My part in Holy Week

Our church is hosting a Holy Week event Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. The guts of the buildings have been transformed into the scenes from the Passion; a children's classroom is now the Garden of Gethsemane, the sanctuary now the hill called Golgotha.

I was invited to be a part of this. I'd love to think the invitation came due to some acting aura I naturally emit or that my level of compassion is just so overwhelmingly biblical that folks said "Oh, John must be asked." But our church tries to deal in the real, not the fantastical, so for now, for this week, it was the beard and hair; a Holy Week presentation has to have a Jesus.

I will play Footwashing/Last Supper Jesus. I wasn't asked to be Garden of Gethsemane Jesus (dark and moody, very few lines) or Crucifixion Jesus (kinda the superstar); no, I'll be literally washing feet, breaking pita bread, and passing around a chalice of Mogen David. Hey, you play the cards you're dealt.

We practiced yesterday afternoon and I feel it'll go well come Wednesday. I really do. Although we had some background mood music playing, my head was filled with the soundtrack from the film The Gospel Road, featuring Johnny Cash. I was exposed to the movie at a very young age; a gift from my dad. Johnny sings and narrates the Passion week scenes. My parents have told me that I used to believe Cash's voice was God's voice. For some reason, I believe God would be o.k. with that. The song in that film which accompanies the scene I'm in this week is a rollicking ballad with that hallmark steam engine feel; it shows the disciples and Jesus enjoying a meal. But there's one line in the lyrics which kept repeating itself in my head yesterday afternoon: For tomorrow, I must die.

There's plenty of keyboards out there writing about the divinity of God, about the holiness inherent in this week so long ago. It should be so. However, my keyboard tends toward the human facet. There's got to be a few of us who keep saying "Yes, he was fully God...but he was also fully man." If this was your last week, your last meal, your last lecture, your last whatever, what would you be doing? How would you feel? What would you say?

There's a part of me that says Jesus knew he had to return to the Father; it was the next scene to be played. That same part of me also says that Jesus looked around at his ragtag friends and the pita bread and the Mogen David and the dust kicked up by unbroken colts in the street and the children playing in earshot and the old men standing around telling of the loaves and fish and the beautiful dusk and way divinity was wrapped up in flesh and bone and sweat and said "You know, I'm gonna miss this. I really am."

Did e're such love and sorrow meet?

I've renamed my scene Lake Wobegon Jesus; that descriptor won't show up in the printed material for this week; it's a card I'm playing close. I pray, I really do, that whatever aura I emit later this week is overwhelmingly melancholic grace; a snapshot of the Son of Man who inhaled tomorrow, I must die and exhaled I'm gonna miss this. I really am.

You know how the story ends...but I'll let you know how it goes.


  1. I guess I'm to far away to stop in for a service . . . I would if I could. I really enjoy your voice John. Most of the blogs I read are from women, and yours is a nice change-up. Our favorite thing about TGR is the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jesus. Gotta love country music!

  2. You need new business cards for your "Rent-A-Jesus" business.

  3. Rich is right; you could probably make bank right now. ;)

    It seems to me like you were perfectly (even divinely cast) into this specific role. You are able to see the moment. Feel a glimpse of His heartbeat of the human angst of the scene. It was a good reminder and thought for me to consider today.

    The act of washing feet is both humbling and powerful. Years ago when my sister was going through a difficult time and I simply didn't have any words; I was impressed that I just needed to wash her feet. I made the request (partially under the guise of a pedicure.) When we moved past those few awkward moments into the serving out of love part she just wept and poured out her heart to me. It is a moment that is still precious to me.

  4. Yeah...the foot-washing, Johnny Cash-lovin' Jesus seems a great role. Blessing on your Passion Week, John.

    BTW, a funny story comes to mind...Last fall my family was visiting my grandma in Iowa. We always stay with my great aunt and uncle (Grum has a studio apt), who are in their early 70s. They happen to have a portrait of Jesus--one which is indeed more a likeness to you than to what Jesus probably looked like--in the guest room. On our last day visiting, my 10 y.o. dtr said,"Who's that in the picture, Mom??". This child has been raised in the church, but we have no images of Jesus to set prototype in her mind.

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  6. You pull some good nuggets from all too familiar stories. I agree with Jana--voice and all of that.

  7. Dear Jesus, 'er John...

    ...when do we get to break bread together?

    ...I hope some time before they ask you to be Jesus holding a sparkler on the 4th of July

    ...may the Spirit move deep within you as you wash other's feet as he continues to wash the feet of our souls over and over and over again