Jump directly to the Content
Jump directly to the Content

Sermon Illustrations

Home > Sermon Illustrations

Wynton Marsalis Rescues a Song

Journalist David Hajdu recently told a memorable story about Wynton Marsalis, one of the most easily recognizable jazz musicians in our day and one of the premier jazz trumpeters of all time. One night, Marsalis was playing with a small, little-known combo in a New York basement club. A few songs into their set, he walked to the front of the bandstand and began an unaccompanied solo of the 1930s ballad, "I Don't Stand a Ghost of a Chance with You." Hajdu records that the audience became rapt as Marsalis's trumpet virtually wept in despair, almost gasping at times with the pain in the music.

Stretching the mood taut, Marsalis came to the final phrase, with each note coming slower and slower, with longer and longer pauses between each one: "I…don't…stand…a…ghost…of…a…chance—"

Then someone's cell phone went off.

It began to chirp an absurd little tune. The audience broke up into titters, the man with the phone jumped up and fled into the hallway to take his call, and the spell was broken. "MAGIC—RUINED," the journalist scratched into his notepad.

But then Marsalis played the cellphone melody note for note. He played it again, with different accents. He began to play with it, spinning out a rhapsody on the silly little tune, changing keys several times. The audience settled down, slowly realizing that they were hearing something altogether extraordinary. Around and around Marsalis played for several minutes, weaving glory out of goofiness.

Finally, in a masterstroke, he wound down seamlessly to the last two notes of his previous song: "…with…you." The audience exploded with applause.

In the same way, our brilliant, adaptable God is at work throughout this sin-sick world, bringing beauty out of baseness, heroism out of holocaust, love out of loss—, even salvation out of sacrifice. He calls us to believe, and then do the same.

Related Sermon Illustrations

Anti-clerical Pizza Man Helps Minister Appreciate the Gospel

Pastor and Author Matt Woodley writes in a blog post titled "Evangelized by the Pizza Man”:

My friend Emilio owns a tiny pizzeria that makes the best New York pizza on Long ...

[Read More]

Star of Survival Program on Getting Saved

When you get a chance to be saved, you gotta grab it.

—Bear Grylls, popular star of the Discovery Channel's Man vs. Wild, in a commercial promoting the Alpha Course

[Read More]