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The Christian Century
February 3, 2008

Living by the word.(Reflections on the lectionary)
Author: Coon, Christian 
Sunday, February 3

KURT VONNEGUT, the renowned writer and self-avowed humanist, once said that his epitaph should read, "The only proof he ever needed of the existence of God was music." I wonder if Vonnegut had been listening to Franz Jackson; hearing Jackson on the saxophone would inspire such a statement.

Although not everyone has heard of Jackson, he is widely known in Chicago jazz circles. I know him because for more than 35 years he and a group of musicians known as the Dixie Stompers have conducted a Mardi Gras service at my church on Transfiguration Sunday. Jackson has always been the chief draw; he's known for his gift of creating soulful music with his saxophone, especially his rendition of "What a Wonderful World."

Jackson might have been the reason Ken joined my church. Ken is a big jazz buff; when he learned about Jackson's connection to this service, he was thrilled. On Transfiguration Sunday last year, he carefully selected two of his many Jackson albums and brought them to church so Jackson could sign them. Ken arrived about 45 minutes early, sat in a front pew and clutched the albums as he waited to experience Franz Jackson live. My heart sank that day. For the first time in the history of our Mardi Gras service, Jackson didn't play. (He's 95 now, and not always able to get out.) Ken was disappointed; he'd had glimpses of glory in listening to Jackson, but he had hoped for more.
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