I didn’t write last week, I had trouble figuring out what to write about. I have 3 unfinished posts in my queue and for the life of me I can’t finish them. Each is on a topic that has been or is currently something I’m intrigued by or wrestling with. Sigh…
It’s been busy here in the city. Our church, Chicago Tabernacle, has been preparing for heir annual “Story of Love” production. Each year at Easter they perform this for the community and hundreds of people come and hear the message of Christ. Weekends are spent handing out invitations all over the city. I haven’t seen it in the 2 1/2 years we’ve attended but this year I’ve been privileged to listen to it and meet the cast. How, you ask? I’m working in the costume department
I came by this inherently, I sew. When they were announcing needs for service it was hospitality or costumes and costumes are much more interesting to me than serving food with plastic gloves. Bruce’s comment? “Where you go so do I” so we’re together and it’s wonderful. We’re a ragtag little team of servants. Our leader is a single guy who immigrated from Belarus, by day he works in software. A couple of women my age, a single divorcee, by day a forensic accountant, and a single gentleman who’s personal story will break your heart. Bruce and I are an anomaly, it’s great.
We’ve helped with an evening of preparation and 2 dress rehearsals both going late into the night. I’ve taken home projects and had ladies come here to help. Bruce is tackling a Centurion’s armor that was poorly manufactured. There is laundering, mending, ironing and I’ve even made a few tunics that needed updating after years of service. Creative Solutions should be our ministry title, Gorilla Tape has found a new home.
The cast is a hoot. One of the soldiers found gladiator sandals (several years ago) at romansandals.com–this is the year they decided they’d had enough. Last night we were safety pinning and leather lace tying them. One of the Pharisees who usually drives a shuttle for the parking ministry, has the most perfectly suited white beard, you’d think he was born in 20 BC. His schtick–he asked if he could play the baby Jesus….they said no. We have children ages 10-12 who’ve been performing since they were 5. Seasoned? The stage is their second home. And the names! With church members from all parts of the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, Eastern Europe, The South Side, Asia and beyond, you can imagine (or maybe not–I couldn’t have). Creating name tags for their costumes is a feat of wonder.
The performance itself is unique. The first half is a multimedia presentation on love, creation and visual effects demonstrating God’s hand in creating life. Then come Mary and Joseph, very briefly to bring Jesus into the picture. At that point the cast takes over-the acting begins. It’s a sort of musical, freeze frame thing. We have a demoniac, the woman in adultery, a blind girl and a lame man on a stretcher. I had to repair his stretcher last week, he was in jeopardy of falling through the fabric. We have 2 different Jesus’, each with multiple costumes and a private support system. This week I’m making a 2nd tunic for our main Jesus.
They entirely reenact the flogging and crucifixion story. I can’t listen or watch. I never saw “Passion of the Christ”, my excuse was “If Jesus wanted me to know what he suffered visually he would have birthed me in that era”… in reality I’m a coward. I don’t think I could survive without creating a sob scene, even at our production. Many of the cast end up spattered and all their costumes have to be spot cleaned before the next performance. And you thought Shout Wipes were for lipstick stains. The soldiers wear pleather armor–enter the bucket, water and rag brigade. And yes, the stereotypical comedy about coming “Under the Blood” is alive and well.
Because our church is so diverse so is our cast. What’s wonderfully sweet about this is that most of them look as if they could have lived back then, for reals. While by day they may wear man buns, and sport funky facial hair, for this performance it suits. Maybe the only giveaway that we’re living in the 21st Century is the Sox tattoo on the Roman Soldier’s calf, (go Cubs). And it’s a bit disconcerting to see a Pharisee walking by the department checking game scores on his smart phone…
I think the thing that blesses Bruce and I the most is the community these people share and how welcoming they’ve been to us. Hugs are normal. Please and Thank You’s abundant. No egos allowed. Fun is had by all. I’ve seen one episode of tears from a youth, understandable considering the length of time required. For many in our church this is new. Having fun absent sinful behavior is something unfamiliar, some live in this world in part, as a way of combatting their former selves. We feel incredibly privileged to share in their recovery and to be able to demonstrate that even “old” Christians can have fun!
With Easter approaching it’s a wonderful reminder of just what Jesus’ sacrifice actually accomplished on the cross. And while his sacrifice was tantamount to our salvation it would be nothing without his resurrection. While there IS power in the blood, even more there is NEW LIFE in his rising.
He is Risen!
He is Risen indeed!