I was Annas and also Caiaphas. I was Pontius Pilate. I was even cast as Jesus at the table in an upper room with the disciples for that final meal together! In a previous time, I traveled with a repertory theatre company performing in churches, schools, etc. We presented plays with modern day settings, contemporary characters, and themes. But once a year, when the Lenten season rolled around, we switched into full Biblical drama mode. The plays then dealt with the events during the final week of Jesus life on earth – Holy Week. Very dramatic stuff!
In my childhood home church, we had palms for Palm Sunday and a Thursday communion service. But Good Friday we only learned about in Sunday School. And, of course, Easter Sunday morning was always a huge deal. We didn’t observe Ash Wednesday, the Lenten season, or Holy Week, that I can recall, and I am pretty sure I couldn’t have told you what those terms meant or why they were important to know about.
Exposure to ecumenical ministry as an Air Force Reserve Chaplain’s Assistant, theater touring years, seminary, and service as a pastor, hospital chaplain, and Army Chaplain has since opened my eyes to the liturgy, pageantry, theology, and beauty of observing Lent/Holy Week. At this point in my life and ministry, I can honestly say that now I look forward to experiencing the dramatic arc of Lent each time the season arrives.
Lent and the attendant rituals and worship observances of the season provide for us a spiritual touchpoint. In the midst of the chaos of our personal, national, and global life, it is the traditional music, texts, and characters we revisit during Lent that bring a reassuring familiarity. An annual focus on Lenten spiritual practices helps me to put perspective on what can seem like a constant whirlwind of concerns and challenges. Like Christian believers the world over, Lenten rituals and Holy Week drama help me to remember that I am not without companions who share the same or similar experiences and draw on Faith for peace.
To truly know the light and joy of Easter though, we must first experience the dark drama of Holy Week and Good Friday. And today, this Black Saturday, we wait. Today we meditate, ponder, grieve, and wonder, much as it undoubtedly was for those first disciples of Christ.
I am grateful to know that the liturgical and theological drama has a concluding act that doesn’t climax with at the rolling of a stone to seal the tomb of Jesus. For today at least, I am willing to sit in the darkness between that scene and the one I continue to hope is still ahead. Tomorrow is surely coming, right?
Rev. Tom Yates serves the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) as Chaplain Endorsing Officer. Tom earned a BA in Theater Arts from CSUN (‘78), M.Div. (‘87) and D.Min. (‘88) from CST with much support from DSF. He is a lifelong Disciple and lives in the Pacific Northwest with his spouse, Patty – a fellow actor and singer.