Freestyle Part 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 6 of our Easter Freestyle Series
By Zephaniah Associate & Founder of Parable Arts Jon Buckeridge

Good Friday

Good Friday has always seemed a strangely insensitive name for a day so wracked with pain.  I’ve never considered it likely that any of the people there at the time would have named the day “good”, so there must have come a strange point in history where this suddenly became the accepted vernacular and our mourning process was neatly scheduled for us, the day before.  “That’s it, folks, get your sadness out of the way on Thursday; no grieving or mourning will be permitted after 12am.  Come Friday it’s time to move on to seeing how good this all is!”

Perhaps this is just my own flawed and fallible faith-journey but I struggle to see how anyone, in the face of such horrific brutality and enveloped by the crushing realisation of inevitable death, could possibly keep their eyes on the good of the situation.  From my reading of the Bible it strikes me that most of the disciples had missed the point of Jesus’ plans and teachings time and again and no matter how clearly he spelled it out (“OK guys, it rhymes with ‘Smooshifixion’!”) they still didn’t see this coming.  So utterly were they convinced that Jesus would lead a crusading revolution to restore Israel’s glory that seeing his death must have seemed like the end, not just of a life, but a dynasty; a dream; a destiny.

All of this leads me to ask, where’s the “good” in this?  Oh I know the real answer, I am so thankful for the work of the cross in my life, on a daily basis, but the label “good” seems to infer that the bad doesn’t matter, or that we’re not to focus on it.  It was a fleeting flash-in-the-pan, before the glory to follow… Try telling that to Mary, at the foot of the cross.  One of the greatest sins of Christendom is to tell the story of Jesus in such a way that it loses the raw, visceral realism it was founded on; we believe this is about real people in a real time and real circumstances but we tell their stories as dispassionately as a children’s book, and in doing so we rob it of its relevance and resonance.

This time last year I was fortunate enough to be asked to direct a Black-Country-wide passion play called Good Friday, using community actors from churches all over the region.  It was a musical production written by some incredibly talented folks from one of the local churches, with a whole host of professional musicians and artist, like myself, coming together to build the production for the actors to perform. Now those who know me will know I have a strongly-professed hatred of musical-theatre, and all its works, and I am convinced the world would be better off if Andrew Lloyd Webber had decided to become a solicitor.  However, I leaped at the chance to get involved in this production; not only because I love working with non-professional actors and helping them to discover and hone their performance potential, but because this was a chance to lift the story of good Friday off the page and bring it back to life.  As actors and performers we strive for emotional realism and authenticity – even musical-theatre performers. We want to present real people in real moments, and we want to invite the audience to explore those moments with them.

In directing this production I was brought into those events all the more.  I saw Mary’s wrenching desolation, Peter’s fearful shame, Judas’ regretful confusion.  All these things, and more, became real for me; real people going through real emotions and real confusion, faced with real fear and real doubt.  For me (and I hope for the audience as well) I was plunged into the all-too-human events of a day that was anything but good, and the story became far more than just words.

Now, as I said, I know the actual reason why Good Friday is named as such but, as with much of life, it’s the examples of going through hard times that teach us some of our most powerful lessons.  This Good Friday there will be people who are struggling to see the good in their own lives; who are so weighed down by the trials and tribulations of their journey that Good Friday seems to be nothing short of an ironic slap in the face.  For those people a time where Christendom places an expectation of celebration can seem like a burden and obligation they are shamed to fall short of reaching, “I know I should feel good, but that’s just not where I am right now.  I have failed.”  The Bible teaches us we should praise God in all things, and approach Him with thanksgiving, but praise doesn’t always mean happy, and thanksgiving doesn’t always mean joyful.  The Bible also teaches us there is a time for all things, and that sadness and mourning are parts of life we must shuffle through as much as we stride through the good times, and it’s not wrong to be in that place now.  Jesus was a real person who went through real pain, so believe me when I say that He can draw close to you in yours.  Perhaps, for you, your praise is “thank you for being here with me in this.”  Perhaps, for you, your thanksgiving is “thank you that you understand.”  But above all things, the message of Good Friday teaches all of us that our prayer can always be “thank you that the pain will pass, and you will be there on the other side, just as you are here now.”

Jon Buckeridge – Parable Arts
www.parablearts.co.uk

Freestyle Part 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 5 of our Easter Freestyle Series
by Storyteller Julie Wilkinson

Remember…

Remember me.

Two words.
In the dark of that close night, two words,
as hands broke bread and offered it to them.
And in the days and weeks and months and years that followed, they remembered…

Hands
that beckoned, welcomed, redefined them
from fishermen and tax collectors
to itinerant revolutionaries walking in the borders of a blazing and unsettling light.

Hands
that changed, transformed, and healed,
banishing shadows from body and soul
and clearing the way for divine restoration.

Hands
that turned tables, overturned order, and brought peace,
raising those who dwelt in the dust
to take their place at the banquet.

Hands
that held wood, saw and plane, hammer and nails,
hammered nails, held nails,
knew nails.

Remember me.

Two words.
In the dark of that close night, two words,
and a mouth that drank from the cup and offered it to them.
And in the days and weeks and months and years that followed, they remembered…

Words
that inspired, disarmed, and confused,
offering a glimpse of a glory they couldn’t fully grasp.

Words
that challenged, undid, and remade,
taking the truth and cracking it open
and leading them to its clear and unfathomable heart.

Words
that compelled, and commanded, and called,
to take up their tools
and join the rebuilding of the kingdom.

Words
that were woven, and spoken,
and shouted, and whispered,
and drawn painfully out.
“It is finished.”

“It is finished.”
“It is coming.”
“Take this and eat.”
“Take this and drink.”

“Remember me.”

Matthew 26: 17-30
Mark 14: 12-26
Luke 22: 7-23

For Julie’s retelling of The Last Supper, click here.

Freestyle Part 4

 

 

 

 

 

Part 4 of our Easter Freestyle Series
By Storyteller Julie Wilkinson


Enough is Enough

Jerusalem. The Temple.

The priest lifts the scroll, puts it away with the others, neatly, methodically, lined up on the shelf. He straightens an oil lamp. Brushes the fabric of his robe. Leaves.

He marches with long strides. Past the benches of the dove sellers, the tables of the money changers. His eyes rake their orderly rows, careful alignments. He allows himself a smile.

He moves rapidly, through the temple gates, into the courtyard. As he passes, people straighten, stand taller, shrink back, scurry away. But he notices not. Eyes forward. Feet in motion. Gait steady. Certain.

The words in his head match the rhythm of his steps. They call that man the Teacher.

“… It is written in the Scriptures, ‘My Temple will be called a house for prayer for people from all nations.’ But you are changing God’s house into a hideout for robbers …”

He blinks, once, keeps walking.

“… I will not tell you what authority I have …”

His fingers twitch, imperceptibly, he keeps walking.

“… Beware of the teachers of the law …”

His pace quickens.

“… They like to walk around wearing fancy clothes … They like people to greet them with respect …”

A single drop of sweat beads on his forehead.

“… They love to have the most important seats …”

Fists clench.

“… They cheat widows and steal their houses … They try to make themselves look good by saying long prayers …”

Lips press together.

“… They will receive a greater punishment … The temple will be destroyed … Not one stone will be left on another …”

As he opens the door to his house, images flash through his mind. Tables overturned, benches flung aside, scrolls tumbled to the floor, a broken oil lamp, stones toppled. Cries. Chaos. Confusion.

The door falls shut behind him. His chest heaves. Enough is enough. This man must be stopped.

Mark 11: 15-19, 27-33, 12: 1-12, 18-40, 13: 1-2, 14:1-2

Story first published on Julie’s blog, The Hidden Spaces, April 2011

Freestyle Part 3

 

Part 3 of our Easter Freestyle Series
By Trust Administrator Dr Jenny Cousens


John 12: 35-36.
Then Jesus told them, “You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. Put your trust in the light while you have the light, so that you may become sons of light.”

One of our favourite weekend getaways is to the Dunstan Hill campsite in Northumberland. Last time we went we arrived quite late, owing to the roadworks on the A1, but we thought we had just enough time, after eating our fish and chips, to take a walk to the beach. The campsite is about a 15-minute walk from the sea, through woodland, around fields, through gates and finally over the sand dunes.

For a girl brought up by the sea, arriving on any beach is a re-acquaintance with my roots, and not something I wish to hurry. It became clear, however, that our assessment of the amount of daylight left to make the return walk to the campsite had been overly optimistic, and the light was fading fast. By the time we reached the wooded area it was dark, and without a torch or even a mobile phone to light the way, we were tripping over tree roots and searching for the right gate to get back to the campervan.

Jesus told his disciples to walk while they had the light – don’t linger and look at the scenery; don’t sit down in the middle of the road; keep your eyes on the light – because walking with Jesus is always a journey. The biggest risk to our faith is to be content to stay where we are. Sometimes the journey is a straight road as far as the eye can see; sometimes it is a series of twists and turns and full of the fear of the unknown. That’s why we have to keep moving, staying as close to the light as we can, otherwise we won’t know the way to go and are liable to trip over tree roots along the way.

If we sincerely want to ‘become sons of light’ – taking light into dark corners – we have to walk with the light. Just as we couldn’t magic up any light to make our walk back to the campsite any easier, we cannot reflect God’s light if we are not in it. God is the one and only source of that light and we have no power to manufacture it from within ourselves.

Walking with the Light, and not knowing what might be around the next corner, can be exciting, scary, sometimes even terrifying………. but Jesus never promised that life would be comfortable.

Freestyle Part 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 2 of our Easter Freestyle Series
By Project Worker Julia Leech

The Owner of the Donkey

As with many parts of the Bible, the Easter story has several ‘behind-the-scenes’ moments which are only mentioned in passing, and not fully explained.

One of these moments happens when Jesus is about to enter Jerusalem, and he tells his disciples to go on ahead where they will find a donkey, which they should untie and bring to him, and if anyone asks they should just say “the Lord needs it”. Sure enough, they find the donkey and say this to the owner, who then willingly lets them take the donkey off back to Jesus with no further questions.

Why does the owner do that?? It’s the kind of thing that’s easy to gloss over in a familiar story, but the owner has just given away a valuable animal to the people he found ‘acquiring’ it simply because they gave a good enough explanation. None of the gospels fully explain the owner’s thinking, but there are several possibilities.

Did God tell him? He might have had a word from God beforehand, saying that he’d find some people untying his donkey that afternoon because ”the Lord needs it” and that he should let them. If that was the case, he might have dismissed it at first, thinking it was an unlikely and strangely specific scenario and he was probably making it up. It might have been quite a surprise when it actually happened – a surreal moment, but at the same time very real, a tangible realisation that God knew who he was and had a plan for him. If that’s what happened, it was a pretty significant day for that man.

Or maybe it wasn’t that the owner knew it was coming beforehand – maybe it was the moment when he realised who the donkey was being taken for that brought out the best in the owner, when he realised he had enough faith and trust in Jesus that he would gladly give anything Jesus asked for. If that was the way the owner felt, he must have felt honoured to have the opportunity to contribute to God’s plan. If that’s what happened, then what a beautiful gift it was when God enabled that man to give.

We can’t really know how accurate these possibilities are, or whether there is a whole other explanation entirely. What we do know is that God involved the owner of the donkey in his plan, and subsequently the owner was given a fundamental part to play in the Easter story. We don’t even know the man’s name, but whoever he was, God did a wonderful thing for him that day.

Perhaps this is similar to when John says, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 21:15). There is always more to stories of God’s action and love in the world, because God’s work is much too extravagantly detailed to summarise in a paragraph, and touches far more people than we can comprehend.

Luke 19: 28-40
Matthew 21: 1-11
Mark 11: 1-11
John 12: 12-16

Freestyle Part 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1 of our Easter Freestyle Series
By Trust Director John Froud

Recently, I was asked to talk about my role models, my heroes when I was a teenager; the people I looked up to and tried to be like. It’s quite a long list, but I settled for Martin Luther King, a man who stood up for the lowest in society but without violence, Denis Law, a footballer admired and respected for his genius and Bob Dylan who writes songs that change minds.

Although I read a lot about them and kept albums full of press cuttings, I never actually met any of them and I have only seen Denis Law and Bob Dylan from the cheap seats at the back, from where, it must be said, neither of them look like giants.

When Jesus was arriving in Jerusalem everyone wanted to see him because they knew he was something special. He did amazing things with bread and fish, not to mention water; he fixed people who were in a bad way; he talked so well people forgot to go home.

Have you ever thought how much trouble the young people, particularly, of Jerusalem were risking on that Palm Sunday, as we call it today?
Asking parental permission to go to the city and stand with the crowd was not ever likely to go well. I would not recommend ignoring your parents’ wishes but I know it happens…
Arriving without something to wave may lead to a hasty decision to strip branches from trees…
The cheering was sufficiently loud for the “posh” people to tell Jesus to stop those children making so much noise (not that he took any notice, other than to quip something smart about shouting stones)…
And then there’s the coats. It’s one thing putting your coat down for royalty to walk on (Sir Walter Raleigh famously did so much later for Elizabeth I), but for a King riding a donkey? Really? Donkeys are famous for leaving things behind – from their behinds in fact. Imagine having to explain that to your mother.

“It was a donkey – but Mum, Jesus was on the donkey.”
“And where were you?” Angry Mum eyes, met with embarrassed, found-out hesitation.
“Er…”
“You’re a disgrace. The lady next door saw you pulling branches off the trees. I thought I told you not to go…” And so on, towards the inevitable punishments.

Not good.

But were those risks worth taking to be able to get close to your hero? How much effort should we make to get a good look at Jesus?

Luke 19: 28-40
Matthew 21: 1-11
Mark 11: 1-11
John 12: 12-16

Be There…

Be There
© John Froud 2000
First featured on the Be There album, recorded by John Froud & the PKs in 2000

Let me tell you, love can be hard,
Let me tell you, love can be hard,
There are times you don’t want to go there,
Times you don’t want to care,
Let me tell you, love can be hard.

You gotta be there when the one you love’s in pain,
Be there when the one you love is in pain,
When the tears are falling down,
You still gotta be around,
Be there when the one you love’s in pain.

You gotta be there when there’s nothing you can do,
Be there when there’s nothing you can do,
When they just don’t wanna know
‘Bout the love you’ve got to show,
Be there when there’s nothing you can do.

You gotta be there when the one you love lets you down,
Be there when the one you love lets you down,
When the slap comes across your face
It’s time to show some grace,
Be there when the one you love lets you down.

Let me tell you, love can be hard,
Let me tell you, love can be hard,
There are times you don’t want to go there,
Times you don’t want to care,
Let me tell you, love can be hard.

He was there and the nails tore through his hands,
He was there and the nails tore through his hands,
Taking all the pain
So I can live again,
He was there and the nails tore through his hands.

Posted Good Friday 2014