Monday, March 26, 2012

Street Theater: Palm Sunday, Year B

Palm Sunday Procession
This Week's Lectionary Texts
Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29
Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16

This Week's Reflection

I once preached a sermon for Palm Sunday where I used the analogy of street theater to describe what happened as Jesus entered Jerusalem. It makes perfect sense to me with all the shouting and waving of palms. I wondered before stepping into the pulpit if some would view this as sacrilege. While I have a high view of actors, traditionally in the Church they have been lumped in with liars and thieves.

Fringe Festival Street Performer
I was fortunate enough to attend the Edinburgh Fringe Festival as I stage managed a show appearing in that festival one year. For an entire month each year, the city of Edinburgh is home to actors, directors, and performers from all across the world. For the most part, the locals leave town and give it over to the likes of men painted blue and fire wielding witches on stilts. Every space that is large enough for a few chairs becomes a theater. There are hundreds of shows each week and each company wants to be seen by the thousands of people attending the festival. For that to happen, they have to get some attention. In order to get attention, on every corner of the city at any given moment in the day, a tourist can witness all kinds of street theater, little glimpses of what the companies have to offer. They don't perform the entire show, of course. The whole purpose of the street theater is to grab the attention of potential audience members, to get them to come see the real show.

Clandonia 17
Jesus and his band of actors paraded into Jerusalem as the crowds were gathering for the Passover. And, he performed this amazing bit of theater. There was comedy as he rode in on a donkey instead of a stallion, there was suspense as the people cried out, "Save us!," and there was drama when leaders tried to shut down the performance. But, the whole purpose of this performance was to grab their attention and to invite them to come to the real show.

Fringe Festival Street Performer

If your congregation does not hold services during Holy Week, be sure to find ways to allow them to see the real show. There are three acts and you don't want them to miss any of it. Palm Sunday is just the preview. Maundy Thursday is Act I. Good Friday is Act II. And, Easter Sunday is the final Act. And, like any great play, skipping to the end just won't allow us to appreciate the entire story in the same way.