Liturgical Drama

Between the Rock and the Hard Places

I wrote this three years ago after a health scare that proved to be just that, and I really needed to read it as I go to meet with the doctor again to discuss ongoing pain in multiple joints that is becoming limiting and, well, scary. This piece was used in worship on the 2nd Sunday after Pentecost and references three of the lectionary texts for that day, as well as the fourth text of stories from my life.

The Psalm, 46, is my favorite, and boy, do I need to remember that right now.

(These texts come up on June 1st. If you're a pastor or worship leader and might want to use this piece, do send me an e-mail. I'm happy to share it.)

Between the Rock and the Hard Places
2nd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A   
(Genesis 6:9-22; 7:24; 8:14-19 and Psalm 46 and Matthew 7:21-29)

Psalmist

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

Fear-filled Woman
(sings)
Rain, rain, go away; come again some other day.
(speaks)
Once upon a time it seemed so simple.
Rain came and rain went and there would always be another chance to play, to rejoice.
But sometimes the rain just falls and falls and it won’t stop at all.
The phone rings and it is the kind obstetrician.
She doesn’t want to tell me, I’m sure she doesn’t want to tell me.
The test results are back, she says, and it’s not good.
I brace myself against the kitchen counter,
try not to weep in front of the children playing close by.
I try.
Once the phone rang, and it was my father,
trying to tell me the hard news that my mother was dying.
He couldn’t find the words,
could only say, “It’s bad; it’s bad.”
And in his voice I heard how bad it was,
I felt it in the trembling of his slow-pronounced words.
When he died, too, the news came on the phone,
and then I couldn’t hold back the tears.
Can a person spring a leak?
We huddled together on the kitchen floor, the children and I.
We wept together.
We just wept.
Just like the rain, falling and falling and falling…

Psalmist

Therefore we will not fear…

Grieving Follower

There fore

Japheth

(sings)
I’ve been working on the Ark,
all the live-long day.
I’ve been shoveling the–
(speaks)
Who gets all the dirty work?
Japheth, that’s who!
From morning until night I work as hard as I know how,
and then there is a little sleep beside my dog,
and then it starts all over again.
Not that we would know from the sky whether it was day or night.
But the animals know.
And they make sure we do, too!
They bray and whinny and whine and trumpet;
they bark and call and cry and complain.
My brothers see to the food, but my job?
Well, the less said about that the better.
40 nights we have settled them for the night,
and 40 mornings we have risen to feed them,
and 40 days I have cleaned up the “leftovers.”
And I’m tired, Lord.
I’m tired.
I’m tired of the cross words between the women
and the scuffling between my brothers—
and me, too.
I’m tired of wondering when the rain will ever stop.
I’m tired of listening to it,
And feeling damp,
And the smell, Lord, the smell.
It’s bad enough in here,
but on deck,
I can only smell rain.

Psalmist

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city;
it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
God utters his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.

Grieving Follower

When the one who showed you the way is gone,
how do you know which way to turn?
There has been so much hiding and so much running,
and that is not what was like to be with him.
He was open, out,
free and loving to all he met,
talking even to those who disagreed,
welcoming especially those who are despised in town and in temple.
O, God!
How long will it take me to figure out what to do next?
I’ve walked so many lonely roads wondering.
Some say he has been back to see them, but I’m not among them.
I want to believe it’s true.
I don’t know whether I am more sad that he was killed or more sad that,
if he’s really risen,
he hasn’t come near me.
It’s like standing out in the middle of a storm,
*hoping* the lighting will strike you!
Maybe then I would know how to live.

Psalmist

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Fear-filled Woman

A very present help in trouble.

Grieving Follower

A very present help in trouble?
But where is God now?

Japheth

That’s what I’d like to know!
Wouldn’t it have been better to drown and get it over with?
(pauses)
Well, I don’t really mean that, God, I really don’t.
I just wish you would show me a sign,
A sign that all this shoveling and seasickness is worth it,
that there’s some reason for doing it.

Grieving Follower

All I have are the stories he told,
stories his best friends didn’t always understand.
“Don’t build your house on sand, only a fool would do that.”
And of course I knew that.
Sands shift.
They are not dependable.
Of course a solid foundation is better for a house.
What does that have to do with heaven?

Psalmist

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.

Fear-filled Woman

Cry me a river.

Japheth

Try an ocean!

Psalmist

The holy habitation

Grieving Follower

Heaven was sitting at his feet, listening to him talk.
Heaven was watching his kindness,
feeling his concern,
warming to the light of his serious joy.

Psalmist

BE STILL!!!
And know that I am God.

Fear-filled Woman

I am sitting in the waiting room.
The x-rays have gone to the doctor to be read,
And I am very much waiting,
Waiting for some news.
And there seems to be no middle ground.
There is only terrible fear or utter relief.
I pray.
God,
I say,
I know I don’t have to be afraid to die.
I’m *not* afraid to die.
My heart is racing.

Psalmist

Be still.

Grieving Follower

Sometimes I get too tired to keep walking
And I just sit down.

Psalmist

Be still.

Japheth

Just past mid-day,
At least I think it’s mid-day,
The animals rest,
And so do I.

Psalmist

Be still and know.

Fear-filled Woman

I’m not afraid to die,
But I am so afraid to lose living!!!

Psalmist

Know that I am God.

Grieving Follower

In the stillness
I could hear my heart,
But little else.
And then these words:
You know what to do.

Fear-filled Woman

Do not be afraid.

Japheth

I will establish my covenant with you.

Psalmist

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.

Grieving Follower

Love the Lord your God.
That comes first.
“Love the Lord your God
with all that you are and all that you have.”
And then there is the other:
“Love others as well as you love yourself.”

Psalmist

Our refuge
Our strength

Grieving Follower

Jesus is the rock;
He gave us the foundation.
He did tell us how to live!!

Japheth

God is always there,
The rock at the bottom of it all,
The solid Earth under all that is–
Even in the rain,

Fear-filled Woman

Even in the waiting,
Holding me,
Strengthening me.
How else would I have gotten out of bed to come here?

Psalmist

The Lord of Hosts is with us.

Grieving Follower

Why didn’t I understand sooner?

Japheth

I guess I knew it all along,
Even when I was shoveling.

Fear-filled Woman

I wondered, “Who is in charge of hope?”
And I realized I am!
No one else can take it away.

Psalmist

A very present help in trouble.

Grieving Follower

I think I’ll go back into the city.

Fear-filled Woman

I hear the nurse at the door.

Japheth

Look, the rain is letting up!

Psalmist

A very present help in trouble.

All

A very present help.

19 thoughts on “Between the Rock and the Hard Places”

  1. some days we all need to curl up within the mighty fortress… be good to yourself this day & may it be sunny for you.

    Like

  2. It was wonderful to run into you this morning amidst your medical rounds. I hope all is for the best… my wee girl and I were thinking of you as we went about the rest of our day.
    xoxo

    Like

  3. On a more formal note: this is beautiful writing – a powerful piece.
    On a more personal not: love, prayers, and concerns are being sent your way, my friend.

    Like

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