A United Methodist Pastor's Theological Reflections

"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory (nikos) through our Lord Jesus Christ." - I Corinthians 15:57

Monday, November 7, 2016

Heaven's Welcome of God's Saints, New Orleans Style!

[For our closing hymn during worship this past Sunday, saxophonist, Matt James and pianist, Jeff Daubenmire led us in a very jazzy version of "O When the Saints Go Marching In." This song also connected with a very personal story from Sunday's sermon which is printed below.]

From the November 6 Sermon, "Music & Faith: Jazz Music
(Click HERE for full sermon.)

     A few years ago, Penny and I were standing in front of the historic St. Louis Cathedral in the French Quarter of New Orleans on a sunny day enjoying our three day get away.
     With the mighty Mississippi River in front of us and the smell of those wonderful Big Easy beneigt treats in the air, we found ourselves in the middle of an impromptu jazz concert there on the street. This was the New Orleans we were hoping to experience.
     The casually dressed five member jazz band was performing a very long version of "O When the Saints Go Marching In." During different times of the song, a band member would step out and offer his unique instrumental solo to the delight of the crowd.
     One young man who looked to be in his early 20s had a trumpet in one hand and a trombone in the other and he played them back and forth effortlessly during his masterful solo performance.
     As the band continued to play, we sat on a park bench and that's when I received a call on my cell phone about my aunt who had been in failing health in Maryland. This was my mom's sister who just eight months earlier had attended my mom's funeral. Aunt Isabelle & Uncle Bill lived on a farm in Maryland.
     Hospice was now caring for Aunt Isabelle and the phone call was to let me know that she had just passed away. My heart sank as I thought about these two sisters who were very close to each other.
     It was really difficult for me to hear our conversation over the phone because of the music being played just a few yards from me. I was beginning to get frustrated, but that’s when I realized that those very loud jazz notes were meant for me.
     In the midst of that very sad phone call about my aunt’s passing, a smile came to my face as the jazz band continued to play very loudly in the background,
     O when the saints go marching in, O when the saints go marching in. O how I want to be in that number when the saints go marching in.

     This was a celebration song that was reminding me that my Aunt was now part of what the bible calls that great cloud of witnesses.
     I took comfort in knowing that my aunt and my mom were now reunited in that glorious eternal kingdom where there is no more sickness, sadness, dementia, tears, or death. They were in a place of total peace and joy and celebration. 

    Looking back on that February afternoon, there is no doubt in my mind that this truly was a “thin place” moment for me where heaven and earth came together in such a mysterious, creative, improvising, and beautiful way, right there in front of the St. Louis Cathedral. For that brief moment in time, I experienced heaven's welcome of another of God's saints, New Orleans style.
     On this All Saints’ Sunday, we give thanks to God for all those who have gone before us and who are now part of the great cloud of witnesses. These saints have lived in concert with God and they continue to offer their praises in God’s glorious kingdom.

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