Monday, 2 April 2012

An All-Age Passion Drama

This is what we’ve done in Hodge Hill for the last couple of years – it worked well last year, and better this year, I think. It’s written (using John Henson’s ‘Good as New: A Radical Retelling of the Scriptures’ as a starting-point, but simplifying and adapting along the way) for a narrator, and then for as many non-speaking ‘actors’ as available. The joy is it needs minimal rehearsal – just some visually powerful props, and some placards with the various words for everyone to join in with (in bold, below). As we did it, one person (me this time) ‘paused’ it in places to lead reflective prayers, using simple words (below) and a growing ‘cairn’ of rough pebbles – which the children helped add to, in a way that was entirely un-engineered!

ACT 1: Feeling passion or thinking sensible

Jesus, Judas & Peter – sitting (with children – around a meal table)

It was Tuesday evening. Two days before the Passover meal. Jesus knew that soon he would be arrested and put to death. He was at Bethany with his friends, having a meal, when a woman burst in...

Woman with perfume – enters

She’d brought with her a big jar of very expensive perfume. And she poured it all over Jesus’ head...

Woman – pours perfume

His friends were angry:

All: ‘what a waste... what a waste... what a waste...’

they grumbled. But Jesus said to them, ‘leave her alone – she has done something wonderful for me – whenever and wherever you tell the good news, tell people the story of this woman’s generosity...

But Judas had other ideas. He left the party to find the religious leaders. ‘How much will you give me, if I hand him over to you?’ he asked. And they did a deal with him. Three hundred pounds they gave him...

Judas – takes money bag, and sits down (in congregation)

...and from then on Judas watched, and waited...

ACTION: Add 3 stones to the cairn...

o ...for every time ‘sensible’ has won over ‘daring’,

o for every time ‘look after number one’ has won over ‘love your neighbour’,

o for every time ‘counting the pennies’ has won over ‘open your heart’...

ACT 2: Passover meal

Jesus & Peter – sitting (with children – around a meal table)

On the Thursday evening, Jesus and his disciples gathered together to share the Passover meal. They got the food ready, and sat down to eat. While they were eating, Jesus said, ‘one of you will give me away – one of you here’. And one by one, each one protested: ‘not me?!’...

All: ‘not me?!’... ‘not me?!’... ‘not me?!’...

And Jesus took some bread...

Jesus – takes bread (and passes round children)

...he said ‘thank you’ to God, he broke it and gave it to his friends... And he said, ‘this bread – this is me, my body – take it and eat it...’

And he took a cup of wine...

Jesus – takes wine

...he said ‘thank you’ to God, and passed it round his friends... And he said, ‘this cup – this is me, my life-blood, poured out to bring forgiveness, and friendship with God... next time we drink together, the new world of God’s kingdom will be dawning’

Then they sang a song, and left the house, heading to the Olive Hill...

SING: Love is flowing, love is flowing,
love is flowing from the fountain of life.

Grace is flooding...

Hope is streaming...

ACT 3: Gethsemane

Jesus, Peter & children move to ‘Gethsemane’ – Jesus kneels

On the way, Jesus said to his friends, ‘tonight, all of you will run away – as it says in the old books, “When the shepherd falls dead, the sheep flee in dread.” But when I come back to life, I’ll go on ahead of you – back to Galilee, where we started out.’

Peter stands up, hands out.

And Peter said, ‘run away? Not me! I’ll stick with you to the end...’

And Jesus said, ‘believe me, before Friday morning dawns and the cockerel crows, you’ll disown me three times’

‘Not me!’ said Peter. ‘Not me!’ said the others.

All: ‘Not me... not me... not me...’

And when they reached the garden called Gethsemane, he took Peter, James and John on a little further, and said to them, ‘my heart’s breaking – stay close to me, and keep awake’. And he prayed to God, ‘my Father, loving God, if there’s another way out of this, please show me... but No, not what I want – only what you want.’

Peter and children ‘sleep’.

And when he found Peter, and James, and John, they had fallen asleep. And he woke them up, and said ‘couldn’t you stay awake, even for an hour? You want to stand by me, but have you got the guts?’

Then he went away, and prayed again. And again, he came back, and found his friends sleeping. One more time, he went away and prayed. And he came back to his friends, and woke them. ‘Still asleep?’ he said. ‘Look, it’s time to go. Here comes the one who’s going to hand me over.’

ACTION: Add 3 stones to the cairn...

o for every time we have cared about someone, really cared, but have grown tired, or impatient, or simply bored, of sticking with them

ACT 4: Betrayal and denial

Jesus – stands; Judas & 2 soldiers – enter

And Judas came, with a crowd, with swords, and clubs. And Judas came up to Jesus and gave him a hug, and a kiss...

· Invite people to embrace their neighbour...

o how would this hug feel if it was a betrayal?

And they arrested Jesus, and took him away. And all his friends ran away, just as he said they would.

Peter & children run away.

Soldiers & Jesus – move to in front of central (minister’s) chair

And Jesus was taken to the religious leaders, who tried to find anyone who would make up a story against Jesus. But none of it would hold together. And Jesus said nothing. And eventually they asked him straight: ‘are you, or are you not, the chosen one, God’s own son?’ ‘That’s for you to say,’ said Jesus. ‘But keep looking, and you will see God doing something new...’ And this made them angry, and they spat in his face and hit him and said to each other, ‘he deserves to die’...

Peter comes closer, sits & watches.

And Peter was sitting outside, waiting to see what would happen. And a girl came up to him and said, ‘You’re one of Jesus’ friends’. But Peter said,

All: ‘not me... not me... not me...’.

Another girl said, ‘you were with Jesus, I’ve seen you together.’ But Peter said,

All: ‘not me... not me... not me...’.

And a third person said, ‘you’re one of them – we can tell from your voice’. And Peter shouted,

All: ‘not me... not me... not me...!’

And the cockerel crowed, and the first light of Friday morning began to dawn, and Peter remembered what Jesus had said, and he ran, and he cried, and ran some more...

ACTION: Add 4 stones to the cairn...

o One for a kiss, 3 for the denials...

o For every time we’ve cursed someone behind their back, or stayed quiet when others have done so...

ACT 5: Jesus with Pilate

Pilate – enters & sits in central (minister’s) chair

And they took Jesus to the governor, a man called Pilate. And Pilate asked him straight: ‘are you, or are you not, the King of the Jews?’ ‘That’s for you to say,’ said Jesus. And all the religious leaders accused him, but Jesus said nothing.

And Pilate gave the crowd a choice – he would set Jesus free, if they wanted, or another prisoner, a man called Barabbas. ‘Which will it be?’ Pilate asked them. And the crowd shouted,

All: ‘Release Barabbas!’

‘And what about Jesus?’ asked Pilate.

All: ‘Put him on a cross!’

they shouted. ‘Why?’ asked Pilate. But they just shouted back again,

All: ‘Put him on a cross!’

And Pilate saw he was losing control. So he took some water and washed his hands and said, ‘I take no responsibility for this man’s death. This is your business now.’

Pilate moves to bowl of water (not font) – washes hands

ACTION: Invitation to come and wash hands...

o For every time we could have spoken up, stood up, for what, or who, we believe in – but it felt too frightening, or too hard...

ACT 6: Journey to the cross

Soldiers bring Jesus to middle – dress him with robe, crown of thorns, reed; kneel

Then Pilate’s soldiers took Jesus, and dressed him up like a king, with a red robe, and a stick in his hand, and a crown – made of thorns – on his head...

And they knelt down in front of him and laughed at him, ‘three cheers for the King of the Jews!’ –

Soldiers lead ‘cheering’...

All: (Hip hip!) Hooray! (Hip hip!) Hooray! (Hip hip!) Hooray!’

And they spat in his face and hit him and stripped off his robe and took him off to crucify him.

Soldiers – take away Jesus’ robe, crown & reed

And they grabbed a man in the street, an African called Simon, and they made him help Jesus carry his cross...

Simon & Jesus – carry cross together – move to ‘Golgotha’

And when they got to Skull Hill, they put Jesus on the cross, with a sign over him saying ‘This is Jesus, King of the Jews’.

Soldiers & Jesus – stand cross behind Jesus (Jesus holding red robe)

And the thugs hanging from crosses on his right and his left laughed at him, saying ‘if you’re God’s Son, then save yourself!’

And the religious leaders came along, and they laughed at him, saying:

All: ‘save yourself... save yourself... save yourself!’

And others passed by, laughing,

All: ‘save yourself... save yourself... save yourself!’

ACTION: Add 3 stones to the cairn...

o for every time we’ve seen someone else suffering, and have laughed, or looked the other way, or simply busied ourselves in something else...

And then it went dark. From mid-day for three hours it was as dark as night...


And then Jesus shouted out, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ And he cried out again, and breathed his last breath...


ACTION: Add stone to cairn with each prayer...

o for all those in our world who feel abandoned...

§ by their family,

§ by their neighbours,

§ by their country,

§ by the world,

§ by God...

§ and for all of us – in those places of our lives where we feel abandoned too

o Holy God,
holy and strange,
holy and intimate,
have mercy on us.

ACTION: Lay down cross at cairn

SING: (Jesus, lamb of God) Jesus, lamb of God
(Take our sins away) Take our sins away
(Jesus, lamb of God) Jesus, lamb of God
(Grant us mercy / peace, we pray)
Grant us mercy / peace, we pray

And there were just a few who watched Jesus die: the soldiers on duty, and some women, a little way off – some friends of Jesus from Galilee, Mary his mother, Mary Magdalene, and the mother of James and John.

And as they watched, the earth shook, and rocks split, and the curtain in the holiest place in the Temple was torn down the middle, from top to bottom.

Jesus – tears sheet from top to bottom, holds arms out to us

And those who saw it said,

All: ‘this really was the son of God...’

Soldiers kneel; Woman – lights peace candle by cairn

Jesus, Soldiers & Woman – re-join congregation as we gather in circle for Peace

SING: Christ, our peace,
you break down the walls that divide us.
Christ, our peace,
come, make us one body in you.

ACTION: We all hold hands

Jesus said: “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12.24)

Not an easy peace, not an insignificant peace, not a half-hearted peace,
but the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be always with you.
And also with you.