Where were you the first time you sat transfixed in a darkened theater to experience the musical Les Misérables?  Were you immediately captured by this amazing story like so many others?  Was it love at first sight?  How many times have you seen it since then?  Which do you like better: the 10th or 25th anniversary DVD?  Can you really pick ONE favorite song? Or… have you never experienced Les Misérables, but have always wondered what everyone was talking about?

When Victor Hugo’s book came out in 1864, it was a smashing success, selling out within the first week.  Even the poor and underprivileged working class would pool their meager resources so they could buy a copy to share among themselves.

Likewise, when the musical debuted in London in 1985, it again broke all records.  The latest figures tell us that over 60 million people in 42 countries have attended a showing of the theater production.  In every land and language, the universal message of this beautiful story has played to rapt crowds and received standing ovations.

And in just a few months (December 2012), we will all get to enjoy a Cameron Mackintosh-sanctioned Les Misérables movie, starring Hugh Jackman as Jean Valjean, Russell Crowe as Javert and Anne Hathaway as Fantine.

For many years, I have been looking for a wide place in the busyness of life to pull over and have the time to soak in the majesty of the songs of Les Misérables.  Like many before me, there has been the sense that these haunting lyrics from the pen of Herbert Kretzmer have a thinly veiled gospel harmony being sung just underneath a harsh, secular, miserable melody.

Thanks to the generosity of Southern Nazarene University, where I teach in the School of Theology and Ministry, I am enjoying a sabbatical this semester that has allowed me the opportunity to pursue this search for “The Gospel According to Les Misérables!”  Joining me in this project are two friends, John Nielson and Nathan Burns.  For the past several months, we have begun the process of creating sermon manuscripts that we hope to preach in our churches during the Fall of 2012.  As we preach from the text of each song, we hope to have a live performance of the song to accompany the sermon.

We have chosen to focus our attention on the following songs:
“The Bishop’s Gift”
“I Dreamed a Dream”
“Who Am I?”
“Master of the House”
“On My Own”
“Bring Him Home”
“Javert’s Suicide”
“Empty Chairs at Empty Tables”
“Do You Hear the People Sing… Finale”

Over the next couple of months we will publish on this blog each of the sermon manuscripts in hopes of receiving comments, insights, and critical observations from all who would choose to follow our blog.  Let us know if our reflections have connected with your heart and your perspective of these amazing songs.  Tell us where we have missed it.  Suggest possible story lines that have gone undetected by us.  Add your own insights as to how the gospel message in these songs has touched your heart and life.

John, Nathan and I are especially excited about this next phase of the project.  We hope that the manuscripts we post will only be the beginning!  We are eager for our posts to create a dialogue between us!  Your responses, comments, insights, and critiques will take these manuscripts to an entirely new level for all of us!  We hope you will join us on this journey over the next few months and share with us your love and affection for the wonderful story of Les Misérables.

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