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Lee Koontz: Instead of rules, follow emotions on your religious path
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It’s the week after Easter, so naturally I’m thinking about Jimi Hendrix.

Those two things don’t really seem to go together, do they? Let me explain.

One of my very first spiritual experiences came when I picked up an album called “Axis: Bold as Love.” I put it in my stereo and pressed play.

At that time, I was learning how to play the guitar. I bought a book called “The Guitar Bible” that contained all the dos and don’ts of guitar playing and all the rules good guitar players follow. I practiced chords over and over until my fingers bled. I loved it. But no matter how much I practiced, no matter how many rules I tried to follow, I still couldn’t make the sounds that came from Jimi Hendrix’s guitar.

My playing was ordinary, but Jimi’s was extraordinary.  The notes he played on his guitar transcended the guitar itself. What he was doing seemed to me to be more wizardry than musicianship.

I could tell when I heard it he wasn’t concerned with following rules. He wasn’t worried about making mistakes. He was just playing. He was playing with every ounce of talent, energy, depression, pain and passion that God had given him.

Jimi Hendrix once said, “Technically, I’m not a guitar player. All I play is truth and emotion.”

The music lived inside him, and the result was one sweet sound.

I think Easter is a little bit like that. Oftentimes, we who follow Jesus become so preoccupied with rules and regulations that we forget how much of it comes from the heart. We pay so much attention to saying the right words, or praying the right prayers or following the right laws that we miss an Easter truth: Christ lives within us and through us!

When we celebrate Easter, we aren’t just celebrating a resurrection that happened 2,000 years ago. We’re also celebrating resurrections that occur in our lives every day.

Christ is alive every time the hungry are fed or the naked are clothed. Christ is alive when the stranger is welcomed or the outcast is taken in. Christ is alive when the sick are visited or those in grief are comforted. Christ is alive when sinners — you, me and all of us — are forgiven.

I’m not sure how much of that has to do with following steps or rules. Those can be helpful at times, but at the heart of the Christian faith is the call to follow in the way of Jesus, and follow with every ounce of talent, energy, brokenness and passion that God has given us.

Maybe in this season of Easter we are called to be less “religious” and more relational, so the risen Christ lives in us and reaches those around us with a life and a love that transcends the ordinary and speaks a promise of Easter: You are forgiven!

Now what could sound sweeter than that?

The Rev. Lee Koontz is the senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Gainesville. He can be reached at