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The Gospel According to Tracy Chapman



When I was in my early teens, I got suspended from riding the bus for three weeks. This story is not about that. However, if you’re still curious, feel free to ask me how baby Brooke got kicked off the bus. When this happened, my mother began driving me to school, and she used this as an opportunity to educate me about music. Each morning was a different CD. (So, a CD is this little disk thing that… I’m kidding. Anyway.) She’d play Led Zeppelin, and tell me all about her favorite song of all time “Stairway to Heaven.” She’d quiz me on the members of The Eagles. (Don Henley is her favorite.) I heard Chicago, Styx, and Bread, but then she played me a CD that I still keep in my car to this day (Yes, I still listen to CDs). This CD was New Beginning by Tracy Chapman.

 

Many of you have probably seen the beautiful moment in recent history where Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” won song of the year at the Country Music Awards. A moment, amid all that seeks to divide us, where a Black queer woman and a white country music singer, Luke Combs, shared the stage to commemorate her 1988 song. It was a moment that brought me back to the first time I heard her music in my mother’s car.

 

The album’s opening song is one that has followed me throughout my life, but became particularly close to my heart when I began my journey into ministry, “Heaven’s Here On Earth.” If you haven’t heard it, I highly recommend giving it a listen. This album came out in 1995, yet, the words in this song read like a gospel lost long ago with so many other sacred scrolls.

 

Look around, believe in what you see.

The kingdom is at hand. The promised land is at your feet.

We can and will become what we aspire to be

if heaven’s here on earth.

If we have faith in humankind, and respect for what is earthly,

and an unfaltering belief that truth is divinity,

and heaven’s here on earth.

 

Her words are a theology of liberation that remind us that we are the agents of God’s justice. The words that we pray together every week are echoed here, “Thy kin-dom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” It was the first time I had ever imagined that maybe heaven isn’t something you wait to discover, but rather something we have the power to create if only we share all that God has entrusted to us.


Maybe, it could be.


Heaven’s here on earth.

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