Jesus Christ Superstar. The elders of the Church weren’t so sure. I mean his hair was too long and he hung out with a bunch of hippies, but then again, they wanted to be relevant to the youth, so they parked their grumbles. Being relevant seems to be a thing in the church, a paranoia that the church is somehow not keeping up with the culture. So kids from the church were cautiously sneaking out and watching the movie Jesus Christ Superstar, that, and singing the songs. The movie came and went with the times. It is a coda in the annals of rock history, but let’s just say it did not remain relevant. Superstar in pop culture is that way, you get your fifteen minutes but not much more.
Superstar might not be a bad moniker if people are giving out handles. It’s not the usual ones I heard in church. There are people, the fancy pray-ers, the ones who like to trot out the superlatives for Jesus when called on to pray. You know, the Mighty Counsellor, the Prince of Peace, the Great Physician and so on. Some people think they will get more travel out of their prayers that way, kind of like you are buttering God up.
But Jesus Christ Superstar - to watch that movie again, is kind of like looking at your high school yearbook photo, the one with the awful 1970’s haircut. It seems that everything in that decade was premised to make the world over in a way that was casually irreverent. I remember even things like house styles, and home furnishings… the slab furniture made from plywood painted orange, the shag rugs and the bean bag chairs. None of them lasted because they were simply ugly. They were bad ideas. The only thing that remains is that the narcissism of that decade was short-sighted and ignorant of its own ignorance.
The music in the movie is catchy, but to see the dance troupes, the overblown bell-bottoms and beads, the afros and such, is truly cringeworthy. It is not much different from watching a scene from Hair the musical. Viewing it again at my age just kind of triggers me because of the utter disrespect, the way those kids just think they know it all. They possess a cheap virtue by way of group, rather than by conduct. The problem was that they painted the world with a wide brush that assumed a lot. They were not looking too hard at the subject matter, and because of that their opinions were shallow and trite, and did not last.
But the lingering problem with the movie has to do with accuracy. The movie was supposed to be about Jesus, but it was a casual and narcissistic visit of the story, which did not seem to take the Gospel accounts seriously. The spin on the plot, portrayed Jesus as a deluded hippie who flirted with stardom. He tried to fly too close to the sun and got burned. And worst of all, they got the ending wrong. Jesus died… and that was that.
My daughter sent me a YouTube the other day of fathers put to the test, having to answer detailed questions about their own kids. Who their best friends were, what their favourite foods were, the names of their teachers, their birthdays. The joke of the YouTube was that the fathers failed miserably, while the mothers sailed through the same questions without skipping a beat. The point is, that if you claim to know someone, but don’t know tiny things about them, you end up looking like a dummy. You should be able to list off a lot of details that will make it obvious. You know, what a person likes in their coffee, their favourite colour, personal idiosyncrasies.
Which brings me to S. M. Lockridge, the pastor of Calgary Baptist Church in San Diego, California. He had a few words for Jesus. They didn’t include Superstar, but his words lasted. You can look them up on YouTube until today. The three minutes are an excerpt from a sermon called “That’s my King.” It is worth repeating because it was spoken extemporaneously, and it is a masterful string of alliteration, cadence and metre. It is offered up as one of the best preserved moments of African-American style preaching. If you are familiar with that genre, when the preacher warms up and hits his stride, the audience can be heard vocally affirming the preaching in the background. As a form, the sermons ends in a really great way - with a celebration about the promises of God. Now that is powerful.
It is worth repeating in full.
My King is a sovereign King. No means of measure can define His limitless love. No far-seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of His shoreless supply. No barrier can hinder Him from pouring out His blessings. He’s enduringly strong. He’s entirely sincere. He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful.
Do you know Him?
He’s the greatest phenomenon that ever crossed the horizon of this world. He’s God’s Son. He’s a sinner’s Saviour.. He’s the centrepiece of civilization. He stands in the solitude of Himself. He’s awesome. He’s unique. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s the loftiest idea in literature. He’s the highest personality in philosophy. He’s the supreme problem in higher criticism. He’s the fundamental doctrine of true theology. He’s the cardinal necessity of spiritual religion. He’s the miracle of the age. He’s the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. He’s the only one qualified to be an all sufficient Saviour.
I wonder if you know Him today?
He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He strengthens and sustains. He guards and He guides. He heals the sick.
He cleanses lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharges debtors. He delivers captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent. And He beautifies the meek.
I wonder if you know Him?
Well, my King is the King. He’s the key to knowledge. He’s the wellspring to wisdom. He’s the doorway of deliverance. He’s the pathway of peace. He’s the roadway of righteousness . He’s the highway of holiness. He’s the gateway of glory
Do you know Him?
Well. His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. And His yoke is easy, and his burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you, but He’s indescribable. He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible. He’s irresistible.
Well, You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hand. You can’t out live Him, And you can’t live without Him. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate couldn’t find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn’t get their testimonies to agree. Herod couldn’t kill Him. Death couldn’t handle Him, And the grave couldn’t hold Him.
Yeah!, that’s my King, that’s my King!
Now put that back to back with Jesus Christ Superstar and judge for yourself. S.M. Lockridge asks over and again, “Do you KNOW HIM?” It is an important question. There are those who claim to know some things about him but get the story horribly wrong, and then there are the ones who when asked, can trot out a three-minute list of superlatives without skipping a beat.
There is a difference between pretending to know, and really knowing. I think the term was, casual irreverence. It will come back to haunt you just like that bad high school yearbook photo.