Lectionary Readings: AM Psalm 97, 98; Proverbs 8:22-30; John 13:20-35
PM: Psalm 145; Isaiah 44:1-8; 1 John 5:1-12
Victor Hugo’s epic novel, Les Miserables first published in 1862 quickly and deservedly became a must-read for any student of literature and life and meaning. In the book’s setting, characters and context, Hugo surfaces and illuminates God’s presence, hand, and will in all; Love, redemption, the consequences of both lying and truth-telling, Grace, Law, suffering, joy, obedience, injustice, journeys, governments, liberties, choices, forgiveness and love above all else. And to contemporary readers who had been moved beyond tears by the novel, Les Miz reached perfect and fever pitch when in the 1990’s a musical interpretation of Hugo’s novel came to the stage.
In my little corner of the world, which at that time included children all under the age of seven years, Les Miz the musical was read, seen, and heard as a Spirit-infused story, weaving deeply and permanently into my young childrens’ open and inviting hearts a beginning knowledge of God. The music so beautiful a young ear couldn’t help but want to listen over and over again thus unwittingly memorizing the lyrics as they would any Raffi song or Mr. Rogers ditty. And with the memorization they were learning about their Abba Father, as in this one,
Les Miz the musical took the information of the novel and transformed it into personal revelation. Watching and listening to Les Miz was transformative. It proclaimed the gospel. It revealed truth. And for my children it was that music, those lyrics, that story which pierced their hearts, and spoke to them – testified to them –
1 John 5:10 Those who believe in the Son of God have the testimony in their hearts.
– in ways personal testimonies they had heard either from me or other believers, had not.
Interestingly, one of those children grew up to be a film and television writer. S/he identifies Les Miz and another mid-nineteenth century novel The Brothers Karamazov, as foundational to their writing. That is, these two stories inform from the beginning how they begin to think about story telling and creating a new one. To them Les Miz and The Brothers provide a framework, if not the big idea, from which they can begin to conjure their story. A starting point. A source. A muse.
Its how I think about story, too, though my foundation, structure, and big idea comes from Scripture. My starting point is His Word.
Both And. The Spirit testifies in both. In works of great fiction, music, art, and explicitly in Scripture. In life experience. In context. Both And.
The Spirit had me thinking about Les Miserables today and its profound impact on my family in small part because of the new feature film that opened on Christmas, of all days. Interesting.
But the specific bunny trail that connected Les Miz with today’s reading was at the intersection of the Gospel and the Epistle. I’m sure many or most read them in the order in which they are listed on the lectionary page – Epistle first, then Gospel. I always read Jesus’ words first before the letters in order to ground the letters in His actual words. And in that sequential reading this morning, three things, along with some music, intersect:
- We are commanded to Love God and Love neighbor. Those are the simple two commandments of Grace.
- Those of us who believe and follow those two commandments are disciples. That’s who we are.
- Grace – Jesus – trumped the law, though to those all around at the time, it was the Law that seemed to have taken Jesus.
And here I thought of Hugo’s two characters – Jean Vealjean and Javert – and the tortured wailing of Javert who sees that the Law will not get the day. And then of the loving ‘criminal’ Valjean who wonders all throughout, Who am I?
John 13: 31 When he had gone out, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man has been glorified, and God has been glorified in him…34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
I John 5: 3 For the love of God is this, that we obey his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome…
Who am I? A disciple, Jean Vealjan. A disciple.