Sunday, May 4, 2008

Gospel of Godspell

Our Catholic high school performed the musical Godspell this weekend. Inspired by St. Athanasius, I threw a homily grenade into the mix during our Friday school Mass. "Don't rely on Godspell for your gospel!" So after the play, I hung around the students as they struck the set to show my solidarity. A few of them and the director, wanted to know my thoughts.

The execution of the play was wonderful. The students surprised me with some hidden vocal talent that we need to harness for the parish! Very well done. Staff and students made it their own and as Catholic as they could, but I still have a couple fundamental points that struck me.

Before hand, it is important to note that this musical is really a moral interpretation of the Gospel of Matthew. It is reacting against the historical critical movement and its disarmament of the Gospel challenge. In that sense, it condenses the Gospel to the Beatitudes and parables. So two main flaws were evident in the songs and script and both were omissions.
  1. The identity of Jesus as Emmanuel
  2. The establishment of the Church
Jesus' identity as Emmanuel is core to the Gospel according to St. Matthew. The genealogy beginning the Gospel points to the history of God's action with Israel. Jesus is the fulfillment of God's saving action. Notice how in today's Gospel for the Ascension, Matthew concludes with the notion of Emmanuel- God is with us. The genealogy and Joseph's dream herald the promise of Emmanuel. Godspell portrays a Jesus who comes as teacher and sacrificial lamb yet misses the boldest claim of all- God is with us. God does not abandon us in sin and suffering but makes an unexpected move and enters into our very existence to sanctify and elevate us to himself.

The absence of any mention of the Church was also glaring. When Matthew is stripped of the Church, it seems bare and harsh and even antisemitic. While Godspell includes Jesus' many and correct critiques of the faith in his day, they do not include his reestablishment of the Jewish faith around his own person. Jesus' critiques are scathing but they are not antisemitic, they are directed to recreating Israel around himself- that is why he names twelve apostles to imitate the twelve tribes.

The first song of Jesus in the play proclaim an individual salvation, omitting the idea that Jesus was recreating the Kingdom of Israel around himself and his life of grace. "Lord save your people, not thrones and crowns, but men!" The Gospel needs the Church. Without the Church, without those men Jesus commissioned at the Ascension, without those men and women who proclaimed him throughout the world there is no Gospel. Further, the Church is needed as Jesus' own voice, to teach the true understanding of him in the face of many conflicting and confusing visions of Jesus.
When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."
Matthew 16:13-19

If any of you read this, you did a great job!


ElderChild said...

What is the name of The Messiah?

Is it a Greek or a Hebrew name?

Should not a disciple of The Messiah know The Messiah's
GOD given birth name, and it's pronunciation, as given by
the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:31), when he prophesied to
Miriam (Mary)?

Or when The Messiah spoke His name from heaven to Paul
on the road to Damascus, what name did He use, since Paul
said that he heard an utterance from His mouth? "And when
we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice SAYING to me
in the HEBREW dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting
Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' And I said,
'Who are You, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am ??????? Whom
you are persecuting'" (Acts 22:14; 26:14-15). Surely the apostle
Paul was not puzzled over language when told "Arise, and be
baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on The Messiah's
Name" (Acts 22:16).

What then was the utterance from the mouth of The Messiah
that proclaimed His Name, since it is very clear that HE SPOKE
IN HEBREW? Many names are promoted these days besides
the "christian" name of "jesus": Y'Shua, Yeshua, Yahshua,
Joshua, Yehoshua and in the Hebrew Yehowshuwa'.

Shouldn't we be able to know His Name?

"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other
Name under heaven given among men, by which we must be
saved" (Acts 4:12). Should not a man, especially The Son of
GOD and Son of man, be called by the same Name all over
the world?

.......Who is "Iesous"?.......

Hundreds of times in the New Testament the Greek name
Iesous is translated as "Jesus". But if you have ever read an
older King James Bible you might have noticed something
odd in Acts 7:45. In his speech to the Jewish council,
Stephen refers to the man who led Israel into the earthly
Promised Land as "Jesus", not Joshua! Is this an error?

Well, yes and no, since the Greek name in verse 45 is Iesous,
the same word translated as "Jesus" everywhere else. However,
Stephen could not possibly have been referring to anyone else
but the leader Joshua who took over after Moses and led the
israelites into the earthly promised land. And immediately
afterwards, in verse 59, Stephen cried out when being stoned,
"Lord ???????, receive my spirit!" Again the name is Iesous in
the Greek. Was Stephen crying out to the historical figure
Joshua, long dead, to save him, or was he calling upon the
Son of GOD, since both names in the Greek are Iesous?

So what does Iesous mean, Jesus or Joshua? Was Stephen,
a man so righteous that heaven opened up at his martyrdom,
was he so overcome by the stress of the moment that he
couldn't tell a long-dead forefather from The Messiah whom
he saw standing at the right hand of GOD?

.......Jesus or Joshua?.......

Modern translations of the Scriptures, and even recent revisions
of the King James version, have noticed this contradiction and
changed the name in Acts 7:45 to Joshua so that it makes sense.
(The same problem is found in Hebrews 4:8 also.) But where did
these translators get their authority to change the Scriptures?

Is it through integrity and honesty that Iesous is translated "Jesus",
except when it obviously has to mean Joshua? Or are the traditions
of men so strong that translators can take liberties with the Word
of GOD?

At least the translators of the original King James Version were
consistent enough to translate Iesous as Jesus in Acts 7:45
and Hebrews 4:8 even when it made no sense.

So if the new translations change Jesus to Joshua in Acts 7:45
and Hebrews 4:8, why didn't they also change Jesus to Joshua
in all the other Scriptures where they found the name Iesous?

In Acts 7:45 the name Iesous is obviously Joshua, and could
not possibly refer to anyone else. Isn't the name Iesous really
Joshua everywhere it is found?

Isn't His name really Joshua instead of Jesus? If it would be
tampering with the Scriptures to change Jesus the Savior's
name back to Joshua, would it not also be tampering with the
Scriptures to change Jesus back to Joshua in Acts 7 and
Hebrews 4? It's all the same Greek word - Iesous!

We want to know GOD's mind about these things, because
it doesn't make sense that the translators would change the
Holy Scriptures in one place and not the other.

Not wishing to disturb tradition, do they hang on to the name
Jesus for the sake of selling bibles? For certain, one thing is
true. Miriam and Yoseph (Mary and Joseph in English) named
the child just as the angel commanded them. Did the angel
speak to them in Hebrew or did the angel speak Greek?

Everything would be more understandable if he had spoken
Greek to them. Then could be that Jesus would have come
out of his mouth and we today pronounce The Messiah's
name exactly as the angel did. Except that there never has
been a "J" sound in Greek ... or Hebrew ... or even English
until the 1500's.

So what is the answer? Why should there be confusion
concerning the Name by which all men could be saved?

Did not GOD reveal to HIS followers the name HE gave
and which was the given name above all given names to
whom every knee shall bow and every tongue confess?

Will all GOD's people gather around HIS throne someday
and mumble but distorted sounds as if we were gathered
around the tower of Babel? Are we not speaking of the
GOD who longs to speak to the human heart, to save all
men who call upon the name of ??????? ..

?what name?

.......What The Messiah's Name Means.......

Does the name of the Son of GOD have any meaning other
than as a label? It certainly did to Yoseph: "And you will
name Him ???????, because He will save His people from
their sins" (Matthew 1:21, New Century Version).

If His Name is "Jesus", this Scripture makes no sense, since
obviously the Name of The Messiah means that He will save
His people from their sins.

But do you know what the name Jesus literally means?

No, you don't, and neither does anyone else, because it has no
meaning as a word in any language. It is, at best, a mere tag.

We might take a mere tag somewhat lightly, but not the Jews.
When Yoseph and Miriam brought the child to the Temple in
Jerusalem to dedicate Him, they dared not even utter such a
name as Iesous(jesus). The Jewish priests jealously guarded
the holiness of the Temple, and considered Greek to be a
loathsome language.

If Yoseph and Miriam had dedicated their child in a Greek name
it would have been viewed as an abomination, and they would
have been roughly ejected from the Temple! Obviously, this did
not happen, and they performed everything according to the Law
(Luke 2:21-39).

But if the Greek Iesous really is Joshua in Hebrew, the language
that Yoseph, Miriam, and every other Jew spoke including the
Savior Himself, then the angel's proclamation makes total sense.

Hebrew names in the Bible are always meaningful, and so were
all names until recently, and the name Joshua is even more than
that. The name Joshua is prophetic.

In John 17:11 our Master prayed, "Holy Father, keep them in YOUR
Name, the Name which YOU have given Me, that they may be one,
even as we are." Since according to the words of the Savior, The
Father's Name is in His Name, it will help to know the Father's

Fortunately this is pretty easy, because the Old Testament was only
written in Hebrew and a number of verses are very clear in proclaim-
ing The Father's name, such as, "Sing to GOD ... whose name is
YAH" (Psalm 68:4). Also the Scriptures are full of the expression
Hallelujah, a phrase very familiar to Christians, but do you know what
it means in Hebrew?

It is actually Hallelu YAH, a command meaning, "Give praise to YAH."

None of this is secret stuff, for it is found in the marginal readings of
many bibles today; for example, look at Psalms 116:19 in the New
American Standard Bible.

So how do you say the Savior's name in His language? Well, it would
be Joshua, except that the letter "J" in English was originally a "Y"
sound. So His name, which has His Father's name in it, is Yahshua.
And it has such a wonderful meaning that both Yoseph and Miriam
marveled over it, because they knew full well what that name meant
in their native Hebrew language.

It means YAH (translated "I Am", Exodus 3:14) Shua ("mighty and
powerful to save"). So when the angel told this name to them, they
were astounded, for His name was a declaration from The GOD of
Heaven to mankind that there would be born a man who would be
"mighty and powerful to save".

"And you shall call His name Yahshua, for it is He who will save His
people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).

Now that scripture makes total sense.

.......The Weight of Tradition.......

But does it really matter to GOD what name we call The Messiah?

It certainly was important enough for the Savior to cry out during the
last hours before He was betrayed, "Holy Father, keep them in Your
NAME, the Name which YOU have given Me" (John 17:11).

And as stated before, it was clear to the Jews what that name was
and how to pronounce it. HalleluYAH is a universal expression, and
YAH is the universal name of GOD. Yet so great is the weight of
tradition that men have been blindly clinging to a name that has no
meaning and makes the Scriptures mentioned have no meaning,

Can anyone possibly maintain that The NAME of The Father is
somehow incorporated into the name Jesus, or that the name
Jesus means that "He will save His people from their sins"?

Those with "eyes to see", can see that The Messiah's GOD
given Name at birth was Yahshua, and if you prefer the modern
day English transliteration of The Messiah's GOD given birth
Name, then that would be Joshua, in Spirit and Truth.......

The vain "imag"inations of the "catholic" and "christian" systems
of religion have caused "The Way of Truth to be evil spoken of",
so why continue to use their "imag"ined name for "The Son of
Living GOD"?

As for me, my preference is to call The Messiah, Immanuel, for as
the apostle Paul testified, "GOD was in The Messiah", Paul did
not testify that "god was the messiah".

Immanuel! (GOD with us) in The Messiah in Spirit and Truth.......

And while there is breath(Spirit) there is hope!

For Miracles do happen!

Hope is there would be those who experience The Miracle that is
receiving "a love of The Truth".......

Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(no-peace) that is of this wicked world.......

Adoro te Devote said...


I have not seen the play, whether there or anywhere else, so I can't comment.

However, with regard to harnessing talent...DO!

When I was in elementary school, I played flute at Christmas...and the next year...and the next...and that led me into a greater role throughout the year. And in Jr. High, we had a youth choir that fizzled, which led me into the adult choir, into playing flute with the adult choir and the cantors, and in high school, into a role as a cantor and flutist. All by invitation and natural progression.

While I can't say I was exactly "converted" at the time, I can tell you right now that I would not be the person I am (however flawed) without the action and invitation of those in my life at that time. And my constant presence in Jesus' own presence in the Church.

Even if those kids don't "get it", get them into the presence of Christ in any way you can. I'm absolutely convinced that no matter what we do or say, nothing can come close to getting them and their parents into the presnce of Christ. If we do nothing but focus on that, we'll do more in only an hour than we can accomplish in a year of classroom regurgitation. Words are words...check the above comment for that. The presence of