Notes on an Easter Pageant

Your thunder and flash and spectacle
Envelops us, fills space
Music swells, lights flare
Your sermon
Wrapped in drama’s clothing
Becomes our world.

You seem so proud
So sincere in your fervor
That it breaks my heart to say it

But your god doesn’t speak to me.

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A Rapture of Terror

Steve Kornacki wrote a Salon article last week about how Harold Camping‘s 1994 prediction of the end of the world caused him to live in fear at 13 years old.

I feel his pain.

I was terrified of the Rapture as a kid. The Christianity of my youth was full of Rapture and Tribulation theology, with the Antichrist rising up to take over the world and desecrate the Temple, judgments pouring out and seas boiling and scorpions tormenting, all culminating on the triumphant return of Christ himself with a sword proceeding from his mouth to slaughter the wicked.

And me, the confused little preacher’s kid, who got “saved” at age 6 but soon realized that his faith was hollow and empty, but didn’t dare admit this to a soul—I believed the Rapture was coming, and that if it did I probably wouldn’t go. And I was terrified.

Our family attended a dramatization of the book of Revelation, and one scene consisted only of “sinners” cast into the Lake of Fire, coming on stage in gunny-sack robes and screaming in agony as they “burned” in stage-flames. I had a front-row seat. I was terrified.

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The Superstar Connection

This one’s extremely personal, folks.

For Holy Week (the week in the Christian cycle leading up to Easter Sunday), I posted songs from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar on Facebook, one video a day. It started as a whim, but it quickly became a kind of religious practice.

I first saw Superstar about 5 years ago, a local production in which a dear friend played Mary Magdalene. I was moved, in an indescribable way. I  engaged with all my body and soul with the messy, human struggle between Jesus, Judas and Pharisees.  By the end I was bawling like a baby. After the show, the actor playing Jesus found me and hugged me. I didn’t know what it “meant”, but I knew I’d been given a gift, and I felt utterly grateful to Molly, my friend, and her fellow players.

Every now and then I listen to the soundtrack, or play the 1973 film version. I mainly do it to remember the sense memory of that night with Molly and crew, which will always be the “real” Superstar for me.

This time, though, I resolved to pay closer attention to what Superstar was saying to me. Just like past times when “Reading the Signs” has been enlightening, I learned something vital about myself.

The message that Superstar screamed at me through all the songs I posted: human connection is tragically, excruciatingly hard. Our broken, separate-ness sometimes alienates us in spite of every intention to connect, to trust, to love.

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Enemies

I’m going to get all mystical on you for a minute: I talk to Yeshua sometimes.

It usually happens when my hippie punk-rock faith community has a communion service—I take my wine-soaked hunk of bread, find an out of the way corner, close my eyes, and visualize entering a room to sit and sup at his side. This may sound strange, but I hope it’ll be relevant to human experience whether you believe in talking to Yeshua or not.

Mostly I talk and Yeshua listens. That’s because I try not to put words into his mouth, or simply imagine him quoting a convenient scripture. If I’m going to hear a message in words from Yeshua, it’s important to me that it be his words and not my projection. So, because I’ve still got a lot of mental clutter that interferes with my listening, the conversations are pretty one-sided, and I’m OK with that. Usually I feel Yeshua’s responses to my venting or questions in nonverbal ways, like a loving look, or a physical embrace.

But a few weeks ago I DID hear him, quite distinctly. I had, as usual, laid a problem at his feet: “I feel such a strong urge to fight battles. I want to stand against oppression and injustice, but mostly I just end up hurting those I love. Surely there must be a place for my warrior’s heart?”

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The Sheathed Sword, Storytelling style!

I gave a talk at my church, The Bridge of Portland, OR, on August 15. It was based on my post here, The Sheathed Sword, but expanded and elaborated into a dramatic storytelling extravaganza! It was quite fun and rewarding.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgyeXIvlA0M]

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b8VZ9rBoCww] Continue reading The Sheathed Sword, Storytelling style!