Almighty and everlasting God, in your tender love for us you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon himself our nature, and to suffer death upon the Cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and come to share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. — BCP
by Win Pratt
Early on in our relationship (maybe before we were even dating), my now wife and I connected on a shared enjoyment of musical theater. In the time we’ve been together, we’ve often made the time to see productions of our favorite shows together. So, last weekend, we ventured out to the beautiful Durham Performing Arts Center for a Broadway Series South production of the 1940s classic, Oklahoma! If you don’t know the show, you may recognize some of the popular songs, like Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’ or The Surrey With The Fringe on Top.
We were prepared for the joyous, fun, light-hearted Rogers and Hammerstein production I remember from my childhood. What we were met with, instead, was Daniel Fish’s dark and artsy 2019 interpretation of the 1941 classic. This new, modern, take on Oklahoma! has won Tony awards and the critics (for the most part) have raved. And we were not prepared for this interpretation when we went to the theater. We got the story we expected, told in a starkly different way.
When Jesus makes his triumphant entry to the city of Jerusalem, the crowd that gathers, with palm fronds in hand, are there to greet a king. The king they expected, though, is not the king they were met with. They expected an earthly, liberating, show of might and power, to bring peace and justice. “Hosanna!”, they cry out to their savior. What they get, instead, is one who “humbled himself, even to the point of death— even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-11, NRSV)
That is the message of the Passion, of all of Holy Week. That Jesus empties himself, humbles himself, in stark contrast to the expectations of those he came to save. He does save them, we know! The liberation, the peace, the justice, are all promises of the Passion— and they are promises of eternity, not just temporal satisfaction. Like our viewing of Oklahoma!, the crowd gets the story they expected, told in a starkly different way.
As we prepare for Holy Week, let’s take time to reflect on our temporal expectations of the Savior, Jesus Christ, and how the Passion might turn those presumptions on their heads, and exceed our wildest hopes.
— Win Pratt lives in Raleigh, NC.