Second Week of Easter – Free Jelly Roll

April 7, 2024

Reflection: Free Jelly Roll   April 7,2024

Church (Jelly Roll)

 

I’m hungover as hell, I’m going through it too
It ain’t hard to tell looking at myself in my rearview
“I’m sorry, Miss Jackson” playing on the FM
Oh, but the only song in my head is “Just As I Am”

Yeah, the people passin’ by think I’m up to no good
That I’m going somewhere where they never would

I ain’t going where the wild things are, I ain’t going to the cigarette store
I ain’t going to the cold beer bar to check in on the Tennessee score
I’m just having me a talk with The Man, sendin’ my old soul on a search
They might judge me on this two-lane road, but little do they know
I’m going to church, I’m going to church

I guess there’s just some things you just can’t outrun
There ain’t no back pew in this truck, so I’m forced to sit in the front
And ain’t it funny how He’s working in mysterious ways?
Hell, I skipped my share of sermons, so He brought one to this Chevrolet

I ain’t going where the wild things are, I ain’t going to the cigarette store
I ain’t going to the cold beer bar to check in on the Tennessee score
I’m just having me a talk with The Man, sendin’ my old soul on a search
They might judge me on this two-lane road, but little do they know
I’m going to church, I’m going to church, mm, yeah

Didn’t need a revelation out of Romans
An altar call to call me home
Who woulda thought it’d be a Saturday mornin’
When He saved my soul?
When He saved my soul

I ain’t going where the wild things are, I ain’t going to the cigarette store
I ain’t going to the cold beer bar to check in on the Tennessee score
I’m just having me a talk with The Man, sendin’ my old soul on a search
They might judge me on this two-lane road, but little do they know
I’m going to church, I’m going to church, mm

“But to save the world, to save you
To save your soul through Him
Christ Jesus Himself is telling you
That whoever hears His word
And believes in The One who sent Him
Will have eternal life and will not be condemned”

Songwriters: David Garcia, Michael Hardy, Jason Deford. For non-commercial use only.

Church (youtube.com)

That’s a song by Jason DeFord, better known as Jelly Roll. He’s a guy who knows what it’s like to be in a prison, with iron bars, and a prison of addiction, criminality and hopelessness.  He also knows what it’s like to walk free – and more than that, LIVE free. In 2023, he had three number one country hits and has been nominated for two Grammy awards at the age of 39. Prior to that, he was imprisoned at the Metro-Davidson County Detention Facility in Nashville, TN. Jelly Roll spent his teenage years deep in the prison system.  He was in and out of facilities for ten years, starting at age 14 – drug possession, drug dealing, shoplifting, aggravated robbery. “There was a time in my life where I truly thought … this was it. “ The CBS Sunday Morning interviewer asked him about the music he was making the whole time he was living the life that ended up with him in prison.   “So, you sold drugs AND mixtapes? “No, no, no. I’m just giving the mixtapes away!” he said. “I’m just like, ‘Yo, here’s a sack of weed. Here’s a gram of coke. Here’s a mixtape.’ Know what I’m saying? ‘I rap, too!’ It was like my business card. Even my drug dealing, to me, was always a means to music.”

Jelly Roll’s early story is like the story of many others in North American prisons: an addicted mother, a bookie father. The life of drugs and crime was all he ever knew.  What changed everything for him, was discovering while still in prison, that he was a father, to a little girl named Bailee. He decided he was going to be the best father he could possibly be.  That song we just heard “Church”, is about the way his life has been changed.  He began as a rapper, but an acoustic version of one of his songs, in his smooth, soulful Tennessee voice, caught the attention of country fans, and the rest is history.  If you get a chance, listen to the song “Save Me” – and you’ll hear some of his story.

“It shows what God can do, what you can’t,” said Jelly. “It shows how much change can happen in your life.”

Some of us know people who are or have been in prison, and know the struggle to move past the things that put them there in the first place, and to start life over.  Some of us know people who have walked out of the prison of addiction and are trying to live free.  Some of us know folks who are stuck in prisons of grief, or anger, or hate – and they can’t get out on their own. Some of us ARE those people!  We know that it’s not a “once and done” situation – that walking out of the prison doors is really the first step – that it’s living free that is harder.  Paul ended up imprisoned many times over his life time, because he wouldn’t stop telling people about Jesus. Many people stay imprisoned, in part because they haven’t heard or really accepted the strength and renewal that comes with Jesus – or sometimes it’s because others can’t believe in that renewal.  So don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to blame anyone who’s stuck right now – because it TRULY IS HARD!  Learning to live with Jesus, to follow his way and to trust in the chance that we can truly be transformed – that’s a life-time’s journey.  The other part of the story is that we need to believe that others can truly be transformed as well.

Trusting in the possibility of transformation for ourselves or others – that’s what it means to live these resurrection stories of Freedom.  Taking a chance that people truly are living faithfully, doing their best, leaning on the Divine strength, walking in righteousness – whether it is us or someone else – that’s the key to freedom for all of us.

I could preach a whole sermon on how our society makes money out of putting people in prison, not to mention the way we pre-judge and pre-determine who will end up there.  It’s true whether we’re talking penitentiaries or the prisons of poverty, crime, addiction, or homelessness. But that’s for another day.

Today I simply want to invite you to discover the freedom Paul and Silas’ jailer discovered, the freedom Jelly Roll is learning to live out of, the freedom of Jesus walking out of a tomb to a new life – the freedom Paul says “ that is the glory of the children of God”.  Jesus can be your key to unlocking the door to freedom. May it be so. Amen.

 

Quotations from CBS Sunday Morning Rapper-turned-country singer Jelly Roll on his journey from jail to the biggest stages in the world – CBS News  Used for preaching purposes only. ©CBS. All Rights reserved.

 

 

Sermons are primarily meant to be preached, not read, so the content of any sermon may not be exactly as written. If you wish to share these sermons with others in print or on the internet please contact Rev. Heidi for permission.