About

It all started with an email and an offer for a voluntary job: a script was sent to me - an adaptation of the Bible. I was entrusted with an honorable task: to compose the music for it. In many ways this happened to be among the easiest steps in the development of our project: I composed, arranged and recorded the music of 12 songs and 10 instrumental pieces.

Many months of meetings and conversations with many people followed, and of much research, as well: who would offer today a stage for a production on purely Christian theme? What would its goals be? What would we like to present to our audience, and how are we going to lead them on this journey on the wings of music? Some answers provoked new questions, others required the development of new ideas and further extensive research and study of the Biblical text and comparisons between its many English translations, as well as studies on the theme of God’s Love, analyzed by the teachers of the early church and the works of many theologians and writers in order to present the ideas we’d like to pass on, through the live word of God. And so a lot of changes had to be made, starting with some songs’ lyrics and coming to the creation of a completely new adaptation based on the Holy Scriptures.

I am deeply thankful to John Collings, the writer, who laid the foundations of this project, for his support of my ideas and efforts, which today resulted in having -

Jesus Christ: the Challenge of Love

About the production

We have called it a Christian Musical Story in order to avoid any allusion to a standard musical genre, by embracing and developing its innovative characteristics:

Story & Theme

An adaptation of the Bible about the journey of Jesus towards the cross and his resurrection, towards love and peace.

Goals

Jesus Christ: the Challenge of Love is meant to be performed mainly at churches, starting in London. It aims to share the Good News in words and music among people of all ages and beliefs, and to give the audience a heartfelt experience of feeling God's love, through an artistic presentation of the Gospel story.

It just happened that our cast and crew include representatives of various Christian traditions: Anglican, Baptist, Hope London Community, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox, Roman Catholic. The contacts we have made, our work during rehearsals, and as a result - the invitations for our production to be performed at churches of different Christian traditions support our goal to provide a bridge between Christians and to bring general positive impact on church life.

Ideas

I wish for a way to visualize the message which our production aims to pass on. Think of Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” and that tiny space between the hand of God, stretched out towards the man and the hand of the man - towards God. If we were to try and create a verbal connection between these hands, one word, placed in that tiny space, – it is only LOVE!

Characteristics and structure

The script is divided into 10 music interludes and includes 12 songs.

It does not include re-enacting of the Gospel story in front of the audience. It is a narrative, presented through the dialogue of two contemporary characters. And it has been complemented by the words and songs of Jesus and other four live witnesses in the real events of the Gospel: Peter, Mary Magdalene, a Soldier and a Widow.

The Characters

The contemporaries - the two narrators

The focus of their dialogue is Jesus' love for people, which leads him to the cross and being totally rejected for everything he does out of love. They use the text from the Scripture as a proof within their discussion, while occasionally they share their own comments. The narrators don’t retell the words of those who rejected and condemned Jesus, instead, they give quotations in present tense in order to show how closely related those reactions are to the way people reject Jesus today.

The script reveals the parable of the Prodigal Son, which has often been defined as “Good news within the Good news”, and its message plays an important role in the understanding of God’s love. The idea behind the narrators in the script is that the first one represents a modern version of the older son from the parable of the Prodigal Son, and the second narrator is associated with the younger son.

Jesus and His "group of witnesses"

They have ‘come down from heaven’ not 2000 years ago but in our days, to help the people of today, through the narrators, in their search for Truth. For where two or three gather in His name, there He is with them [ref. to Маt18:20].

This 'group' is presented as a unit or oneness and the script endows them with the task to expand the story from the position of having been actual participants of the events of the Gospel: Peter, Mary Magdalene, the Soldier and the Widow have followed Jesus, accepted and rejected and disowned Him in their own way, and yet they love Him. Together with Jesus, the four characters are the "carriers of the truth" and they announce some of the most important messages of Christianity. Their words, coming from the Gospel and the Epistles, are mostly Jesus’ words, but in the script they are presented as messages given mainly by Mary Magdalene and Peter; these messages have become their own because it is no longer they who live, but Christ lives in them [ref to Gal. 2:20].

In the course of storytelling they also ’remember’ events from their own personal lives (mainly through their songs): the widow – about the love she has had for her deceased husband, the soldier – about his beliefs in pagan gods, Peter – about his denying Jesus, and finally Mary Magdalene presents to us the image of a true and perfect love towards God.

If an analogy has to be made, the role of this "group" would be compared to a choir in an ancient Greek drama where the choir expresses the will of the Gods. ”Jesus' group” does act as a choir, as they individually or together support Jesus through words or music.

Who are Peter, Mary Magdalene, the soldier and the widow and why they have been chosen as the story characters, as the “witnesses” of God's love

- Apostle Peter

Named Simon by his parents, he has been chosen by Jesus who gave him the name of Peter. He is the disciple who, when seeing Jesus walking on water, asks him to guide him and starts walking on water himself towards Jesus. However, while facing the strong wind, Peter fails in his faith: he becomes frightened, doubts seize his heart, he starts sinking and cries out to Jesus to save him. Jesus immediately stretches out his hand, pulls Peter out of the water and asks him: “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” [Mat.14:28-33]

Peter fails in his faith even more when affirming: "Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you", but after Jesus has been arrested Peter gets frightened to such an extent that he three times has denied Jesus.

Peter however is the disciple who never failed in his love towards Jesus. No matter how scared he may be and how much he has lost any hope and faith – his love is so strong that it is him whom Jesus makes spiritual pastor of Christians.

Apostle Peter, the most ardent defender of Christianity, was executed at Rome during the first persecutions of Christians (AD 67): he wished that he be crucified with his head downwards because he didn’t consider himself worthy enough to die the same way as his Savior.

- Mary Magdalene

A saint equal to the apostles, who has continually followed Jesus in all his circumstances during His earthly life. She is Jesus’ inspired disciple and His fervent follower. Mary Magdalene has been called ‘apostle of the apostles’ because she was chosen to be the first to see the resurrected Jesus. He himself calls her by name [Jn. 20:16] and sends her to announce the apostles the good news: “Christ is Risen”. “It was the woman who gave us the cup with the devil’s poison, but can you also see the inexplicable, the wonderful, the wisest and the greatest: it was the woman who gave us the cup of life, the cup of life eternal!” (according to St Gregory of Nazianzus) Until the end of her life she passionately spread the Christian teaching from Jerusalem through Greece to Rome.

Mary Magdalene is the perfect example of love towards God, it was she who fulfilled God’s command in a perfect way: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”. [Mk. 12:30]

- The soldier

One of the early church teachers of the 5th century named the soldier who pierced with his spear Jesus into the chest – St Longinus. [Mat. 27:54, Mk. 15:39, Lk. 23:47, Jn. 19:31, 37] According to his story, the blood and the water that shed from Jesus, cured the soldier’s eyes, and this made him appeal: “Indeed, this man is the Son of God!” [Mark 15:39] After Jesus’ resurrection, St Longinus leaves the army and become a Christian preacher, and later – a martyr for his faith.

The character of the soldier in the script has been taken as the literary prototype of a Roman soldier whose personality had transformed from the one who beat Jesus and laughed at him to the one who later becomes his fervent follower. His name isn't mentioned in the script, neither is his story.

- The widow

The character has been taken from the gospel according to Mark 12:41-44, where a poor widow’s small giving has been noted and praised by Jesus as a much more valuable giving incomparable to the giving of those who are not poor. She is poor materially, but rich spiritually. The literary character of the widow has also been associated with the women mentioned in Lk. 8:1-3 who have been following Jesus and have been helping him during his wanderings; they have also been his disciples, had strong faith and zealously spread His teaching. This is why in the script the widow was given words and comments which complement the story and make her one of the "carriers of truth".


- Zory Burner