Syncopation and Preaching

Pharez_WhittedI have been reading a very helpful book by fellow blogger Robert Gelinas entitled Finding the Groove: Composing a Jazz Shaped Faith. Gelinas uses Jazz as a metaphor for understanding the Christian faith. I want to riff on the book over the next few posts.

One of the fundamental concepts of Jazz is the swing. Duke Ellington wrote “It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing.” It is the swing that makes Jazz, Jazz. What is “swing?” Well it is simply emphasizing the off-beat. Instead of emphasizing the First and Third beats, emphasize the second and fourth. It is not that you are adding what is not there, you are pulling out that which is often not brought out.

And more than pulling out, there is a celebration of that which is normally not emphasized. This is because Jazz celebrates the swing. It makes the swing a fundamental part of the music.


Gelinas invites us to syncopate the scriptures. How do we do this? We look for those things that are in the text, but are not always emphasized. And then we celebrate that perspective. Instead of always preaching about the brother or the prodigal, why not preach about the father? What was the father thinking? What does the father tell us about spiritual things? Or maybe we preach about the other servants who are at the feast. What can they contribute to our understanding of God?

Instead of preaching about the woman who grabbed at Jesus and touched “the hem of his garment.” Why not look at the others who were there with Jesus. Did they miss out on healing? Was healing even possible for them? Was it a lack of faith that stood in between them and healing? How was that walk home after seeing the awesome healing of someone else and still not receiving their own healing? And so it goes, syncopate on the scriptures. Stop skimming the surface and dig deep in that which has not been emphasized, but is still there. Then we will open the door to deeper understandings of our selves and our God.

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Sherman Haywood Cox II

Sherman Haywood Cox II is the director of Soul Preaching. He holds the M.Div with an emphasis in Homiletics and a M.S. in Computer Science.

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