A Week of Improv
This Holy Week has been such a strange one – a Holy Week with the script massively edited.
I think most holidays have a script, whether it’s written or unwritten, stored in gray matter, or pixels or printed and bound in hardcover on the family bookshelf. Over the past dozen years or so, Jason and I have been editing ours. We’ve been writing and rewriting, trying hard to choose the right actors, sets, and action, cutting and adding what gets into the script, and trying to keep it short and focused on the thing we are really trying to celebrate. But even as we are working on this, it’s so easy for the scripted celebration to compete with the thing we are celebrating.
We are blessed to live in an age with so much creative content available at the flick of our scrolling fingers. There are just.so.many good things to help us keep our eyes on the journey to the Cross: beautiful art, moving music, hands-on activities and coloring pages, videos, recipes, blog posts and devotionals and carefully planned worship services. I love to curate and adapt and sometimes write these resources. Every year, Jason and I choose some things to do that we think will help our family make that journey from life to death to new life. It’s not always the same, but the worship services form the skeleton for the week: Palm Sunday with a processional, Maundy Thursday fellowship meal and worship, Good Friday service, and Easter Sunday celebration.
But this year, as we stay home, it has been different. Different than usual, of course, but also different than what I expected. I thought we would have more time to do some of the things we don’t always have time to do – more coloring pages and kids’ activities, more acts of service, more all-family worship and devotional times. I thought the script would include some rewrites and some new scenes. I knew the dinner scene would look different, because we are functional cooks, not celebratory cooks like my parents. I didn’t know that it would look like we lost the script for most of the week. But we did, and it gave me pause to think about the disciples in a new way.
Even though Jesus had prepared the disciples, they really didn’t get a sense of their roles until they were right in the middle of it. They thought they knew what to expect with the entry into Jerusalem. They thought they knew what the week would hold. They thought there was a script for Passover. But Jesus did some completely unexpected things at the Passover meal. And that was just the beginning of their realization that their roles were being rewritten.
They quickly found themselves saying lines they didn’t intend to say, doing things they didn’t think they would ever be doing. There was no neat order, no preparation, no planned menu, no supplies and materials gathered, no practice for how to huddle together in a locked room to avoid being executed, no rehearsal for how to celebrate and mark the crazy good news that your Lord who died right in front of your eyes has been raised from the dead. No menu for that celebration meal, and no order of worship. No florist delivery, no carefully hung wreaths or flower crosses or practiced orchestras. I am seeing that it must have been all higgledy piggledy for them, too – chaotic and scary, unprecedented, unpracticed, and unprepared.Those disciples were improvising, responding to each unexpected thing that happened with nothing but the preparation that Jesus had been doing in their hearts the whole time they had been walking together. Their world was upside down, and they were a scattered mess.
But Jesus used that mess to build his Church and to spread the good news of his love across the world. And He can use this mess in my house – this unprecedented, unpracticed, unprepared band of followers in each of our houses – in the same way to accomplish his purposes. But like the disciples, we aren’t unprepared for the important things. He has been preparing us as long as we have been walking with him. So now, may how we respond in our homes – even when our scripts have been tossed – build the Kingdom one line at a time. And when the lines we deliver are wrong, when we and the other actors misstep, when the props aren’t at hand, and when the sets fall down, may we then give and receive the grace He offers the disciples and us by coming and sharing our everyday meals cooked over a campfire or served in our usual dining rooms. May this week of improv be used to spread the good news of His love and hope far and wide on whatever stage He gives us.