Friday, April 04, 2008

A measley ONE of the Friday Five

This is probably cheating, or disrespectfully not following directions at very least. Still, while it is still Friday, I want to take a shot at the RevGalBlogPals Friday Five - my first!

The question: How has God revealed him/herself to you in a:
1. Book
2.Film
3. Song
4. Another person
5. Creation

Well, I'll take Film for 200, Alex.

On Easter afternoon - after the early morning and the two services which could not have gone better and the fun meal in the Chinese restaurant
(Incidentally, if you're looking to dine out on Easter, but want to miss the church crowd, I recommend some variety of Asian restaurant. I campaigned for Indian, but was outvoted by children.)

Anyway, Easter afternoon, toddler taking a nap, we've pulled on our sweats and done surgery on the newspapers and are beached in front of the TV. And my husband, God bless him, finds Godspell.

I watch about 3 minutes before I am crying.

It's not even a particularly touching 3 minutes - not 'On the Willows' or the crucifixion, not the scene with the ghostly unfinished World Trade Center in the background. It's the Sower and The Seed, with all those strangling weeds. I'm wrecked by this, sitting silent with tears just streaming down my face.

Godspell was tremendous for me when I was a kid. I was an odd combination of freakishly devout child and theatre weirdo. Neither of these went over well in my small rural town. The very idea that there could be a Broadway musical about Jesus - weird hippie clown Jesus! - seemed completely beyond dreaming, made my heart skip a beat. (It still kind of does.) My mother had found me a cast album; I saw the show on its first tour, when I was 12. I got a t-shirt. I wore it so much that, when I lost it at camp, it was mailed to me - no one had to call to see if I had lost mine.

I couldn't trace you a straight line, but I'm pretty sure that Godspell - listening to the songs, seeing the show, seeing the movie a year or so later, wrestling over the years with the whole idea - had something to do with me being, and doing, what I am and do now. I'm pretty sure it was one of the things that nudged my ideas about church and theatre and the overlap, ritual, public ministry, my theology of worship.

And I was crying on Easter because of that.

And because it's not a very good movie.

In fact, it's a pretty bad movie, in nearly every way I can think of. And it can be a really awful play. (That's partly because it's deceptive - both the music and the book seem simple, but require significant chops to present well. Plus it hasn't aged all that well. YES I have seen good productions - recently - but they're noteworthy because, hey, a good production of Godspell! Call the neighbors!)

And so I was crying because here's this thing, this artifact of my adolescence, this souvenir of my inner life, fresh and bright and precisely as I left it back in the 70s. Not dusty.

And I'm crying because, well, it's kind of crap, and what kind of person has this crap as a real milestone in her discipleship? and career development?

And I was crying because: immediately upon asking myself the question, I knew the answer. Everyone does.

In two different ways. In one way, practically everyone I know has something in their past - in their life with God - that they're not proud of. Someplace where God came and met them that they smirk about now - the scary lock-in, the tearful campfire altar call, the crush on some boy or girl that got them into heavy conversations. The dumb superstitious dare they made with God. You would never, as a cool postmodern follower, recommend any of these things...but God used them. So there's that way.

But what I was thinking on Easter was: well, it's all pretty bad, isn't it?

Let's imagine that it wasn't Godspell that had influenced me, but The Messiah. Or some other high-class work of art. Let's say that, at 12, I heard a great rendition of "Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs and Carried Our Sorrows", and God came and met me and it changed my life. Would I be embarrassed about that? No! Of course not! Classical music is dignified! and worthy! and it just shows what a sensitive Anglican soul I had - at 12! I'd tell everyone that! (I'd probably be a choir director today, if that had been the case.)

But I think that's a false, human distinction.
I think God, who hears every scrap of music on earth and is surrounded by singing angels through eternity, is no more impressed with Handel than with Stephen Schwartz. And no more impressed with Bryn Terfel than with Victor Garber, or even Ted Neely. (And why is Jesus always a tenor, by the way?)

The gulf between Godspell (or Superstar) and The Messiah seems very big from where I stand, but I think from God's perspective, they look much closer. Probably indistinguishable.

And the things we count as 'highest' in human artistic achievement are no closer to God's glory than the things we see as 'lowest.' Because, honestly - who is equal to that task?


No closer, but, I hasten to add - no farther away.

3 comments:

SpiritMists said...

This post caught my attention! And remember, Friday 5 is created for the RevGal, not the RevGal for the Friday 5...so I think you played perfectly!

This paragraph "practically everyone I know has something in their past - in their life with God - that they're not proud of. Someplace where God came and met them that they smirk about now - the scary lock-in, the tearful campfire altar call, the crush on some boy or girl that got them into heavy conversations. The dumb superstitious dare they made with God" really caught my eye--and made me squirm--in a good way! And it serves as a good reminder that Easter is remembering the old, celebrating it (even when it's a smirk-worthy experience), and flinging us into the future of the resurrection. It gets all bound up together.

Thanks for your post!

Sally said...

Wow great play, glad you joined in for this one, and I hope there will be many, many more!!!

Stacie said...

I love you so.