Sunday, March 25, 2007

Thespians Have Invaded My Church!

I'm no great fan of church drama and dramatic productions. So, this is an uncomfortable time of year for me. Leading up to Easter each year my church goes through a transformation.

This morning, we got to church relatively early. In the foyer outside the auditorium I noticed a lot of people milling about in costumes, apparently from the 1920s or '30s.

When we got into the auditorium, I was instantly consumed with lust. There on the platform gleamed a vintage Packard roadster. (It's odd that when you tell a man you covet his car, he'll smile. How many of the 10 commandments can you violate with that response.)

Around the Packard was a number of set decorations with that '20s or '30s theme. Old Coca Cola signage and so on. It was a remarkable piece of work. I remarked to my wife, "where are the TVs?" Blythefield has three huge projection screens on which videos, the words to songs and sermon notes are projected. None were visible, just the stage props.

When the service started, the thespians invaded the auditorium all in their costumes. Over a hundred of them surged onto the platform. They do this each year, except they wear different costumes each year. They sang and then segued into a song-and-dance routine that was as good as any musical production I've seen in Grand Rapids. I joke about the dancing girls at church, but today both men and women were kicking their legs up.

I appreciated the skill and work that went into the show. That's one of Blythefield's strengths, the show before the sermon. I realized that my opinions notwithstanding, this could be what reaches some people who'd otherwise be consumed with ennui or absent.

One of the thespians is a tall fellow with a beard, you know the kind of beard you've seen in every picture of Jesus you've ever seen. Jesus goes to my church. I see him every Easter season. This year, Jesus was easy to spot because whereas all the other thespians were wearing costumes from the early 20th century, Jesus wore the bathrobe costume we imagine the ancients clothed themselves with.

Then someone flipped a switch and a projection screen unfurled to allow projection of the words to the songs we were to sing. (It wouldn't be church without video, would it?) And after some peppy songs with a solid back-beat, they showed a video on that big screen.

But I found the video confusing. I told you that Jesus goes to our church. But the video showed a different guy in a beard who wore the bathrobe costume. He didn't look like the Jesus who goes to our church. Perhaps Jesus is like Santa Claus: the guy in my church and the guy in the video are just his helpers. (Someday, I'll ask some hard questions about the 2nd commandment.)

Last year, two movies came out, "The Illusionist" and "The Prestige" that each featured magicians. I rather liked the latter, but haven't seen the former. They seem to have set a cultural theme. As Evangelicals are wont, my church has (six months late) latched onto the fad and the Easter show this year has some kind of magical theme or story-line where some kind of magician comes to town in the early 20th century (thus the costuming indicated above). Perhaps next year all the guys with great pectorals will be recruited for a "300" rip-off.

30 years ago, Francis Schaeffer challenged Evangelicals to engage contemporary culture and I suppose that what I just described is what this entails. I think our failure is that we're six months late, and that we're not setting the pace for others to follow.

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