This past weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing Songs for a New World, as done by the Uptown Players. It is described as “neither a musical play nor revue, it is closer to a theatrical song cycle, a very theatrical song cycle.” (Thanks, Wikipedia!) The performers are listed under their actual names, but the songs all collide and depart from one another in plot cycles, all about the moment of decision. I knew of the show because of my friend Douglass Anne, and thanks to Barry, Bill, Will, and all the other theater folks, I was encouraged to go see it. It did not disappoint.
One of the songs is called “King of the World,” which tells the story of an imprisoned leader. (“Once upon a time I had fate in my hands / and the confidence of a million regimes. / And they said, “Brother, you’re in charge / We’ll follow anything you say.”) As I had heard it in recordings, I imagined the imprisoned leader was a charismatic rebel like Che Guevara, or a fierce freedom fighter like Sitting Bull. As the vocalist sang on Sunday afternoon, images of totalitarians, megalomaniacs, cult leaders and dictators were projected behind him—Stalin, Kim Jong Il, David Koresh, Jim Jones, etc. Though this threw me for a loop, the song was interpreted fairly—it was just something I had not seen before. And it makes me now think harder whenever “King of the World” comes up on a playlist.
We are human beings with brains, which is rather fortunate almost all the time. And part of the burden (and part of the joy) of having human brains is we must interpret, faithfully, what is around us, and do so in conjunction with others, with history, and with the hopes for the future. I am reminded of this as I look through the texts from Luke we’ll be using the next few weeks in worship, and at the passages from Leviticus—I assure you, The Good Samaritan, the Prodigal Son, and the call to the Year of Jubilee all will again make us think, make us prioritize, make us reconsider, and hopefully, make us disciple more fully to the good news in Jesus Christ.
As I said in worship this Sunday, I will not be with you this coming week, but instead, I will be in Orlando at the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Walter Norris, friend to all the world, will be filling the pulpit, and I hope you will support and listen to him. I know I’ll be listening to the podcast when I can.