We’ve just finished celebrating the Easter season, and, if you’re employed by a church, you probably did some sort of special program. If you’re a church member, you may have attended or participated in some special event. Could have been an Easter cantata, or maybe a ginormous Easter pageant. Or, maybe just a simple service that focused on the commandment given to the disciples by Jesus – Maundy Thursday – or perhaps a Good Friday service, focusing on Christ’s death on the cross.
The reasons for the emphasis and the extra effort are clear – Easter is a “red letter” day in Christendom. Without Easter, we wouldn’t have Christmas or Pentecost or Lent, and we sure wouldn’t have a purpose in our faith. So, it’s completely understandable that churches would place special recognition on Easter.
But…What’s the Point?
A majority of churches in Christendom gather to worship on Sunday (the first day of the week) because…are you ready for this…that’s the day Christ rose from the tomb. My friend, Mike Lee, clarified this for me: while there are inferences in the Bible regarding the day the early church met for worship, there’s no clear direction to meet to worship on Sunday other than that’s day the early church met. Sunday was chosen because that’s the day of the week Christ rose from the dead and, since then, Sunday worship is a tradition that has been observed by churches.
It follows, then, that every Sunday is Easter. We celebrate the life of Christ, especially his saving act on the cross and his wondrous defeat of sin and death in his resurrection. Every Sunday.
One More Thing
Why, then, the grandiose, ginormous Easter pageants that recount as best as our budget can afford the week of Christ’s death and resurrection? Why Easter and not every Sunday?
There are many reasons to do so, because I’ve used them in the past, when I did my best Cecil B. Demille impersonation and created the city of Jerusalem and Golgotha on a grand scale. At least, as grand as my sanctuary would allow. The lights, the costumes, the scrim cloth, the backdrop, the props, the sets, and the people. Oh, the people. From pageant committee members (who did so because they couldn’t sing) to choir and soloists and instrumentalists and workers and cast members…the list of personnel goes on and on.
And, let’s don’t forget the budget. To do a pageant correctly, you need thousands of dollars…nay, tens of thousands of dollars.
Hired an orchestra lately? Those people aren’t cheap.
Paid for a scrim cloth? That’s one expensive piece of cheese cloth.
Build the city of Jerusalem with the appropriate Garden of Gethsemane? It wasn’t three days, but, gosh, we did it in a week.
Yes, a pageant will build fellowship among its participants. And, it’ll attract a few people who don’t attend church (most who attend pageants and productions are members elsewhere). But, other than that, the reasons to create religious Broadway monstrosities are few.
The Problems in these Productions
1. Romantic depictions of the Gospel. Most times, the very cruel, barbaric acts done to Jesus are romanticized in the music that accompanies, the commentary, or even the fact that we don’t depict the extent of the pain, suffering and cruelty of the crucifixion. The view may be, “Let’s show some blood, but not too much…there are children present.”
2. While we strive to be true to the story, the details are inaccurate. I would be willing to say that, very rarely does someone research the culture or polity of Roman-occupied Israel at the time of Christ’s death. Costumes are an approximation. Scenery is a best-guess. Dialogue will enjoy artistic license. And, ethnicity of those in the pageant don’t even come close to Jewish society. I can promise – Jesus is going to be a Caucasian, tall, slender, long-haired handsome fellow with a beard. And, if he sings, he’ll be a tenor! But, the prophet Isaiah would tell us that the Messiah was not one who was pleasant to gaze upon.
3. Seeing the Gospel. People want to see. And, when they do, they can believe it…if they see it. Some, instead of reading for themselves, base their theology on what was depicted at the local Easter pageant. Jesus tells us, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” God has revealed himself to us in his Word and in the incarnation of Jesus. He doesn’t need us to recreate a visual of what happened. It’s there. In the scriptures.
4. Money could be better spent. The tens-of-thousands-of-dollars laid out for an extravagant Easter pageant could be used in a more appropriate way than on the latest elliptical or backdrop or addition of players to the string section.
5. The fellowship and goal of Christians. If we want to build fellowship or present a common goal to achieve, have a day where church members go out into the community to invite neighbors to church. Or, do random acts of kindness to demonstrate love for our neighbors.
Grand, romanticized Easter productions have become, in many places, a tradition that resembles the proverbial snowball effect – every year it gets bigger and bigger. And, it consumes extreme amounts of time and energy.
Really…I don’t know. But, while you’re pondering the answer to that question, I must finish this and move on.
Christmas is coming.