This weekend we will close out our worship series “Changed for Good” with a focus on the 1996 musical “Rent.” “Rent” is a remarkable musical, inspired by the 1896 opera “La Boheme” by Giacomo Puccini. Both stories are centered on the lives of struggling young artists, but 1800s Paris becomes 1990s New York City, tuberculosis becomes HIV/AIDS, and the character names are updated to 20th century equivalents.
The second Pulitzer Prize winner in our series, the musical’s brutally honest portrayal of people living with HIV/AIDS challenges the audience to confront questions of mortality, identity, and dignity. One of the many memorable songs in the show is called, “Will I?” It is sung by participants in an HIV support group meeting and simply asks the question
Will I lose my dignity? Will someone care?
Will I wake tomorrow From this nightmare?
In her book “This Here Flesh,” Cole Arthur Riley wrote, “From the womb, we must repeat with regularity that to love ourselves is to survive.” This idea is from the very first chapter of the book, which is titled “Dignity.” Our value does not come from what we accomplish or from how closely we conform to external standards. It comes simply from the reality that we exist.
It works out well that these issues come to the surface this week, as we prepare to enter the season of Lent. “Rent” will be an excellent pivot point to begin the season. In fact, we are drawing from the work of Cole Arthur Riley to frame our worship services and our Lenten All-Church Study. There are multiple groups forming now, and a discussion guide available for anyone to use. We will delve into questions about our embodiment, which leads us into questions around mortality and provides ample opportunity to reflect on who we are and how we can allow God’s grace to move within us.
Please consider signing up to be a part of an All-Church Study group – www.manchesterumc.org/lent
We have one more week on Broadway together, and I’ve heard such positive response to this series. It really has been meaningful, and I’m grateful to all the people who worked so hard to make it happen. We’ll end the series with “Rent” this weekend, and pray that by God’s grace we will be “Changed for Good!”
I’ll see y’all in church.