In preparation for “Plan A,” I recently bought a copy of Mel Gibson’s 2004 theatrical release The Passion of the Christ.
for “Plan A,” I recently bought a copy of Mel Gibson’s 2004 theatrical release
The Passion of the Christ.
I saw it when it
was first released, and once was more than enough. The images still are vivid
in my mind.
But I was
impressed – as I read newsletters from Louisiana
churches for a month before Easter – with the seriousness of this season.
Easter isn’t jelly beans and fuzzy bunnies. The days leading up to Easter mark
betrayal by a close friend, rejection by people who five days previously were
singing praises, mistreatment by people giddy with the excitement of “getting
to” yell at, spit on, and beat up someone they don’t know or care about.
writing about this, and the words from a hundred or more newsletters, week in
and week out, piled up in my mind.
reported that The Passion would be
shown on Good Friday evening, and that sounded to me like a good way of
contemplating afresh what it cost Jesus to pay for my sins.
My “Plan A” was
to establish a tradition of watching the film every Good Friday, so I bought
it, but God began to nudge me about people.
People are what
makes living in Louisiana
so wonderful an experience for me. There’s a graciousness, an innate kindness,
a gentleness of heart in most everybody I meet, and I am continually blessed by
So, rather than
squirreling myself alone in my living room to morosely watch a movie that would
only remind me of what my sins cost Jesus, I decided to take part in various
Easter-related events at area churches. For me, that started on Thursday.
n PinevillePark on Maundy Thursday combined a “sort
of” Passover seder with the Lord’s Supper and a stunning Living Lord’s Supper
‘drummettes’ replaced the less-familiar lamb from a traditional Jewish seder.
The word ‘seder’ means ‘order,’ explained Pastor Greg Carroll. The dill pickles
represented the bitter herbs of the seder, which were eaten by Israelites in
remembrance of the bitterness of their exile in Egypt, the pastor said. Other Christianized
parts of the seder meal: radishes, cheese, celery, raisins, bread and grape
in Louisiana put on a Living Lord’s Supper
drama presentation; Pineville
Park has been doing one
for 22 years and they have it down pat. The setting is the famous Leonardo
DaVinci Last Supper painting, with each character frozen in place. The story
picks up just after Jesus announces that one of them will betray Him. Each
disciple in turn “unfreezes” to explain his connection with Jesus, and then asks,
‘Is it I?”
convincingly of being chief of sinners. He was sure that it was he, because of
his sinfulness, who would betray Jesus, and he was saddened. I could relate. I
did relate, as I was reminded that it was me who caused Jesus’ death on the
cross. My eyes filled with tears.
Judas – looking
suitably “Jack Nicholson-creepy” – was most interesting in his explanation that
he wasn’t betraying Jesus; he was merely helping Him bring in His kingdom.
could be reviewed, because each actor played his part so well. Jesus himself
had few words other than the Lord’s Supper he led the audience in. Instead, he
spoke with his eyes – innocence poured out of them, and then, sadness.
Interspersed with all this were several musical interludes, including the
incomparable Via Dolorosa.
n Friday evening
I went to First Natchitoches to participate in a Tenebrae service, which is
designed to be a solemn, even sad, service.
The choir was
dressed all in black; that didn’t hamper their singing. It was as if they had
one voice. Excellent training and delicate accompaniment. The haunting solo
played during the passing of the grape juice set the proper mournful note for
The order of
service was simple: after each extensive scripture passage was read, more
candles were extinguished, and music was sung either by the choir or
congregation. The worship center got progressively darker until the only light
was from outside: streetlights streaming
through blood-red stained glass windows seemed another reminder of the price
The same song
ended both Thursday and Friday services: Were you there when they crucified my
n Saturday morning I checked out Calvary Shreveport’s
EggFest at the Boardwalk. It usually takes place at the church, but Boardwalk
officials about a month ago invited the church to use an open area for a
community event, and gave no evangelistic restrictions.
Terry Young bought 60,000 filled Easter eggs (cost, about $100/1,000), which is
double the usual number, and rounded up about 300 Calvary
members to help ensure a fun time with evangelistic undertones.
like these reach out to people who wouldn’t come to any event at the church,”
said Pastor Rick Edmonds. “When you do events, you have to expect a long-term
benefit. People leery of the church need multiple touches sometimes before they
can trust you or experience the love of God.”
24,000 people participated in Calvary’s
EggFest. At the church last year? About 5,000.
n Mark calendars
for next year’s Passion Play at Bethel Baptist in Lillie, which is perhaps a
40-minute drive north of Ruston.
It was spectacular Saturday night. The drama takes place at one of a dozen
realistic scenes, permanent on the church grounds, such as the Sanhedrin court,
Mount of Olives, and of course, the tomb.
A cast of more
than 100 – Christian and non- (what an evangelistic opportunity!) gleaned from
churches and communities for miles around – laughed and danced ever so
believably, and later became an equally-believable snarling mob. Perhaps the
most moving scene was a stumbling Jesus carrying a huge cross up the Via
The music for the
most part is taped from The Promise, a major production in Branson, Mo.,
so it’s like having a Broadway-class production way out in the country.
with special effects including an earthquake, thunder and lightning, Bethel
Lillie’s passion play is one you’re going to want to see again and again.
n Sunday morning
I went to Bellaire Bossier City, where just minutes into the service, after the
choir’s first song, lights flashed and
smoke billowed, and Jesus exited the grave at center stage.
Oh! How Exciting!
He’s alive! He’s Alive! He’s ALIVE! He’s alive and I’m forgiven! Heaven’s gates
are open wide!
It was an
absolutely thrilling moment. Thank you, Bellaire, for a perfect Easter, for
helping me to realize afresh the glorious truth of these words: He Is Alive!
And thank you to Pineville
Park, First Natchitoches,
Calvary Shreveport and Bethel Lillie for setting the stage.
It really does
mean more when you’re freshly reminded of
what went before, and events seem to mean more when seen
three-dimensionally, rather than on film.