Easter with Godspell

A service about the parables of Jesus

and his great lesson of Beloved Community.


Note: you will want to secure permission to use the Godspell music. Purchasing the sheet music for your choir/soloists and musician(s) will likely suffice depending on your circumstances.



Welcome and Announcements         

Good morning. Welcome to the _____ Unitarian Universalist Congregation where we join together in the search for deeper meaning and richer connections. Our service today is about Jesus’ message of Beloved Community as revealed in his parables and the music from Stephan Schwartz s Godspell.



Prelude                                                        Save the People       



Opening Words                by e. e. cummings

(Note: we did this in three voices, it is equally delightful with one dramatic voice)


A         i thank You God for most this amazing day:

B         for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;

C          and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes


A         (i who have died am alive again today,

B          and this is the sun’s birthday;

C          this is the birth day of life

A         and of love

B          and wings:

C          and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)


A         how should

B         tasting

C          touching

B         hearing

C          seeing

B         breathing

A         any

C          –lifted from the no of all nothing—

A         human

B         merely

A         being doubt unimaginable You?


B         (now the ears of my ears awake

C          and now the eyes of my eyes are opened)



*Doxology (#381 SLT)               Composite based on Isaac Watts

From all that dwell below the skies

Let songs of hope and faith arise;

Let peace, goodwill on earth be sung

Through every land, by every tongue



*Covenant (#473 SLT)               by James Vila Blake (adapted)

Love is the spirit of this congregation, and service is its life.

This is our great covenant: to dwell together in peace,

To seek the truth in love, and to help one another.



*Chalice Lighting                         by Douglas Taylor

We light our flaming chalice, symbol of hope and renewal.

May its light guide our eyes to see and our hears to hear

the movements of the spirit in our lives



*Hymn                                                                     Day by Day

Day by day, day by day

Oh, dear Lord, three things we pay

To see thee more clearly

Love thee more dearly

Follow thee more nearly

Day by day

(Music Note: Day by Day is a song in the musical “Godspell”. Its refrain follows a prayer ascribed to the 13th century English bishop Saint Richard of Chichester: May I know they more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly.)



Reflection                           by Douglas Talyor


Today around the world, millions of our Christian siblings-in-faith celebrate this Easter holiday proclaiming the resurrection of Jesus as the Son of God. In our Unitarian Universalist tradition we have a nuanced dance with the holiday. While our history is deeply entwined with Christianity, our tradition is no longer considered Christian and it is at Easter time that this is most noticed. As Unitarians we rejected the divinity of Jesus and as Universalists we rejected the salvific necessity of the crucifixion. Instead we have historically proclaimed that we are all children of God and that God’s love will save all. These theological claims go sharply counter to heart of Christianity and the basic premise of Easter!


These theological claims, as I indicated, are historical points for us. Today we gather not so much in argument against certain central Christian creeds. Instead, today we are a community of covenanted seekers, each with a unique path, each longing to find wholeness in our own lives and to find our ways to heal the world around us.


We are theists, atheists, scientists, skeptics, mystics, and agnostics. We carry connections to Judaism, Taoism, Buddhism, Paganism, Native traditions, Christianity and various mixtures of these traditions and of no traditions. Yet our central gathering focus is on making a community of support and nurture.


On Easter, instead of seeking an argument with certain central creeds, we seek a deeper message for our lives and our shared world. So we lift up the archetypal message in the resurrection: the power of Love to overcome despair, fear, trouble, and even the power of death itself. And we lift up the life and teachings of Jesus.


Against the backdrop of news and events filled with anger, apathy, fear, and violence, we come looking for the message of hope and of a path through the difficulty into a better way. Today, through music and parables we will focus on the one key aspect of Jesus’ ministry: the creation of the Beloved Community on earth.


We begin with several pieces from the 1971 production Godspell by Stephen Schwartz. Schwartz is a well-known composer and lyricist. Perhaps you know his lyrics from the musicals Pippin or Wicked, or from Disney movies such as Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Enchanted. Schwartz grew up in Jewish household. But he repeatedly refuses to discuss his personal religious beliefs in public. He instead refocuses all religious question with answers about ethics and personal responsibility.


In the musical Godspell, the music is supported by retellings of some of the great parables Jesus told. Schwartz choose parables from the Gospel of Matthew. We have selected three parables from the Gospel of Luke to share today, perhaps not the three most important or the three most famous, but three that lift up a key message in Godspell and in Jesus’ ministry.


The parable of the Great Banquet reveals a message of the universal call into the life of the spirit. The parable of the Sower is a lesson about lessons, proclaiming that messages are there to be heard if you are awake enough to hear them. The parable of the Prodigal Child is a story of forgiveness and restoration, a story about the lost being found.


All three parables point back to what Stephen Schwartz says is a key piece of his musical, Godspell: the creation of a community. Our theme today is about Jesus’ message of the Beloved Community. Come! Hear our songs, heed our parables, take heart in the company, and help build the beautiful city.



Story                         Parable of the Great Banquet; Luke 14:16-24

(Note: We used three voices; Narrator, Servant, and Master – then, just before enacting this we invited three people from the congregation to be the people invited to attend the banquet. We gave them cue cards and asked them to stand up from with us.)


Narrator:    A certain woman (or man, depending on your casting) was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet she sent her servant to tell those who had been invited,


Servant:                   Come, for everything is now ready.


Narrator:                But they all alike began to make excuses.


Person one:            I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.


Person two:            I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.


Person three:                    I just got married, so I can’t come.


Narrator:    The servant came back and reported this to her master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered her servant,


Master:        Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame. Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.


Servant:       Ma’am, what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.


Narrator:    Then the master told her servant,


Master:        Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.



Offertory                                                                 All Good Gifts



Story             Parable of the Sower; Luke 8: 4 – 8

(note: For this, we played this animated short video while someone read the parable. There is delightful instrumental music in the background which does not distract from the recitation. We choose to include the on a low volume.)



While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable:

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up.

Some fell on rocky ground, and when the sun came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture.

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants.

Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.

When he said this, Jesus called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”



Special Music                                                        By My Side



Prayer                                              by Douglas Taylor


Eternal Spirit, from whom all things come, and to whom all things return

We who gather this morning are a people of faith in search of life’s deeper meanings and richer blessings. This is a sacred time for our Christian brothers and sisters around the world. We would honor the story and the meaning they find in this season, while striving to uncover resources for ourselves as well.


The life and teachings of Jesus are a resource for our ethical and spiritual living. Help us, O Spirit, to better live into the Beloved Community with the transformative power of love. The Easter story of his amazing resurrection is not a historic event that took place once for one man so many years ago. The Easter story is our story and the story of every soul that ever faced the tragic choice of love and hopelessness in the face of the world’s madness.


Let us be reminded of the power found in reconciliation and release: that the lost may be found, the least may be lifted up, and that love is more powerful than fear.

When we feel abandoned, visit us and renew our faith

When we are fearful, endow us with courage

When we face painful trials, grant that we may see

the possibility of rebirth within


Grant that the blessings of compassion and wisdom fill our days beyond measure.  Encourage us in our times of hardship to discover anew the power within to embrace again the world and the work which yet awaits our attention.  In learning to let go, to trust, may we uncover the hidden reservoirs of hope.


This we pray in the name of all that is holy;

May it be so. Amen






Hymn #396 (SLT)           I Know this Rose Will Open



Story             Parable of the Prodigal Son; Luke 15:11-32

(Note: We performed this as a skit. We had five people: Narrator, Younger Child, Older Child, Parent, and Employer/Servant. Don’t get locked in by the gender – change it based on who you have playing the parts.)


Narrator:                There was once a man who had two sons. One day the younger one said to his father,


Younger Son:        Father, give me my share of the estate. I want to travel and see the world.


Narrator:                This was an odd request, but the father loved his sons and so he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son took all his new found cash and set out for wild adventures.


Younger Son:        Woo-hoo! Hashtag: money is awesome!


Narrator:                It was a grand adventure. After he had spent everything he had, The whole country fell into some bad times and it got harder and harder for him to find the things he needed to live, life food and shelter.


Younger Son:        Oh no! When wilt thou save the people! Or at least me!


Narrator:                So he went looking for work.


Employer:              Hey kid! You want a job? I’m looking for a CEO for my new startup internet company!


Younger Son:        Really? That’d be great!


Employer:              JK, I need someone to feed my pigs.


Younger Son:        (Sigh) Okay.


Narrator:                It was not glamorous work. It was hard and smelly. This job did not even pay him enough to allow him to buy food for himself! He even considered eating the cruddy food pods that the pigs were eating.

Finally, one day he came to his senses.


Younger Son:        My father is a rich man and pays his servants well, they have plenty of food and here I am starving to death! I will simply go back to my father and ask him to hire me as a servant. I will say to him: ‘Father, I have done some things I am not proud of and I am returning to you to ask for forgiveness, and to ask you to hire me as a servant so I can earn money to live and eat.’


Narrator:                The younger son then set off back to his father’s country. Meanwhile, back at the farm, while the younger son was still a long way off, his father learned that his younger son was returning. Perhaps a neighbor called with the news or saw the change on the son’s facebook status: hashtag: going home. However it happened, the father was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.


Younger Son:        Father, I have done some things I am not proud of and I am returning to you to ask for forgiveness, and to ask you to hire me as a servant so I can earn money to live and eat.


Narrator:                But the father simply smiled and called to his servants.


Father:                     Quick! Bring the best robe, the one with the most bling, and put it on him. Reconnect him to the family cell phone plan and give him his old bedroom. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. He is like the flower of my heart. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.


Narrator:                So they began to celebrate. But that is not the end of the tale. Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on.


Older Son:              What’s going on? Why all the music and dancing?


Servant:                   Your brother has come and your father wants to celebrate


Narrator:                The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him.


Father:                     Why are you angry? Come inside and celebrate with us.


Older Son:              Look! All these years I’ve been working for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never even gave me the keys to the car so I could party with my friends. But when this son of yours – who has spent all of the money you gave him because he could not control himself – returns, you throw a big party with music, dancing, and a fatting calf!


Father:                     My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.



Reflection               by Jo VonRue


The parable of the Great Banquet, the Sower, and the Prodigal Son all remind us that we are here on this planet and in this church to create a beloved community of support together. Sure, we come to church to feed our own spiritual needs, but have you ever considered that even though there is a speaker or sermon topic you won’t necessarily relate to, that there is someone, HERE in this building who really needs to see you on Sunday morning?


Imagine with me for a moment … (pause)


Perhaps there was a time when you were dealing with some really heavy stuff in your heart and you were not going to go to church but you thought the sermon sounded interesting. After worship, you made your way to social hour where you thought that you would grab a quick cup of coffee and make some small talk before heading back home.


Then you run into Bobby. You don’t tell Bobby what is going on in your life because you don’t really know Bobby that well, but they start talking with you so you engage in conversation with them. Then Bobby shares something about their day or their week with you. Whatever it was that Bobby said just gave you a glimmer of hope and something to go home and think about. You never realized how strong of a person Bobby is, at this point you don’t even remember what the sermon was about, but you are so thankful you came because of that one thing that Bobby shared with you.


You see, friends, Sunday morning is not just about the sermon. Sunday morning is about building a beloved community in which we work to feed EACH OTHER, sometimes in ways that are obvious, and MANY times in ways that are so subtle, you wouldn’t even know. You have probably been the character of Bobby to others more times than you know.


The invited guests were too busy to come to the Great Banquet, you see, their busy is building a barrier between them and those they care about. We here in this congregation are in the business of building beloved community, we are here to grow souls. But the minister and the staff cannot do it on our own. We need each of you to remember why you are a member here, to remember that our responsibility on Sunday mornings is not just to ourselves, but to every other person in this community.



Easter Egg Communion

(Note: We used small plastic Easter eggs for this. Inside, we had a rolled-up slip of paper with one of the 25 different messages; as well as some candy [jelly beans, Skittles, chocolates, …] We made a point of keeping several Skittles eggs aside because they are gluten/dairy-free.)

And now is the time in our worship where we are going to encourage you to take your faith home with you. Our youth (or ushers) are going to come around and pass baskets of plastic Easter Eggs. Inside each egg is a message that relates to our Easter Worship today. The message encourages you to think about a time in your life, and then to share that story with someone you love either at home, at school, or at coffee hour. Easter is a time of rebirth and renewal. Allow these eggs to encourage you to begin sharing the stories of your heart with those you love.


Please raise your hand high if you would prefer a gluten / dairy free egg.



Special Music                                Beautiful City



Antiphonal Reading                   By Rebecca A Edmiston-Lange (adapted)

Leader: For this, we ask the Children and Youth lead us with each statement to which the whole congregation will respond “We are the light of the world.”


Leader:          Some people say that Jesus is the light of the world. We all can be the light of the world if we seek to act in ways that enlarge the realms of love and justice.


Children/Youth:      When we comfort someone who is sad,

  • We are the light of the world.


Children/Youth:      When we feed someone who is hungry,

  • We are the light of the world.


Children/Youth:      When we treat people with kindness and respect,

  • We are the light of the world.


Children/Youth:      When we listen to all ideas and try to solve problems peacefully,

  • We are the light of the world.


Children/Youth:      When we look for the good in everyone,

  • We are the light of the world.


Children/Youth:      When we speak up against hatred,

  • We are the light of the world.


Children/Youth:      When we choose to hope even when the world looks sad,

  • We are the light of the world.


Children/Youth:      When we act with love for all people

  • We are the light of the world.


All:                  We are the light of the world! Amen and amen.



Hymn #268 (SLT)           Jesus Christ is Risen Today (vs 1 & 3)



*Chalice Extinguishing (#456 SLT) (unison)                    by Elizabeth S. Jones

We extinguish this flame, but not the light of truth,

The warmth of community, or the fire of commitment

These we carry in our hearts until we are together again.



Benediction                                               by William R. Murry

Now let us go forth with the faith that life is worth living,

that defeat and adversity can be transformed into victory and hope,

that love is eternal, and

that life is stronger than death.

And may that faith inspire us to live our lives

with dignity, love, and courage

in the days and weeks ahead.



Postlude                  Day by day (Reprise)