Wisdom From Miles Davis
Longtime residents of the Upper West Side have memories of iconic jazz musician Miles Davis living and playing in the neighborhood around West End Collegiate Church. This weekend, the City of New York honored this legend by naming a portion of 77th St “Miles Davis Way”. It was an exciting day for this historic community of artists, musicians, poets, and actors.
I spent yesterday listening to Kind of Blue and reading articles about Davis. I came across this quote from Mr. Davis and found it particularly striking. He said, “Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself."
The first sermon I preached I didn’t sound like myself. I had no idea what it meant for me to be Jes in the pulpit. So I mimicked my minister. It was an adequate sermon, but it wasn’t my voice. By the end of seminary my voice in the pulpit had changed. I felt more comfortable preaching. I understood the chemistry of a sermon better and I believed I had something to say. Today I sound different than I did four years ago. I sound more like me. I am preaching more from my voice and I imagine I will keep learning to preach from my voice. Was I lying about my voice eight years ago when I first started seminary? Was I being fake? No. I just didn’t know it enough. Sometimes you have to preach a long time in order to preach like yourself.
The spiritual life is about learning how to play like yourself. We have guides (ministers, teachers, counselors…) along the way, but our goal is not to imitate our guides. As a minister, my goal is to help you connect with God in your voice, not mine. Just like it takes a while for a jazz musician to play like himself, or a preacher to preach like herself, it takes all of us awhile to “play” like ourselves in our spirituality. A life of faith sometimes means practicing faith for a long while in order to have faith like yourself!