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Jesus’ final moments

Faith: Congregations planning to host dramatic re-enactments, grand opening surrounding Easter Sunda

Posted: April 2, 2010 9:59 p.m.
Updated: April 3, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Jesus' disciples from left, Thomas, Kurt Schreiner; Andrew, Dan Dudeck; Simon, Todd LeGassick; James, Bruce Bernstorff; and Judas, Lee Stillman, rehearse a scene of "The Last Supper" at Christ Lutheran Church.

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He sat at a long, white-draped table center staged as a dim spotlight shone upon his long brown hair and beard.
He looked at the men surrounding him, six on each side.

"I will not be with you much longer. You will look for me, but where I am going you cannot come. And so I give you a new commandment. Love one another. Even as I have loved you, love one another," he told the men wearing long earth-toned robes.
The words came softly from Phil Hyland's mouth, but they were not his.

Jesus Christ shared these words with his Twelve Apostles during their last feast together before his crucifixion, according to the Bible.

The 41-year-old Valencia man admitted he was nervous to portray Jesus for the first time in Christ Lutheran Church's dramatic re-enactment of The Last Supper.

"I'm but a small man and these are  big words - simple words, but great words," he said following a Tuesday night dress rehearsal. "I want to do the best job I can for him."

Christ Lutheran, in Valencia, joined dozens of local congregations throughout the week in hosting dramatizations and re-enactments of the moments leading up to Jesus' resurrection, a biblical event that will be widely celebrated on Easter Sunday.

‘Not just the story'
Grace Baptist Church, on Copper Hill Drive, will continue presentations of the "Passion" play at 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. today. The dramatization brings together more than 250 church members serving in the choir, orchestra, cast and tech crew.

This year, the church weaved more dialogue into the story, said Grace Baptist Worship Pastor Peter Beers.

"It's much more focused on the storyline, and specifically allowing more dialogue so people can hear actual Scripture that Jesus spoke," Beers said.

Wednesday's opening night of the play brought more than 1,500 people to the church's pews, Beers said.
"We make the point that it's not just the story, it's actual history," he said. "Together it's a pretty powerful event."

Miracles for new congregation
Congregants of new life in His presence church will celebrate Easter for the first time in their Main Street, Newhall location.
The church does not capitalize the words in its name except for "His" in reverence to God.

Final renovations will precede Sunday's grand opening. The congregation, a church plant of In His Presence Church in Woodland Hills, will host three Easter services focusing on miracle wonders, said Senior Pastor Mauricio Ruiz.

A scene will depict the biblical story of a paralytic being brought to Jesus to be healed, Ruiz said.

The pastor will also testify to miracles in his own life, he said. His daughter was born with a blood disease and years later, doctors encouraged him and his wife to abort their son. The doctors expected the couple's son to be born without a spine, Ruiz said.

"We weren't given much hope for (my children) to live when they were born," he said.
Both children, he said, were miraculously healed.

Opening up
The stage is nothing new to Hyland, who started his career as a teen actor in commercials and Virginia stage plays.

But portraying Jesus takes on a pressure of its own, he said.

The role study called for a mixture of research and prayer, Hyland said. He watched three movies, "The Gospel of John," "JESUS" and Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ."

"Many actors ‘become' their character; this is certainly impossible in this role," Hyland said before the Thursday night service. "I simply try my best to amplify his words, follow the script - (God's) word - and ask His will be done, not mine, as I navigate throughout this epic drama."

Hyland's debut as Jesus came to a close on Thursday night. Two guards escorted him away from the "garden." Congregants watched the acting Jesus disappear from sight as their minds were left to imagine the rest of Jesus' life.

Portraying Christ allowed Hyland, a relatively new returner to church, to reflect on his own spiritual health an
d condition, allowing him to focus more than ever on the core significance of Easter, he said.

"By acting an event like this, it opens you up," he said. "It takes my hardness and really opens me up. I've become vulnerable to his word. For me, that is a small miracle happening in my life."

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