The first two musicals I ever saw were Jesus Christ, Superstar and Joseph. Jesus Christ Superstar had just come out at the Palace Theatre (with Elaine Paige in the Chorus!) and was my first glimpse of a West End stage. About the same time my secondary school put on a production of Joseph. All of this came to mind this morning, as I reflected on the lectionary reading from Genesis - the proper Joseph story. I was left pondering how much of my gut understanding was linked to two musicals, rather than the proper text, and did that really matter?
I am sure today, thirty years later, that a good many people (probably a few generations) only know the Joseph story through the Musical. In fact, for many it is probably the best (or only) Old Testament (or Biblical) story they know. Now that can't be bad, can it? It's a story of truth and honesty overcoming deceit and envy, of an innocent victim come good in the end. A bit like Jesus Christ Superstar ! Whilst Joseph has only helped me to remember the names of the tribes of Israel, JCS in its music touched something deeper - there is a bit of depth in the emotional response of all the characters to the figure of Christ himself.
Whilst lyrics can often embellish the truth, and much of the text is left out because it doesn't have public appeal (Could you imagine a musical on Jeremiah for example!), we cannot ignore the power of music and words. Practising the Presence of God causes us to do theology in the wider context of life. In my experience it's all about discovering God in the lyric explicitly or implicitly; discovering and reflecting upon new truth in the Biblical text; and experiencing themes like redemption, resurrection and sanctification in things we see (here Billy Eliot, Blood Brothers, Les Miserables all come to mind). So today, trying to find the truth in the 'cheese', let's reflect on some lyrics:
Joseph wanted to resist her, till one day she proved too eager
Joseph cried in vain 'Please stop I don't believe in free love'
Potiphar was counting sheckels, in his den below the bedroom
When he heard a mighty rumpus, clattering above him
Suddenly he knew his riches
Couldn't buy him what he wanted
Gold would never make him happy
If she didn't love him
Look at all my trials and tribulations
Sinking in a gentle pool of wine
What's that in the bread it's gone to my head
Till this morning is this evening life is fine.
Always hoped that I'd be an apostle
Knew that I would make it if I tried
Then when we retire we can write the gospels
So they'll all talk about us when we've died.
I only ask things I'd ask any superstar
What is it that you have got that puts you where you are?
I am waiting, yes, I'm a captive fan
I am dying to be shown that you are not just any man.