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Music To Our Ears

Anyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and anyone who humbles himself will be exalted
Malachi 1:14-2:2,8-10; Psalm 131:1-3; I Thessalonians 2:7-9,13; Matthew 23:1-12

Sermon Week Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Scripture Summary Matthew 23:12

Some of you are old enough to remember the late, great vocalist Ella Fitzgerald. Known to millions as "The First Lady of Song," Fitzgerald was admired for her incredible vocal range and purity of tone. In 1958, she became the first African-American woman to win a Grammy Award, and during her stellar career, Fitzgerald sold more than 40 million records, earning her a total of 13 Grammys.

But her early life was far from stellar. Growing up poor, young Ella's hardships began when her parents separated, shortly after her birth. When her mother died, Ella went to live with her aunt, and after getting into trouble, Ella was enrolled in a reform school. By age 17, she had left school, and was living a hard life on the mean streets of New York City. But she had dreams -- dreams of becoming an entertainer. So one day she got up the courage to enter an amateur talent contest at Harlem's famed Apollo Theater. The teenager sang just two songs, but that was more than enough to wow the audience. She easily won the $25 first prize -- and on that day, a star was born.

Surprisingly, Ella's most celebrated performance came during a 1960 concert in Berlin. While singing the hit song, "Mack the Knife," she forgot the lyrics. Can you imagine one of the biggest stars of her day forgetting the words to the song? But instead of shrinking with embarrassment, she made up her own words, and without missing a beat, delivered the most talked about performance of her career -- earning her a Grammy Award for Best Female Vocal Performance.

An "artist of the people," Ella Fitzgerald appealed to listeners of every age, nationality and socio-economic background. She was part of an exclusive club of American masters -- respected and revered by her fellow artists. Reflecting on her remarkable achievements, the composer Richard Rodgers once said, "Whatever she does to my songs, she always makes them sound better." From humble beginnings to becoming one of the most exalted performers of her generation, Ella Fitzgerald truly was an inspiration [...]

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