Comedian H. Jon Benjamin—a prolific performer, best known perhaps as the voice of Archer and Bob Belcher—put out an experimental jazz album, called Jazz Daredevil. He is featured on the piano, alongside three talented studio musicians. The experiment comes from the fact that he has absolutely no idea how to play the piano.
It is terrible and hilarious and beautiful. If you’re reading this online, you can listen to the first track, I Can’t Play Piano Pt. 1, by clicking this link. If you’re reading the paper version, please take a moment to look this up if you have access to the internet. I assure you, it’s worth it.
I bring this up for a couple reasons. The first is that, if you were present in some way, shape or form on Sunday for the sermon, you probably heard me being hard on myself after the sermon. I muttered to myself, “Terrible, terrible, terrible,” and two people today alone have told me they heard me do it. I do want to make clear it was not anyone else with access to a microphone, nor the prompting of the Holy Spirit. And I apologize for beating myself up publicly.
Second, this Sunday we’ll be talking about works. The book of James makes the rather strong claim that “faith without works is dead,” and H. Jon Benjamin’s ridiculous jazz album points to this. If you listen to his rhythm patterns, you can tell he enjoys and listens to jazz. He comps (tones aside) like a mix of Oscar Peterson and Count Basie. But without the intentional practice—work—of learning to play the piano, what has the potential to be holy and profound is instead holy painful. And yes, it’s meant to be in the instance of Jazz Daredevil. But is it in our work of faith?
I tell you what. This Sunday, I’ll be preaching about grace, how we have to have it for one another and the world, and I’ll even practice what, as, I preach. Every day is a new day—and an opportunity to try again, and again, and again, until we get it together in the Reign of God. I look forward to seeing you Sunday.