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Another break from the Tallinn trip postings.  Today, I want to post something timely.  On Good Friday I went to the Via Crucis.  It’s the modern adaption of the Stations of the Cross of Jesus that takes place in Helsinki each year.  This was the 20th year of the production.

I have to say, it was incredible.  It is one of the best productions of the stations of the cross I have seen, if not the best.

The production is totally in Finnish, but honestly, it really doesn’t matter.  Even non-Finnish speakers can enjoy the production, especially if you know the story.  You can understand what is going and appreciate the modern adaption of the story.

The production takes place at three locations in the city and the cast moves through the streets to each location.  I’m going to take today and the next two days to share my thoughts about the play along with some extra thoughts in relation to the church.

The first part of the production takes place in Kaisaniemi Park just north of the train station.  It sit on a hill so the crowd can see what is going on.

The play starts out with an angel walking slowly, very slowly to the stage and dancing to the opening music.  It feels a bit eerie, but it works.

Via CrucisThen we meet the characters.  I’ve heard from a friend that every year there is a twist in the story.  One year Jesus was portrayed by a Chinese woman.  Here is Jesus this year:

Via CrucisYou’ll get a better look in a few pictures.  The people dressed in black are the “crowd.”  When ever the crowd needed to “speak” all you heard was this confusing sound and constant mumble.  It fit.

Via CrucisJudas is portrayed as a business person.  And there is no escaping the idea that Judas is a bad dude here – even if you know very little or no Finnish – you can tell from the body language.  Here is Judas making a deal with the authorities to betray Jesus.  He was paid with a briefcase that supposedly had money in it.  When the briefcase was brought to him, it was slammed on the stage and made a huge “thud” sound – gotta love the dramatic effect of that.

Via CrucisOne of the cooler scenes was after Judas took the money.  The fireworks shot off and “Money” by Pink Floyd started playing.  Here’s the scene.

Via CrucisAfterwards, we turn back to Jesus and see him with the disciples having the last supper.

Via CrucisThe story proceeds along according to Scripture and comes to the betrayal, arrest and taking Jesus away.  This was done so well.  You can see all of this happening in one scene – so poignant.

Via CrucisAnd Jesus is taken away – right past the crowd.

Via CrucisIf this were held in the US, you could not escape the symbolism of portraying Jesus as a black guy with a hoodie.  But this is Finland – the racial tension that is occurring in the US is far different from here in Finland.  Just something to think about.

Some thoughts:

1. Again – incredible, but it gets better as it goes.

2. There were several thousand people at this production.  I highly doubt all of them would consider themselves religious.  Yet, they came to see a production about the passion of Jesus.  The story is still relevant today.  The crowds would grow as we went to the other locations.

3. The three challenges that the church in Finland faces – being relevant, being approachable and being enjoyable – they were all met head on.  This production is a great example of the church finding a way to meet these challenges.  I already mentioned the relevant factor.  This production certainly makes the church and God approachable.  Here was Jesus passing through the crowd.  You could literally reach out and touch him.  This would continue as the play moved from the second location to the final location.  And finally enjoyable – the passion isn’t one of those happy productions, but this production was enjoyable in a different way – it was well done and even those who don’t speak Finnish could enjoy it without knowing what was being said.  I’ll have more thoughts on this in later posts.

Next post – Via Crucis, Part II