KULPMONT — On Palm Sunday evening, the congregation and visitors at First United Methodist Church were treated to a powerful musical performance titled “Born for This,” which depicted the passion of Jesus Christ.

The program, presented by Lift Your Spirits Performing Arts (LYSPA), a non-profit theatre group based in Ashland, used real-life visual imagery to depict Jesus’ life from his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, his suffering and death on the cross, to his burial and victorious resurrection from the grave.

Director’s thoughts

LYSPA director Dan Thomas Sr. spoke of his group’s presentation of “Born for This.”

“We are honored to be the only group in the United States performing this musical production, which was written by CJM Music, based in the United Kingdom.

“Through powerful music and narration, this program leads us from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, while the cast helps everyone experience the road in a way that few can imagine,” he said.

Thomas said “Born for This” is a great way to kick off the Holy Week.

“It’s a wonderful time for the family to come and spend together with us as they get to place themselves in Jerusalem and experience being part of the Palm Sunday celebration, the Last Supper, Jesus’ betrayal, his unjust condemnation, crucifixion and resurrection. It will also help everyone to understand how our own sins drive nails into him, mock him and betray him,” he said.

Pastoral address and opening

Prior to the opening of the program, Pastor Julian Milewski prayed and addressed the crowd of several hundred who packed into his small church, located at the corner of Ninth and Spruce Streets, on a rainy Sunday evening.

“Welcome my friends to Kulpmont United Methodist Church. When I first heard these people perform, some time ago, I was moved by their ability to portray the gospel message in a very special way and I know you will be too,” he said.

Thomas, who also led the music, encouraged audience participation throughout the evening.

“Are you happy to be here tonight? I want us all to sing like we are,” Thomas said.

He then asked, “How many of you have ever seen a passion play before? I believe this will be one of the most moving experiences you’ve ever witnessed. Our entire cast is dressed in black except for Jesus. As you watch the program, try putting yourself in the place of those surrounding our Lord. How would you feel and what would you do?”

One of the unique aspects of the program was the added element of audience participation. For example, to depict Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, each member of the audience was given palms to stand and wave along with the cast, who sang “Prepare Ye the Way.”

Musical numbers

In addition to those mentioned, the program featured 18 songs, including “The Old Rugged Cross,” “Via Dolorosa,” “Thy Will Be Done,” “Pilate’s Song,” “Walk Alone,” “On My Knees,” “Born for This,” “Why Me?” “Veronica’s Litany,” “Fallen Again,” “Save Your Tears,” “Mercy Gate,” “O Great King,” “Father Forgive,” “Final Lullaby 1 and 2,” and “Hallelujah for the Cross.”

The words of two of those songs, the opening number “Prepare Ye the Way” and closing finale “Hallelujah for the Cross,” told the story of the entire program:

• “Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Yeshua, you reign on high. Almighty God, your love is like no other.”

• “Hallelujah for the war he fought, love has won, death has lost. Hallelujah for the souls he bought. Hallelujah for the cross.”

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