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  • Writer's pictureTom Emanuel


Universal Pictures' "Jesus Christ Superstar" (1973), dir. Norman Jewison

What’s the buzz, tell me what’s a-happenin’?” --Andrew Lloyd Weber (Jesus Christ Superstar)

Though I was raised nominally Catholic, my family was proudly non-religious throughout my adolescence. It was only in early adulthood that I found myself drawn back to the Jesus Story, thanks to, of all things, Jesus Christ Superstar.

I was (am) a deep aficionado of 60s rock, and JCS set this classic story to music that spoke to the part of me that was and always will be obsessed with Led Zeppelin. As importantly, though, it was the first time I had encountered these characters—Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Judas—as more than flat caricatures in a “moldy old book”. It was the first time I had seen them as real human beings with thoughts and feelings and conflicts and motivations that I could relate to – and sing about!

That’s why I love Holy Week. Out of the whole Christian year, it’s the time we enter most fully into the Great Tale at the heart of our tradition. We follow Jesus’ final week in real time, immersing ourselves in his actions, his thoughts, his motivations, his doubts – and the actions, thoughts, motivations, doubts of the people around him too. In doing so, we begin to see our small stories woven together into God’s Big Story of Life, Death, and Resurrection.

When I was studying in Berkeley, my playwriting partner Aaron Eaves and I developed a theatrical form we call Mythic Theater. Blending ritual, liturgy, music, and drama, Mythic Theater seeks to bring the best of theater into the church and the best of Church into the theater. One of our underlying goals was to do for others what Jesus Christ Superstar helped do for me: enable us to “step inside” ancient myths and sacred stories… and maybe write some new ones while we’re at it!

This Palm Sunday, April 14, we will enter into Holy Week together with the Mythic Theater’s From the Desert to the Gate: A Palm Sunday Story.Starring members of our own UCC Watertown community, and featuring the music of Michael Jackson, I hope that it will open a gate for us into the mystery and wonder of Holy Week, as we gaze beyond Life into the abyss of crucifixion and Death – only to find Resurrection awaiting us.

See you on the other side.

Blessin's, --Tom

QUESTIONS FOR THE WEEK: When did you first “fall in love” with the Jesus Story? How has your relationship to it changed over time? What does Holy Week mean to you?

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