April 17, 2011
Here is a several-act play I wrote for Palm Sunday. It's based on Luke's version of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The story builds on the idea that, while the disciples deserted Jesus during Holy Week, there were a number of people who were not disciples who were faithful to Jesus in small ways. (See also the Patheos Lenten series Shouting Stones for more reflections on this theme.) They show up in brief cameo appearances and offer a model for us in our following of Jesus during the difficult week to come.
I'd invite you to adapt this format, perhaps adding autobiographical events from your life and/or substituting other people from the gospels who are faithful to Jesus during Holy Week. I chose to lift up women from the gospels of Luke and Matthew, but there are a number of other men and women who could be included: Bartimaeus who chooses to follow Jesus into Jerusalem at the riskiest possible time (Mk 10:51-52), the woman with the ointment who anoints Jesus beforehand for his burial (Mk 14:3-9), and Joseph of Arimathea who goes to Pilate and demands Jesus' body and arranges for it to be wrapped and placed in the tomb (Mk 15:43-46). Though some of these events happen before and after Palm/Passion Sunday, this day has a flashback, flash-forward dynamic that could be used in inspiring and challenging us to greater faithfulness to Jesus just when he needs us most.
September 15, 1960
I am standing on the curb along Bridge Street in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. I started kindergarten last week. It's fun but not this much fun. We just got here and Daddyhad to park on a side street. I wish there weren't so many people. I wish I was taller. He's supposed to be coming by any minute now. I love parades.
Palm Sunday! That's what this reminds me of! Mrs. Hefflebower had us all line up along the center aisle at church and wave our palms and she even had us lay our sweaters out on the floor like we were expecting Jesus to come by. The Prince of Peace, she called him.
There he is! Everybody's cheering. In the second car. A car with no top! He's sitting up on the back—he's waving. When I saw him on television he had brown hair. Now it's blonde. They say he sails a lot. He's tan. On TV he talks a lot about the Democratic pottie. I thought all potties were the same! His car is going by so slow. I have time to run out and lay my sweater in front of the wheels on the road. (Start to take off sweater) But Mommysays not to run out in the street. (Pause - hug sweater to chest)
Besides—he's not the Prince of Peace. He's just a man who wants my Mommy and Daddy to make him the President. (Put on coat, scarf and gloves)
December, 1990 Yardley, Pennsylvania
I am standing on the curb along Main Street in Yardley, Pennsylvania. I'm freezing. We can see our breath. I'm holding my two year old son Matthew who feels way heavy on one hip and restraining my daughter Becca, age 5 with my hand on her shoulder. I think she knows better than to run out in the road when he comes by, but better safe than sorry. He'll be coming by any moment. The cheers are starting up and here's the bright red fire engine. Here's the HO! HO! HO! Here come the candy canes! Here come the squeals and the upstretched arms. I know better than to run into the road and place my coat under the wheels of his fire engine. So do my children! For one thing, it's too cold. For another thing, he's not the King of Kings. He's the King of Retail! (Take off coat, scarf and gloves and lay them on the first pew)
The First Palm Sunday
Mothers and their children, fathers, friends, disciples, and enemies stood along the road from Bethany to Jerusalem. And here he comes, rounding the bend at the Mount of Olives, the Prince of Peace riding atop a donkey. Not campaigning, not entertaining. Still, the cheering starts up. "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest heaven!" People ran to lay palm branches and their cloaks in path, a sign of honor.
Said some of the Pharisees in the crowd—"Teacher, order your disciples to stop." He replied, "I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out." (Lk 19:40)
The Courtyard of the High Priest's House, The Night of His Interrogation (Lk 22:54-62)
(Prop: Bamboo Stick to tend pretend fire)
I am standing by my fire in the middle of my master's courtyard. It's my job to keep burning what the guards have started. There he is. Coming by. I hate the way they are pulling and bullying him. For a flash, I picture myself running after him, throwing myself between him and his guards. Why are his disciples lagging behind him? Why aren't they defending him?