John the Baptist calls us to prepare the way for Jesus. Join us this Sunday for an abbreviated version of “Godspell” performed by our children and youth choirs!
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
A PDF of the sermon as distributed at Calvary is available for download and printing.
Startle us O God with your word. Silence in us any voice but your own.
And may the words of my mouth, the meditation of all of our hearts,
and the singing of our children and youth be pleasing in your sight, O Lord,
our rock and redeemer. Amen
For over 2000 years, people have been trying to tell the story of Jesus – the birth, life, death, and resurrection of One who embodied love, who challenged the powerful and systems of oppression, who practiced radical peace, and broke bread with sinners and those who were the most despised of society.
This story has not only transformed lives; it has brought new life to people and places that only knew death. It continues to inspire, challenge, and change us to this very day.
The first recorded writings about Jesus come from the apostle Paul through his letters to the churches. Later, the Gospels as we know them: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were written and passed down. And throughout time, people have told and retold this story in new and different ways. C.S. Lewis used allegory in The Chronicles of Narnia; Handel used music in his now-famous masterpiece Messiah; VeggieTales uses cartoon vegetables and silly songs; movies about Jesus use cinematography and actors.
Again and again, people have tried to tell the story of Jesus so that we might hear it again anew; so that it might resonate with someone, anyone, in a different kind of way; so that the power and reach of unconditional love might find its way to those who feel unlovable.
The musical Godspell first came out in May of 1971. None of our young people who are performing this morning were born at that time, even I wasn’t born at that time. But it was a new way of telling the story of Jesus that resonated with those who first experienced it. It was unapologetically religious and unapologetically relevant.
It’s called Godspell because that is the old Anglo-Saxon way of saying Gospel which basically just means, “Good news” or “Good story.” And this musical is based on the Gospel of Matthew, using the story and particularly the parables of Jesus.
One of its most well-known songs, “Prepare Ye the Way” are words spoken by John the Baptist, using the words of the prophet Isaiah. What is our faith if not just preparing the Way for Jesus? In all the many aspects of our lives, if we are not preparing the way, what are we doing?
I love that our children and youth will lead in this special production this morning. It’s Giving Season at Calvary, by the way, and your giving makes experiences like these possible. It is such a unique and special opportunity for our children & youth to be a part of something like this. So thank you to all who have pledged and contributed, and please know it is not too late to still do so.
Now, when Godspell first debuted, much like today, church attendance around the country was at an all-time low, and an article from The New York Times shares a bit about the importance of such a musical. Mark Oppenheimer writes:
“Young people wanted to leave the church, but not all of them wanted to abandon Christianity. Many wanted to return to a more primitive expression of their faith, and they reimagined Jesus as an accessible hippie, a cool friend rather than an object of veneration… it was quite subversive, or so they hoped …” and “The musical’s challenge to polite Christian society was not lost on the establishment.”
This morning, our children and youth, led by Kelly Crandell and a whole slew of parents and staff and volunteers, will share with us an adapted version of this musical.
May we, through them, once again, hear this story of Jesus and his parables
in a new way, may we experience the good news deep within us, so that we are transformed to go forth and transform the world.
Good people of Calvary, may we present to you, Godspell!
 Oppenheimer, Mark. “Welcome to the Church of ‘Godspell.’” The New York Times, 2011. https://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/theater/broadway-revival-of-godspell.html