Since we attended the “Jonah” production at Sight and Sound in our 2017 road trip to Lancaster County, my mother has wanted to return for more productions. In summer 2018, the Christian theater company was presenting its “Jesus” production. My sister Liza agreed to come with us on this June 23, 2018, trip. I was grateful for someone to share the driving load.
Liza took the three-hour outbound leg from New York. If I ever needed a speedy, confident driver, I would always choose Liza. Her Waze app made it easier to reach Lancaster County. The only annoying part about Waze is that it assumed that we needed to pay cash for the tolls although we have an electronic pass.
First, we enjoyed the lunch buffet at Dienner’s Country Restaurant, which served traditional Pennsylvania Dutch fare. I feasted on the rotisserie chicken, ham, broccoli, carrots and rice. Just to be safe, I took a lactase pill just in case some butter was used. For dessert, I opted for the fruit salad.
With time to spare, my mother wanted to check out the stores nearby. We had avoided the Pennsylvania Dutch stores the first time through Lancaster County. This time, my mother and I entered two such stores while Liza waited in the car. The Dutch Haven next to Dienner’s claimed to make Shoo Fly Pie famous. Deacon Paul Nguyen had praised and eaten the molasses pie during his pastoral year in Florida. Inside, I was given a sample. I liked it although I had to take a lactase pill. At another store, we looked for a metal “Beware of Dog” sign without any luck. My mother was tempted to buy a few things, but she put them aside, saying, “We have enough junk in the house.”
Next was Sight and Sound, a theater company dedicated to state-of-the-art Bible story productions. Producer/director Joshua Enck said that the “Jesus” production was based on the theme “love that rescues.” He summarized the production as “a story of Jesus’ love, which we believe, is life.” Throughout the production, I noticed that rescuing love in such scenes as curing the demoniac and walking on water. The fundamental identity of being a child of God was brought out when Mary Magdalene recounted Jesus’ intervention after being caught in adultery.
The pleasant surprise was how large the Virgin Mary was portrayed in the production. She was among the women accompanying Jesus and the disciples. She offered to help Martha in the kitchen. Her concern for Mary Magdalene prompted that Mary’s retelling of her past. My favorite part of the production was after the arrest of Jesus. In the confusion, John asked the Virgin Mary about what they could do. She said, “Pray,” and began the first part of “Our Father” with others picking up the other parts. The production nicely linked the Nativity with the burial of Jesus. Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes when he was revealed to the world; she wrapped Jesus in a burial cloth when he was hidden from the world in the tomb.
Watching any production on Jesus, I have to bring my Catholic filter for questionable content. First was a lack of attention on Jesus’ passion. The Passion and the Resurrection must be held equally in tension. The agony in the garden was well done. But there were places during Mary’s and the disiciples’ singing of the “Our Father” that Jesus’ suffering could be suggested. Only the trial and crucifixion were shown. Many minutes were dedicated to the Resurrection.
Overemphasis of the Passion can create a macabre outlook on our sinful contribution to Jesus’ pain. But overemphasis of the Resurrection fails to acknowledge the suffering that required the greatest miracle. It actually lowers the joy of the Resurrection. I cheered with everyone else during the Resurrection scene. But I felt that it could’ve been more. Our exuberance of the Resurrection must be paired with our despair of Jesus’ suffering.
Second was the anti-religion stance, especially from Nicodemus. The production was showing the false dichotomy between Jesus’ liberating love and the restrictions of religion. But Jesus’ rescuing love saved everything, even religion by establishing the baseline of love to obey God’s laws and authority in his representatives (apostles and their successors, the bishops). Jesus took the established religious practices of the Passover meal and elevated and transformed them into the Eucharist and the Mass.
After the show, I had planned to take the wheel for the return drive to New York. But my sister felt good enough to drive home. We were making good time, but a wreck on the upper deck of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge held us up. (A digression: The New York Legislature passed a bill to correct the spelling error in the bridge’s name.)
Overall, I enjoyed this trip. But my precautions against lactose weren’t good enough because a few days later, my digestion system reacted badly to dairy in the food. Until the new heavens and the new earth, I have to live with all the good and bad effects from any restaurant food.