthquake. Those who made the video describe it like this: ‘it’s a bit rough around the edges – but so are we.‘ Isn’t that great? When we are looking for encouragement we rarely seek sophistication or eloquence – just warmth, hope and goodness. You will find them in abundance in the ‘rough’ little video below.

Richard Littledale

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