The most notable of passion plays is performed every 10 years in Oberammergau, Germany. It began in the year 1634 after the people of the village prayed that God would spare them from bubonic plague that was ravishing Europe at the time.
The play was produced in appreciation of God saving most of the villagers from the horrible disease. At first, it was performed every year. After it became too expensive for the villagers to continue having it annually, it was scheduled for 10-year intervals in years that end with a zero. The next multiple performances will be in 2020 with Christians from all the world attending.
The passion play in Eureka Springs, Ark., is billed as the No. 1 outdoor drama in America. It depicts the life of Christ from His triumphant arrival in Jerusalem to His crucifixion, His resurrection and His ascension into heaven.
In many of the larger churches, the celebration of Easter may be enhanced with live animals —donkeys, sheep and goats.
In the smaller churches, usually on a smaller scale, the Easter message is dramatized also.
While the word of God is holy and not to be taken lightly, there are times when the best laid plans go awry, resulting in a comedy of human errors.
That was the case last year on Easter morning in Canton, Ohio, at the First Church of the Nazarene. A reverent, dramatic service had been planned.
On that Easter morning, while the end result of the service was not as reverent as planned, it was certainly dramatic. In fact, the Rev. Mike Dennis said he believed that Easter service would never be forgotten.
Everything was going according to the script. The choir, featuring a soloist, was singing. Someone was narrating how Jesus had risen from the dead. At that time, in the final scene, there was to be a display of lights.
Unfortunately, a wire sparked. Everything nearby blazed up, including the Styrofoam stone blocking the entrance to the tomb. The actor playing Jesus was already in the make-believe tomb when it happened.
To get out, he kicked the flaming “stone” sealing the tomb away, picked it up and ran off the stage with it. Members of the congregation hastily ran onto the stage and took away other burning props.
All of it was caught on video tape and was played and replayed on social media and national news. Amazingly, in accord with the show business phrase, “The show must go on,” the soloist, the church choir director and the choir members continued performing as if nothing unusual was happening all around them.
We read in the Bible that we are made in the image of God. That may mean that God has a sense of humor, too, for in the aftermath of the blaze, there was much to laugh about.
The actor playing Jesus earned the nickname “Chuck Norris Jesus” since he kicked the burning “stone” away to get out of the tomb and away from the fire. Other comments included, “Good to see somebody fired up for Jesus,” “Certainly fired up the congregation,” and another asked, “Has the ‘special effects’ guy still got a job?”
Of course, everyone was thankful that no one was seriously injured. The always-positive minister quipped that the more than well-worn carpet would finally be replaced.
There was another concern — the fire department. Not knowing they were required to have one, the church leadership had not gotten a permit for using pyrotechnics in the service. The fire chief announced the matter would need to be investigated. The church hoped for forgiveness.
Easter Sunday is the most holy day of the year. On the secular side, there are Easter baskets, chocolate Easter bunnies, Easter ham and new clothes.
More importantly, on Sunday morning, Christian churches will be decorated with Easter lilies and spring flowers. There will be fewer empty seats than usual as believers gather together to celebrate the resurrection of the Son of God and our promise of eternal life.
But most of all, we will rejoice because “Christ the Lord Has Risen today.” Hallelujah.
Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.