‘Avenue Q’ delivers the sermon we all need to hear

Published 10:14 pm Tuesday, July 31, 2018

By The Rev. William Ragsdale

Special to the Salisbury Post

“Avenue Q” as a whole is one of the best sermons I have seen and heard in along time, but not in the traditional manner like the way sermons are given in churches Sunday after Sunday or whenever. It was beautifully presented this past weekend by the Piedmont Players right here in Salisbury, and again will be staged this weekend.

As in many churches, there is a prayer of confession in their order of worship. This is presented in “Avenue Q” in several songs; I will mention three.

First, there is the song, “It Sucks To Be Me,” a song sung twice. This insight into ourselves that we are — each of us — sinful was described by Paul in Romans 7: “Yet if I do things that I don’t really want to do then it is not, I repeat, ‘I’ who do them, but the sin which has made it home within me (J.B. Phillips translation).”  Paul Tillich put it this way in his sermon “You Are Accepted”:  “He who has learned to over-come self-contempt has overcome his contempt for others.”

Then there is the song, “Everybody’s A Bit Racist Sometime.”  This is true regardless of our original race or color. I think so. This corporate confessional piece performed in an artistic manner —  music — packs a punch !

Thirdly, sin is dealt with  musically is the song “Schadenfreude” — about happiness at the misfortune of others. Tillich in the same sermon mentioned above wrote in the 1940’s: “Today we can confirm what Immanuel Kant, the prophet of human reason and dignity, was honest enough to say: there is something about the misfortune of our best friends which does not displease us.”

There is so much more to understand and unpack in this musical art form that it is impossible to summarize it in a short time at 3 in the morning. Yes, it was offensive, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ continues to be offensive to some people.

  A very significant topic raised in “Avenue Q” is the song “PURPOSE.” For me the answer to the purpose of mankind is given in the Westminster Catechism “To praise God and enjoy Him forever.”

The Rev. William R. “Bill” Ragsdale is chaplain at the N.C. State Veterans Nursing Home in Salisbury.