April 4, 2011

Could It Be?

I sat in chapel today and there was a theatrical presentation of the Passion (of sorts) by a troop of itinerant Christian actors. As a fan of Jesus of Nazareth, The Ten Commandments and films like the Gospel of John, it had my attention. As is often the case in campus chapel there is a requirement that all campus members show unless they have an exemption. Considering some in this group were clearly too "manly" (humor) to handle the theatrical setting, there were eye-rolls, sighs and occasional claims of "booooring". At first, even I frowned and was ready to find the nearest exit. The dilemma of an over-Christianized Christian.

I grew up in an age of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Johnny Tremain and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. People singing to music in a show and an idealized Utopian setting are not uncommon to me or my childhood...so I enjoyed this presentation unlike many of my younger peers who ridiculed and poked fun at me for liking it. I got the prerequisite, "You liked Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music too, didn't ya?" This quickly followed by the prerequisite "weirdo" or "old man" jokes and goofy facial expressions. So be it. Har har, I can take a ribbing and I got the joke.

I will also say that I am one of the "low key" attendees that sits in the back of chapel. It is a habit I suppose. As an aspiring pastor I consider it all part of the learning process to often look around to see and gauge people's reactions to presenters and presentations. What I have begun to note of late is body language. Today it showed up in peculiar ways. What I noted in today's chapel was pronounced body language and movement...even from some of those poking fun at me. They may have said one thing but their movement shined a light into their hearts. Since this was a presentation of the Passion it is expected that Jesus would be one of the characters. Interestingly, much of this presentation was without props and for half of the presentation there was no Jesus either. What your perception of Him was came solely from your imagination and the stage characters description of Him. I just assumed that was the way it was going to be. Theater of the mind.

Then.... as the troop started singing Hosanna, the doors at the back of a dark chapel swung open and the light from the hallway cascaded into the seats. There in the doorway stood a silhouetted form of a man in a robe and sandals. Many in the back including me smiled in spite of ourselves...yet we could not see his face clearly as it was partially covered by a shaw. As the figure moves forward down the center aisle through those in attendance I see a pronounced bodily shift forward and a head tilt towards the center of the chapel as this enigmatic figure moves forward. We all (and I mean all) stare riveted to this form that strolls to the stage with his back turned to the audience.

It is in this moment it strikes my like a hammer on a nailhead. Most all of those in attendence wanted to see the face of this man after his advent or arrival. As observers of this show we realize that it is not really Jesus.

...or do we?

This is the power of Jesus Christ and it was never more clear to me than it was at about 10:30 a.m. this morning.

Christians that believe Jesus is God, that He is Lord and Savior sat in rapt attention...even the most jaded of them. Call it stagecraft or call it what you will, no one, and I mean no one stared anywhere but at that stage at that moment. Those that acknowledge and believe the work Jesus has done in setting us free from the power of this world could not peel our eyes off of this actor that represented the Christ. It was as if, just a for a moment...we could look upon His face. For a split second I could suspend disbelief.

I longed to look upon His face.

Then the actor turned around and we are, in an anti-climactic way, let down. This is not Jesus, it is only an actor playing the part of Jesus. We know deep down inside that there is only one Jesus and this dude ain't Him. But for the one moment we held hope in our heads and suspended reality to believe the unbelievable. That this was Messiah. That this was going to be Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The image is striking for me. We ALL leaned forward. We ALL had hope for that split-second that it could....maybe...could it be?....is it Him? Even now after all this time the power of Christ still moves and stirs the souls of men and women. He came once as a human and many didn't believe.

Then the actor turned and we realized He was just a human by all outward appearances...a man, nothing more. Just like us. Good grief man!...He didn't even look like Jesus. Like the paintings. There is no Shekinah. No choir of angels singing. No earthquake. No white horse. Just a man. Just like me. This couldn't possibly be Jesus.

...or could it?


Don and Shelly said...

Wow, Andy... this was a great post! I used to perform in these kind of productions myself and know exactly what you're talking about. Even as part of the cast, we were held riveted by for a moment...even as a friend of mine playing Jesus made his appearance. I know it's silly... or IS IT...?

Andy Pierson said...

Thank you. It was strange and fleeting. It was as if reality shifted out-of-phase for just a moment and then business as usual. For just a moment. The Kingdom...then back to the world's system. Hmmmmmmm.

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