Ponderings for May 2011

Easter Lilies

Pre-e-e-pare ye the way of the Lord!

Is there a soundtrack to your faith journey? You know: the songs, hymns, and other sacred music that have some special place in your spiritual quest? No doubt, even if you’ve not thought of them as a soundtrack to your faith journey, you have a favorite hymn or two that gets stuck in your head from time to time. “Amazing Grace,” “Rock of Ages,” and “I sing a song of the saints of God” are favorites for many people. I know you can name one or two yourself.

I actually have a whole musical soundtrack that provides a profound accompaniment to my spiritual journey. The congregation I serve is performing it early this month: Godspell.

Now this may sound a bit crazy, after all I’m pretty much a traditional Episcopalian who grew up with a love for The Hymnal 1940 and for the sacred music of Haydn and Mozart [and I have a special place in my heart for Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem] but there is something about the music in Godspell that speaks so deeply to me. I suppose one of the reasons is because the music is so joyful [most of it, anyway] and I cannot help but to sing along. I was a teenager when the musical came out in the early 70s and I was a bit of a church geek. I remember one youth convention in Dallas back then and a lot of the songs we sang were from the musical: “Day by day,” “Prepare ye the way of the Lord,” “Long live God.” Being with a bunch of teens who were “into” God was very powerful. And seeing a bunch of priests not wearing the standard-issue black suit was a novelty for me. It almost made being a church geek kind of cool!

This was such a formative time in my spiritual development and the story and music of Godspell articulated for me what it meant to be Christian. It helped me to understand that being a follower of Jesus was something one did in one’s daily life. Faith wasn’t relegated to Sundays or when family was around. It was something to be lived in the ordinariness of the daily grind—which for a teenager meant at school and around friends.

Godspell didn’t establish my faith. That came from my participation in the faith community and through word and sacrament. But it did help me to understand what the joy of the Lord was all about. Growing up in the Bible Belt of  Texas and Arkansas, religion meant subscribing to a set of rules and regulations closely monitored by the church one attended. Memorizing bible passages and the Ten Commandments was normal fare. Understanding what they meant? Well, that was something else entirely. I didn’t see much joy in this at all. Godspell is about not only hearing the Word but taking it into your life, letting it transform you into a joyful disciple. Throughout the musical this can be seen in the playfulness of the cast and the ways in which they interact with one another. Talk about dancing in Christ!

I think too much of Christian faith is burdened by a sense of dread. People are taught to fear God, fear punishment, fear the world even. Heaven becomes a place “out there somewhere” as a goal to strive for or some Grand Prize awarded to only the hardiest of believers. But if Jesus taught that the kingdom of heaven is right here, shouldn’t we live as if it were so? For me, Godspell seeks to teach us just that.

Thanks be to God!

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