Bible LARP

Theology Thursday

There’s this story in the New Testament where Jesus is hanging out by a well while his disciples go into town to get food. While he’s there, this woman arrives at the well to draw water while the local gossips aren’t around. They have this pretty deep conversation where she realises that maybe sex is not the answer to all her life’s problems, but maybe God is, and what’s more, maybe God wants to be, and maybe this Jesus, who claims to be the prophesied Messiah, is the One who can make that happen.

When the disciples come back with the food, Jesus, whose main goal is always to accomplish exactly what His Father wants, is so stoked by this interaction that He doesn’t want to eat anymore. “I have food to eat that you don’t know about,” He says, and they’re like, “Huh? Did someone already feed Him or something?” and He goes, ““My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to accomplish His work.”

Which is maybe kind of a weird way to put it, but haven’t you ever been so happy or excited or fulfilled by something that you couldn’t eat either? Anyway–sometimes I’ll have an interaction that’s so God-charged that I think maybe I know a little bit of how Jesus felt that time, and even if I don’t say it out loud, I think to myself, “I have food to eat that you don’t know about.”

The tentative first day quickly became entirely untentative.

The tentative first day quickly became entirely untentative.

I basically felt that way all of last week. Now Church hosted its first VBS (Vacation Bible School) programme ever, and it went better than maybe any of us could have anticipated, and even better than that. We decorated our multi-purpose hall so that we could pretend, with the children, that it was Athens in the first century (not that it was particularly authentic, but it was imaginative–and kid-friendly), and one guy pretended to be the Apostle Paul and one guy pretended to be a centurion named Dionysius, and all the other volunteers and I made up our own characters and costumes and I’m really not sure whether the kids or the adults had more fun–but everybody had fun. And I think almost everyone got something out of it.

At the end of the week, I put away my costume–next to my wedding dress (a legitimate piece of clothing, but one-time), my Pakistani shalwar kameez (usually really only wearable at events hosted by my Pakistani friends–all of whom live in London), my medieval LARPing dress, the model’s outfit I made out of a curtain in London (and then gained one pound and could no longer fit). “I have a lot of ‘costumes,'” I thought to myself. Then I thought, “When I was a kid, VBS was puppets and little classes in classrooms, and it was fun, but this was ecstatic–and I’m pretty sure it was Bible LARPing.”

But sometimes Jesus even meets with people when they’re LARPing, apparently. In the roleplay, Dionysius was supposed to be a skeptical Athenian who eventually realises that what the Apostle Paul’s saying about Jesus is true. The guy who played him is a newcomer to church, one of those “rough-around-the-edges/heart-of-gold” guys. The other day I was talking to him on the phone, kind of rehashing what a fun week last week was. He pointed out how across the board, the kids’ favourite parts of VBS were spending time in their small group huddles (where they learned their Bible verses), and visiting Paul’s tent, where they learned the Bible stories.

I told him about Hebrews 4.12: “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I said, “I totally believe this. The Bible’s not just a book. It’s alive. When it gets out there, it’s gonna do something.”
“I know,” Dionysius said. “It did something to me. I was Dionysius. At the beginning of the week I wasn’t sure what I thought about this Jesus stuff. This week I went through that exact same transformation that he did. I know, I’ve been going to church this year, but after this week it’s different. I know it’s TRUE!”
I don’t know how to explain what this makes me feel like, except just to say,
I have food to eat that you don’t know about.

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And maybe I also want to dance about it a little bit.
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27 thoughts on “Bible LARP

  1. I like that. Somehow I personally don’t believe anyone who reads the gospel and understands it can leave untouched (and your guy didn’t come from nowhere of course), but that still doesn’t always seem to be true. I’m so glad it was this time.

    • So I looked it up, the book. A New Age plot to take over the world? How very 80s. Silliness…
      Worry about the financiers, they are the real dark wizards of our world…

      • Maybe both. 😉

        It’s VERY 80’s. But it was kind of groundbreaking in certain subcultures in its day, and there was a free one lying around, so I decided maybe it was time to read it to see what all the hype was about. As I say, I kind of avoided it . . . for about three decades. But sometimes you just need to check stuff out.

    • I don’t know if I like Peretti yet. 🙂 Can you believe this is the first time I’m reading that book? I started it a few weeks ago but haven’t had time to read any more. I think I was skeptical, but so far it’s a pretty decent read.

  2. Pingback: Entertaining | That's a Jenn Story

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