Despite my complaints at the time, I actually do think I like Easter better than Christmas. At least, I definitely liked this year’s Easter better than the most recent Christmas.
You will, of course, remember that Christmas 2007 was less than stellar. You may also remember that I have been thinking about Easter and ways to make it more friendly to those non- and semi-believers who attend and more interesting to the whole crowd.
Dare I say, it worked.
First, Palm Sunday was great; although my sermon wasn’t recorded, I had several people tell me it was one of my best, so you’ll have to take the word of my congregants on that one. I based it largely on Crossan and Borg’s chapter on Palm Sunday in The Last Week, and described the clash of two parades and two worldviews: Pilate’s entry into Jerusalem as the embodiment of Roman power and authority, and Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as the embodiment of God’s power– a power that is not about keeping others down, but about lifting others up.
Maundy Thursday was very similar to last year, with five stations (this time the handwashing station was in the foyer, and I washed everyone’s hands. next time, I’d let them wash each other, but still keep it in the foyer): Handwashing, Communion, Confession, “Crowd” Litany, and Vigil at the Cross. It worked very well, despite a last-minute change in the “Were You There?” soloist, as my usual came down with a horrid cold and sounded like a frog who had swallowed a dying cat. I had two others offer to stand in, so no shortage of singers.
Friday, we watched “Godspell” on the big screen with a new subwoofer that a congregant donated. Boy did the bass make a difference! We had only a few, but it was fun. As I threatened, I broke into song. Turn back, O man!
So Easter Sunday, my altar was set up to look like a garden path I hope, and there was no sermon. Rather the Word was presented in a series of five monologues which I had written.
First was Peter– played by a man with lots of acting experience, he set the mood and got people’s attention. Peter was overjoyed that his best friend was alive, but deeply worried that Joshua (that’s Jesus for you Greek-speakers) would be less than happy to see him.
Later in the service we heard from a centurion, played by a retired Navy man recently returned from Afghanistan. He carried the part well, and add libbed a bit, but was pretty convincing as a soldier doing his job, but beginning to question the justice of his people. Had he picked the wrong side? Was it too late to change his mind?
An older, deeply spiritual woman played Jesus’ mother, and I don’t know if she was acting or terrified of the size of the audience (we had great turnout!), but she was shaking from head to toe and her voice cracked with emotion as she described watching her son suffer and die. She was glad he was alive, but she was paralyzed by the fear of losing him again.
Thomas made an appearance as a teenage boy, skeptical and feeling left out. He didn’t want to hear about Joshua being alive– he wanted to see him too.
The choir did an anthem. Well. I’d heard them practice, and they never got it quite right, even to my untrained ear. Yes, a musical layperson can tell when you’re not coming in on the same beat. This time, and only this time, they nailed it. So to speak.
Then yours truly wrapped it up with a long monologue as Mary Magdalene: broken and diseased, she was loved into being her full self, told she was special to God without rituals or temples or high priests. She witnessed how this got her dear friend into trouble, and if I say so myself, moved the crowd to tears with her description of his death, and her joy at finding him again. She invited the crowd to see this news as good for all of them, whether they were doubters or skeptics or late to the party, or made some mistakes or were afraid to love and be hurt again.
An hour and a half, and not a mumble (except from my husband), not a distraction, not a complaint. We’ll take it.