While we waited in line for our next “experience”, I noticed several people walking around eating giant turkey legs and having their pictures taken with the Roman guards. For a minute there, I was bummed that I settled for a corn dog rather than a turkey leg but then I realized that this wasn’t a Renaissance fair – this was the Holy Land by golly! We have no need for turkey here! What we needed was terrible crackers and grape juice. The HLE delivered.
The Last Supper experience was held inside the “Quram Caves,” a a space that was suppose to be an exact copy of the Upper Room as it was refurbished during the Crusades. At the entrance, we were given a broken cracker and a little chalice made of olive wood supposedly grown in Israel. The room was much darker than my picture shows. The seats at the table were already taken so K and I moved to the side next to some African-American ladies and an Asian family with young kids who kept trying to get onto the table. K noticed that no matter how ridiculous this thing was going to be, the number of different races and ethnicities was amazing. It would be hard to find a church with this much diversity.
The lights dimmed a bit and a woman next to me picked up her cell phone and made a call. Everyone seemed to be attempting a strange balancing act by trying to take pictures with their cameras and hoping to not drop their mini-chalice and cracker. And then the show began with John, wielding a Garth Brook’s microphone, coming out from a side room.
John welcomed us, talked about how great of an experience we’re about to have, and then – for some reason – led us in the Sinner’s prayer. I guess the unbelievers needed to be cleansed before Jesus would arrive. John pointed to the loaves of bread in front of him (that we were not going to share in) and also took the cup and waved it about. There was quite a bit of conviction in his voice and in his mannerisms – a level of conviction that felt overacted. With the last supper explained and our hearts “cleansed”, John stepped to the side and the main man himself walked onto the stage. But could this really be Jesus? It was not the same man who we just saw in the Passion Play!
Jesus, it seemed, had gotten younger and seemed to be very tired. He had an annoying habit of needing to brush his hair from his face every few seconds. While he began his prayers and his chats, I stood to the side clicking away on my camera. The woman who had made a phone call a few minutes earlier kept receiving phone calls (and did not know how to put her phone on silent) but it didn’t seem to bother Jesus. Jesus was in a zone and had a role to play! And John did as well. At appropriate times, he seemed to be there specifically to remind the audience when to praise Jesus, where the dramatic parts of the story were, and when we were suppose to feel the proper forms of reverence. And being the person that I am, the thought running through my mind was that Jesus was “doing it wrong”. Even ignoring my own high sacramental views of the Eucharist, there was no community in the experience. Maybe the folks who were able to sit at the actual table had a level of intimacy with the actor to actually feel something but I felt nothing (short of annoyance). We were, in a sense, being talked at and blessed at. We weren’t participating in this act, either passively, actively, receptively, or in any other way. This was a merely a cheap ride without the 3D glasses. I found it to be quite silly.
The bread was blessed and broken. The grape juice was blessed as well. And we ate, drank, and I tossed my little chalice in my bag to get it out of my hand. And then Jesus did something I didn’t quite expect. He came out from behind the table and squeezed through the small crowd touching everyone on the shoulder. Jesus didn’t say much, just tapped my shoulder, pushed by me, and then moved onto the next person. I hoped he wouldn’t whack into all the DSLR’s hanging from people’s necks or have his eyes poked by the few people who raised their hands in praise. It’s possible that, at this point, John led us in a praise song but I don’t remember. And once everyone was physically touched, Jesus exited from where he had originally come and John told us that the chalice was a “gift” for all of us, a reminder of our time at the HLE. And then we all shuffled our way out into the sunshine and K and I planned our next move – Christian Karaoke.