My church did Resurrection Sunday differently this year. The Drama Ministry and Choir conducted the whole service, except for the sermon, and the production was well doneâ€”so much so that I almost took out my phone and filmed it. But more importantly, I cried. I stood and sang along with the choir. (It was during one of my favorite gospel songs, â€œThe Blood Will Never lose Its Power.â€) And I bore witness to how dramatic and traumatizing the story of Christâ€™s death and resurrection is and what this story means to other people.
When they got to the Calvary scene, where the thieves are nailed to their respective crosses and we watch a bloody, thorn-crowned Jesus carry his cross until he canâ€™t, and Simon of Cyrene carries it for him, I almost cried then. Several people around me did. I jumped at the sound of nails hitting wood, timed well with screams of them hitting flesh. And during that scene, a little girl in the congregation who was probably no more than five years old wailed, burst into tears, and huddled into her motherâ€™s chest. She was terrified. She had to turn away. All the young children in the congregation looked frightened, but the horror of that sceneâ€”and it was done realistically, live, in a room the size of a medium-sized theaterâ€”got to her.
I kept looking over at the little girl throughout the rest of the service, so I also was able to see how happy she was when she saw that everything was okay. It wasnâ€™t as if all the actors came back into the sanctuary and took a bow. They didnâ€™t, at all. The service went from Jesusâ€™s entrance into Jerusalem to his resurrection to the sermon, without any acknowledgementâ€”except from perhaps her mother; I donâ€™t know since I wasnâ€™t sitting close enough to hear anything other than her sobsâ€”that we were seeing live theater. Meaning the little girl was happy when saw that Jesus was alive.
Thatâ€™s the elation I should feel every time Iâ€™m in church or every time Iâ€™m in some sort of formal or informal worship, and certainly today. But I donâ€™t. Iâ€™m having trouble navigating my current down-with-the-patriarchy, anti-church, somewhat anti-Christianity state of mind. Political me loves Jesus for justice. But spiritual me had totally forgotten how intense the story of Christâ€™s death and resurrection is, how much suffering there really is in 39 lashes, being publicly stripped, false accusations, unjust guilty verdicts, betrayal, friends who ditch youâ€”and all for love.
All for love. I donâ€™t think the little girl knew that part of the message, but I do, and thatâ€”and joy, peace, patience, kindness, hope, power, sound mind, etc.â€”are things I donâ€™t want to give up. Are they available outside of Christianity? Yes. But is Jesus?
Maybe this post is something about the performance of Christianity that I don’t have time to analyze right now.