Several people from Farmville had major roles in presenting the musical “Godspell” at the Magnolia Arts Center in Greenville recently. The outstanding production reminded me of when my mother took my brothers and me to see the “hippie dippie” (her term) musical in Annapolis in the early 70’s. We kids loved the music so much that we got the album. “Day by Day” was actually #13 on the Billboard pop singles chart in the summer of 1972. The simple words were catchy. “Day by day. Oh, dear Lord, three things I pray. To see the more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly. Day by day.”
Like these lyrics the message of “Godspell” is a good reminder to get back to the basics. The play is mostly based on the gospel of Matthew and focuses on the teachings of Jesus. The word “gospel” is actually derived from the old Anglo-Saxon word “godspell” which means “good story” or “good news.”
The musical begins with John the Baptist singing “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” Jesus is baptized by John and goes on to teach a small group of followers through the Sermon on the Mount. “You are the salt of the earth.” (Matt. 5:13) “You are the light of the world.” (Matt. 5:14) “If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” (Matt. 5:23-24) ”If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matt. 5:39) “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (Matt. 6:25) “You cannot serve both God and Money.” (Matt. 6:24) “How can you say to your brother ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:4-5)
To the woman caught in adultery Jesus says, “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11) Throughout the play the love and care demonstrated by Jesus is striking. He warns about the dangers of materialism or making a show of religion. He also uses parables (The Sower of the Seeds, The Prodigal Son, The Persistent Widow, The Rich Man and Lazarus) to make key points. The play ends with the last supper, betrayal, death and resurrection of Jesus. With the singing and clapping in the finale the audience is invited to prepare the way of the Lord. Surely we can do this best with a focus on the life, teachings and love of Christ.