For Maundy Thursday, I invited those who were interested to do a “reader’s theater” session using a chapter from Dorothy Sayers’ classic play, The Man Born to be King. This play, the story of the life of Jesus, was aired in serial form over BBC radio during WWII in Great Britain and captured the heart of that entire country during those dark days.
The particular chapter we read took us through the last supper, through the betrayal by Judas and the behind-the-scenes plotting by the High Priest and his minions, and ended in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus’ arrest and abandonment by all the disciples.
I’ve done this before, and the pattern is the same: we do not assign parts, just keeping reading around the circle, each one reading the part that comes next. One person might be Jesus one moment, and Judas or Caiaphas or John a few moments later. Our excellent and creative accompanist came up with music that would help us move from scene to scene, just as would happen on a radio show.
And, as I’ve experienced before, people are a little slow to warm up. The format is new and different, the story has a bit of a quiet start, and the first ten minutes are a bit sloggy. But about that time, we all find ourselves caught up in the characters. When we finally landed at the garden, reading like sleepy disciples and the sorrowful Jesus, our own tears started to flow. When the soldiers and Judas show up, and the person who reads the Judas part goes up to his Master and kisses him, we can barely get through it. When the disciples scatter, we know with sadness we would have done the same.
At the final line, we sat in almost stunned silence. I reminded them of the new commandment and offered the dismissal with blessing. As we slowly moved out, one of the readers mentioned to me, “Did you know there were thirteen of us in the circle tonight?”
Thirteen people, Jesus and the twelve at the Last Supper; thirteen people, the pastor and the people at Krum First UMC.
Incredible. What a worship service.