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02 March 2012

Searching for Jesus

Searching for Jesus

A new talent search is looking for a star to play the lead role of Jesus in the rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar.The winner will take centre stage in a new arena tour, performing to crowds of tens of thousands. Andrew Lloyd Webber's search began this month and will soon be played out on ITV where the winner will be decided by a public vote.

I saw the film Jesus Christ Superstar as a teenager. Growing up in a non-Christian family and going through secular education, it was the first time I heard the gospel. I loved the film, bought the record, and sang the songs. But I didn't understand the story. Why did someone have to die? So, I started a conversation with a Christian classmate. I asked for tapes of the Sunday preaching and bought a Bible. For a year, I would listen in my bedroom to the weekly preach, write it out and look it up. A world was opening up. After a year I stepped into a church for the first time and told the pastor I needed to be baptised.

While 'the world' flocked to see JC Superstar, the church in my country was tying itself into a knot. The storyline wasn't biblical. The depiction of Jesus wasn't theologically correct. Furthermore, our good Lord didn't like rock music, hippies or the cinema. All the while, the church was carelessly forgetting that Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice hadn't written an exegesis but a creative interpretation of the account. It's called 'art'.

This week saw the launch a European taskforce Team Culture 2012. Twelve creative thinkers and thinking creators will draft a manifesto on the role of art and culture in a time of crisis, aiming to encourage society to learn from the artists and creative innovators. I suggest we include the church in the learning exercise.

The writer and social anthropologist Melba Padilla Maggay rightly asserts that "artists, writers, journalists, social scientists and others with similar gifts for analysis and articulation must be inspired with a vision that will challenge and give them a missional sense of their significance in a post-modern world. It is now through the imagination rather than through reason that the Word breaks through to people. It is time to anoint these underutilised gifts in the Body of Christ and release them to the wider world".

And, so, God revealed himself to those who did not ask for him; He was found by those who did not seek him. To a nation that did not call on his name, he said: "Here am I, here am I."

He still does.

So, the search is on. In two ways: Lord Webber searching for a 'Jesus' and Lord Jesus looking for a people. I hope the nation and composer find their super star. I trust he will have a magnificent voice, that he loves rock music, hippies and theatre.

And I hope that when he sings that we don't "understand what power is
understand what glory is
understand at all
understand at all…"

…I hope that - once again - time will stand still for a moment and a ray of that glory breaks through in the theatres, in the arenas, and in people's heart. And I hope a new curiosity and understanding is awakened, starting people on a journey to find Jesus.

Marijke Hoek, coordinator Forum for Change 

The piece first appeared as an 'Inspire' reflection for the MediaNet