I have been working on learning more Chinese characters using my Chinese-English Bible for morning devotions. At times I am rewarded with unique insights from a different perspective. This past week, I discovered that the characters used for the kingdom of God are the characters for heaven and country. I decided I really liked the idea of "heaven country." It sounds more accessible to me somehow, like a place I can visit from time to time rather than a more ephemeral idea I sometimes have trouble grasping. I think I visited heaven country this past week during our annual Gospel Jazz Service on the last Sunday before Lent. We had a jazz band with us again to provide lively music that had people dancing. It was a joyful time. Our pastor talked in her sermon about the origins of jazz in the African American church in worship services where slaves and their descendants were able for a time to express both their anguish and their joy in God's presence. She said that jazz had spread from the church to the world and is now returning to its roots in the church in services such as ours. Perhaps that history of gospel jazz music is why the music in this annual service regularly moves me to tears of joy. Maybe it's because I sense God's presence in the music itself. My heart is still dancing as I remember the music and the jazz version of Just a Closer Walk with Thee I got to sing with our choir. What a blessing to dance before God our creator in preparation for entering the somber season of Lent once again.
Grace and Peace,