Matthew 18:21-35; 25:31-46; 26:17-30

This concept of Follow Me on which I have previously written continues to reverberate in my mind and to dwell in my soul.  This week I had a flashback to the 70’s of my youth when the strains of Day by Day began playing soulfully in my head.

The key phrase in the chorus goes like this:

May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

I’m going to explore those concepts here in a minute, but first a little background on the musical from which it arose – Godspell. Curiosity got the best of me so I did a little research on GodspellGodspell is a telling of the parables of Jesus in musical form, most consider it to be based on Matthew’s Gospel.  It first saw the light of day in 1970 on a college campus (Carnegie Mellon), which in hindsight seems appropriate as it became a staple among college musical productions. It debuted on Broadway in 1971 and has spawned national touring troupes over the ensuing decades.

Now, I will admit that it didn’t overwhelm me at the time.  Jesus Christ Superstar was more my speed and oh how that one gripped me, but I digress.  These two did, however, share much in common in that the mainstream viewed them both as sacrilegious, irreverent, right on into blasphemous.

The Broadway production, as well as most others, cast Jesus and his followers as hippies, dressed in hippie garb, tie-dyed and all.  The choreography and feel resembled Hair in many ways, which was not helpful in winning over the mainstream in that Hair was the most controversial play of the time.  Whether that was more a function of the hippie theme or of Hair being the first Broadway production to feature full frontal nudity, I leave to you to decide.

How far have we come in 40 years, you might ask?  This highly controversial, community-dividing play (Godspell, not Hair) is now considered mainstream, family fare.  As evidence, I offer the following.  A few years ago when my daughter was doing her student teaching at a local high school (deaf education, but hey I’m not proud of her – oh yes I am!), she called me up and asked, “Daddy, will you go to a play with me?”  Now, I ask you what father can resist a plea that starts with “Daddy” and includes a request for a date?  Especially from a 22 year-old.  The play was Godspell and it was being performed by the theatrical troupe at the high school where she was teaching – a public high school no less. What a pleasure to revisit it in her company!

Back to our song, Day by Day.  The song is introduced immediately following Jesus’ parable about the servant who has his large debt forgiven by his master only to turn around and have a fellow servant sent to prison over a small debt due him (Matthew 18:31-35 above).  The message and contrasts are obvious. Seek a closer relationship with Christ rather than seeking what is owed you. Follow Christ’s example, not the servant’s.

Day by Day pops up again later in the play strategically sandwiched between Jesus’ parable of the separating of the sheep and the goats (when you did it to the least of these) and the Last Supper – as found in the last two scripture references above.  Quite a fitting place for it if you were to ask me!

Know Thee more clearly.  As I wrote before, to follow someone you must know them.  The more intimately you know them, the more effective you will be in your following.  This is what drives what my insatiable desire to know more about God/Jesus/Holy Spirit.  The more I learn, the more eager I am to dig deeper.  It is the driving force behind this blog.  I crave more in-depth, intimate knowledge and as it bubbles up I must, irresistibly must, share it with others. Thank you so much for letting me share it with you.

Love Thee more dearly.  Once you begin to develop your relationship, His love overpowers you. Similar to human love, once you are in love it is infectious.  You want more, craving more and more of it.  It becomes a driving force in your life.  You covet receiving it, you want to return it to the one who showered it on you and it begins to spill out of your being onto others around you.  At some point, you become intentional in seeking it and sharing it and then it takes over your life.  Oh joy divine!

Follow Thee more nearly.  That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?  Isn’t that Jesus’ call?  Isn’t it at the heart of God’s desire?  I will tell you it is the path to the life more abundant that Jesus promises us.

Day by Day – it’s a catchy little tune.  Once you get it in your head, it tends to play over and over.  Once you get the concept in your heart, you begin to fulfill the role you were designed to play.  Once you get it in your soul, it drives everything you are and do – you will be a blessing. And it is indeed a day by day thing.  Please know this, no matter how attentive you are, no matter how much you grow in each of these three ways, there is always more to accomplish.

Really, really simple –

May I know Thee more clearly,
Love Thee more dearly,
Follow Thee more nearly.

Knowing, loving, following – day by day,

Robert

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