Starting back in the 90s, St. Paul United Methodist Church in Lusby, presented various versions of the Passion of Christ – as a part of a Maundy Thursday or Good Friday worship service. In 2006 we did a performance of it and afterwards I got to thinking – I looked around at the brick walls of the activity center – and thought about the small audience of very familiar faces. There was a tremendous amount of effort involved but what was the benefit? As we all know, there are a few people or so in every congregation who will attend everything that goes on and when you involve laity – especially young people – in a worship service, their families will come. Largely, though, they were all people who already knew the story and, as good as it is to hear it again, those that don’t know the story are the ones who really need to hear it. Yet, only those who read our church bulletins or happened to be in the building even knew that we were telling the story. Brick walls keep the weather out, but they also keep everything else out. It was like we were throwing a feast with the most delicious food – and not bothering to tell the hungry about it or let them even see it.
So, I began praying about it. God impressed on my heart two truths that He wanted this production to demonstrate. First, that this story needed to be available to everyone. Sometime over the next two years God put it in my mind that an outdoor production would allow the lost and spiritually hungry at least to know that we were telling this story. He also pointed out that our church already owned a piece of land that was perfectly suitable for such a production. So, in the summer of 2008 I invited one of the teenagers in the church drama group and a friend to help me rewrite and expand the existing church service version into a roughly hour long play. Secondly, when Jesus gave his final instructions to his disciples at the Last Supper he told them “They will know you are my followers by the love you bear for one another”. So the production had to involve a variety of Christians – the rewrite had to be bigger than one church could do on its own.
In 2009, exactly nine weeks before Easter, I got the church’s permission to proceed – with the caveat that the church would give no money to support it – there was none in the budget to spare. At that point I had an organization of 1 person, a script, a concept and a location. It was kind of a fresh, exciting idea, though, and a lot of people rallied around. Four churches became involved in major support – providing rehearsal rooms, money for signs (or allowing fund-raisers), we got a team together and fumbled through everything. When I asked people for help they – mostly being the responsible sorts – wanted to know what my budget was. I could only laugh and tell them we had zero dollars, no real estimate of the cost and, by the way, would they help out? Nine weeks later, we had cleared a stage area, gotten electricity, built and painted walls, passed building inspection, set up light towers, built crosses, mowed the field, gotten police coverage, portapotties – and with a committee organized to run the show, had gotten lots of ideas for publicity, improving the script and found roughly 60 people to take parts and another 30 or so that did all kinds of other support.
The whole episode was one continuous series of God-moments – His divine coverage. I’ll just share this one, though. We had borrowed a huge tent which had to be put away dry. We do the show two nights each year – Good Friday and Saturday after it. Rain was predicted for the time of the show for Friday night. Everyone was worried and kept asking me what we were going to do. I told them “My job is to direct the show, God’s in charge of the weather.” As the show started, the storm split – it rained north of us and it rained south of us, but we didn’t get a drop. After the show, we took down the big tent, got it packed in its bag and back on the trailer, and then a few raindrops hit. Just God letting us know he had our backs.