Starstruck

I should be in bed.

I really should be in bed. It’s after midnight and Mass is at 8 a.m. If I don’t get some sleep, my mind won’t be functioning tomorrow, but I am on a theater high again.

I couldn’t resist. I went to GODSPELL at the Black Hills Playhouse again. What incredibly talented young people!

They brought the gospels to life. They interpretted the songs, words and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, in a way that allowed those sitting in the audience to encounter Jesus. I know that sounds cliche, especially to those familiar with evangelical Christianity, but it is true nonetheless.

We live in a nation that has forgotten fundamental Christian values. We have forgotten that Jesus made it clear while he walked on this earth that one measure will be used at the Last Judgment — how we care for those in need (Matt. 25:31-46). Currently, there’s an offensive post making its rounds on Facebook comparing those receiving food stamps with wild animals. Jesus of the gospels would undoubtedly give that a thumbs down, but I strongly suspect many who consider themselves Christians find it clever.

We have forgotten that  Jesus instructed his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them (Matt. 5:44). “If you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?” Jesus asked in Matthew’s gospel. “Do not tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?” (Matt. 5:46-47).

Instead of turning the other cheek, as Jesus taught (Matt. 5:38-39), and being a moral example to the world, when terrorists successfully attacked the United States, we went to war. We invaded a country under false pretenses as well as embarked upon military action in another which was believed to harbor terrorists. The number of lives lost as a result of this decision far exceeds the number of lives lost as a result of the terrorist attack, but that’s just a small portion of the price our country has paid as a result of failing to be guided by Christian values at that pivotal point in history.

We have forgotten that making the accumulation of wealth a priority in this life is short-sighted. In more than one place, Jesus talks about the danger of this. In the Sermon on the Mount, he bluntly stated, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth … but store up treasures in heaven … for where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Matt. 6:16-18).

In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man was told when he found himself tormented in the netherworld (Luke 16:22-23), “you received what was good during your lifetime” (16:25). I’d venture to guess that part of his torment was realizing his priorities had been terribly out of whack, that he could have changed the outcome had he used the gifts God gave him to manage finances to benefit those most in need. But in our country, we glorify the wealthy, even those who prey on the poor, allowing them to stick their names on buildings, and,  indirectly through financially supporting  political candidates, to shape our nation to further benefit them even though it places our nation at risk.

In watching GODSPELL, in following the narrative line which cleverly brings the gospels to life, and in listening to the music, we are reminded that Jesus calls us to go beyond professing to believe in him. We are called not only to believe he died for our sins, but to  live in a way which reflects  what he taught. Anything else falls short.

If we don’t live in love — a love that reflects into this world God’s great love for us — we’ve missed the point entirely. But, when we strive to truly live the gospels, we discover the kind of intimacy with Jesus that we see between him and his followers in GODSPELL.

What a blessing! Thanks to all the awesome young people who reminded me of this by using the gifts God gave them in the Black Hills Playhouse production!

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