Upon hearing the opening strains of “Jesus Christ Superstar” the other day, I realized my theology, my very understanding, of Jesus began here. My parents took us to this movie when it premiered in 1973 – at least that is when it made it to Hastings, NE, anyway. I believe they knew what a groundswell this rock opera would bring. I think their vision about the truly important and formative for us kids remained (remains to this day) at the forefront of their thinking.
Many images from the film float through my consciousness to this day; from the VW van that the cast drove into the desert with, unloading to begin the movie; the high priests rattling the scaffolding that represented the Temple during the song, “He’s Dangerous”; the lepers desperation to be touched and touch Jesus as he walked through their colony.
Most of this music turned into the subconscious loam that fertilizes my spirit.
Not under my control, and by that I mean, I didn’t mean to make that part of my spirituality. It simply became part of what makes sense to me about the world. And perhaps that is the very definition of “not my will, but thine”. Probably not, if I were to ask a theologian to help me parse this through, but I take comfort in God’s hand on my life anyway.
The edgy electric guitar and rock feel of the Overture and the opening number or two set this music apart from what I was used to hearing. I remember listening to lots of classical music – orchestral and choral, some John Denver, some Neil Diamond. Handel’s “Messiah” – another of the single most definitive and formative musical pieces of my spiritual bedrock. I don’t remember listening to any other “rock” than this ‘rock opera’ from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice.
I understand the vanity of the apostles – “so we’ll all be remembered when we are gone.” I understand the frustration of Jesus – “tried for 3 years, it seems like 30” (and, later, “it seems like 90”). I understand the devotion AND the adoration of Mary Magdalene – “I don’t know how to love him”, and “I love Him so”. Her heartbroken lament – “could we start again, please” along with Simon Peter’s “I think we get the point now”, dragged me to the foot of the cross, bereft along with them.
“I don’t want this cup of poison” is how Jesus starts his time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, until he finally yields to God. His dearest friend, Judas – “must you betray me with a kiss?”. How few of us have NOT felt that betrayal by someone dear to us? And that is GOOD, because Jesus modeled a response to that way before we had to go through it.
One of the very few things I am good at spiritually is that I continually have to start over. Apologize, repent, explain, retreat; but always start again at the feet of Jesus. Renewing my faith in humanity (especially today in our challenging world!!) is always easier with this ‘soundtrack’ running through my audio port.
We, in Wichita, are truly lucky, fortunate, blessed, to have the opportunity to see this live on stage – Music Theatre Wichita told this story in a way that surely rivals any production in any famous district anywhere in the world. Thank you to the many at MTW who put their hearts and effort into the production.
“Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast” – William Congreve, 17th Century playwright.
If only I can continually play music through my soul, “everything’s all right, yes, everything’s fine.”