Liturgical Drama, Revised Songbird Version

WHO IS THIS?!?!! – a participatory reading of Mark 4:35-41

He, Qi. Peace Be Still, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved June 16, 2015]. Original source: heqigallery.com.
He, Qi. Peace Be Still, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. [retrieved June 16, 2015]. Original source: heqigallery.com.
Voice 1: On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them,

Voice 2: “Let us go across to the other side.”

Voice 1: And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.

Voice 2: Other boats were with them.

Voice 1: A great windstorm arose!

Congregation: Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!

Voice 1: And the waves beat into the boat!

Voices 1 and 2: We’re swamped! We’re swamped!

Congregation: We’ll drown! We’ll drown!

Voice 2: But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.

Voice 1: They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher!”

Voice 2: Teacher!

Congregation: “Teacher! Do you not care that we are perishing?”

Voice 1: He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”

Voice 2: Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.

Voice 1: He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Voice 2: And they were filled with great awe.

Voice 1: They said to one another, “Who is this?”

Congregation: WHO IS THIS?!?!!

Voice 2: “Even the wind and the sea obey him.”

Voice 1: Even the wind and the sea.

*****

This participatory scripture reading is adapted from an earlier version using four voices and congregation, which may be found here: Even the Wind and the Sea.

 

Liturgical Drama, Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday

This is an adaptation of a service I wrote for Passion Sunday, to be used in this form on Maundy Thursday. We will worship around the same tables where we have dinner together. It could certainly be used in a sanctuary and incorporate putting out candles as in a Tenebrae service, one as each reader concludes. Music choices are suggestive rather than prescriptive. Your hymnal will vary! I am happy to share this resource. Let me know in the comments where you plan to use it.

Hymn #100 All Praise Be Yours My God This Night*

Narrator (Mark 14:1-3)

It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.”

While he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.

The Woman Who Anointed Jesus

??????????????????????????????????????????????????It was just two days before the festival of unleavened bread.  We heard rumors that the chief priests and the scribes were trying to arrest Jesus.  They wanted to kill him.  Here in Bethany, people were on both sides; some wanted to meet him and talk to him, but others wished he would just move along.  They didn’t want any trouble here.  He was staying at the house of Simon the leper.  My brother knew Simon before he was sick, and I had been to his home.  I wanted to go, but I knew that my family would be angry if I went to Simon’s, let alone when this Jesus was there.  But I felt I had to go.  I snuck out of my parents’ house, and just before I left, I picked up the alabaster jar my grandmother had given me.  It belonged to her grandmother and was filled with nard from the East, very precious not just because it is expensive, but because it was hers. 

At Simon’s house, Jesus was sitting at the table.  I had a feeling I cannot explain now, as if a hand under my elbow was guiding me to him, as if a voice so soft no one else could hear was telling me to anoint him.  I broke the jar, for that is the only way to open it.  The perfumed oil spread over my hands, and I placed them on his head and let it pour onto him.

Immediately his friends began to complain that I was wasting the nard.  It could have been sold for hundreds of denarii, they said.  The money could have been used to feed the poor!  They scolded me, and for a moment I wished I could run away, that I had never come in the first place.

But then Jesus spoke, and his voice was beautifully kind.  “Let her alone,” he said.  “Why do you trouble her?  She has performed a good service for me.  For you will always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have me.  She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial.” 

The men around him looked upset and several tried to stop him talking that way, but he did not listen to them.  He said, “Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.”

In remembrance of me?  I didn’t care about that.  But I did care that I had made him happy.

Later we heard that it was his friend, Judas, who betrayed him to the priests and Pharisees, for money.

Prayer of Confession

All: God of all Goodness and Light, forgive us when we disappoint you. Forgive us when we misunderstand or when we act wrongly. Forgive us when we sell out your love for us and buy into the world’s approval. Guide us into a better understanding and a deeper faith, we pray. Amen.

Words of Assurance

No matter what we may have done or thought, God will forgive a softened heart and repentant spirit. We live in the embrace of that forgiveness, in history and today and in all the years to come. Amen.

Narrator (Mark 14:12-16)

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

Simon Peter         

I am a simple man.  For three years I followed Jesus, and I became his friend.  He trusted me.  I went everywhere with him.  After we traveled up to Jerusalem, with the crowds welcoming us, we found a place to celebrate Passover together.  In an upper room we gathered around the table to celebrate the story of our ancestors and to remember how God saved the Hebrews from slavery to the Egyptians. 

We all knew Jesus had troubled the powers that be with his teachings, and we ate the meal wondering what would happen next.  But what did happen we never expected.  While we were eating together, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.”  I know he couldn’t mean me!  And I said so.  The other disciples said the same.  “Surely, not I?”  But he said to us, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.”  My chest began to hurt, and my stomach started to churn.  Surely I would not betray him!

And then be picked up the loaf from the table and blessed it and broke it, and what he said amazed us more.  “This is my body,” he said.  And after he poured the wine and said a prayer of thanks for it, he said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”  All that time together, and I still didn’t understand him. 

Hymn #346  “Bread of the World, In Mercy Broken”

Service of Communion

Prayer of Thanksgiving

All: In the knowledge of what would come that night, in sorrow for human acts of injustice, we give thanks for the bread and the cup, the signs of a new covenant with God. Amen.

Simon Peter

We went out to the Mount of Olives, and then he said, “You will all become deserters.”  Not me, I said.  Even if the others run away, I will never leave you, Jesus.

But he said, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.”  No, Master!  I will die first, I said.  But he shook his head, and his face looked sad.

I was determined that I would not leave his side, but when we got to the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus went off to pray.  At least I could keep watch, I thought, but it was late, and we had eaten such a big meal that sleep came over me and I dozed off.  Jesus’ voice woke me.  “Could you not watch with me one hour, Peter?”  I hate to admit it, but we all fell asleep again, and when we woke the second time, we were surrounded by men with swords and clubs.  Judas, who had been our friend, kissed Jesus and called him “Rabbi.” Then the others arrested him. 

We wanted to fight back, but Jesus stopped us.  We were full of fear, and we ran away.  We ran away.

I went down to the courtyard of the High Priest, just to see what was happening to Jesus.  I tried to blend into the crowd that night.  But people kept asking me if I had been with Jesus.  I denied it.  Finally I swore at someone who asked me, and I shouted, “I do not know this man you are talking about!”  And then I heard the cock crowing for the second time.  And I couldn’t stop my tears, no matter who saw them.

Narrator (Mark 15:1-3)

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate.

Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.”

Then the chief priests accused him of many things.

Pontius Pilate 

It was early in the morning when my servant came to wake me.  There were many people at the door, he said, and they wanted to talk to me.  This Jewish festival has brought so many people into the city, I wasn’t surprised to be disturbed before my usual hour, but I was aware of a disturbing mood in the air.  My usually unflappable servant seemed worried.

We went out to the courtyard, and there I saw a man, bound and tied, surrounded by the Jewish priests and scribes and their slaves.  One came and whispered to me, “We have looked for a way to convict this man, but we cannot find it.  Those who testify against him do not agree.  But he continues to call himself King of the Jews!!”

And so I asked him—this gentle-looking man, simply dressed, dirty from the treatment he had received at their hands—I asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?”

“Am I? So you say,” he answered.  The priests accused him of many things, but he stood silent and strangely peaceful.  And so I asked him, “Have you no answer to all these charges they bring against you?”  He did not speak.

It has been my practice during the Festival to release a prisoner for the Jews, any prisoner they wish.  Quite a crowd had gathered, and I asked them, “Do you wish me to release this…King…of the Jews?”  “No, no,” they shouted.  And I realized they were jealous of him.  They asked me instead to release Barabbas, who had been a hero of an insurrection in the city.  “What would you have me do, then, with this King of yours?” 

Voice in the Crowd

Crucify him!!

Pontius Pilate

Why?  What evil has he done?

All Readers

Crucify him!!  CRUCIFY HIM!!!

Pontius Pilate (raising his hands to quiet the crowd)

It shall be as you wish.  Flog him, and then take him to be crucified.

Why would they want crucifixion for him?  Truly, there can be no more shameful death.  Common criminals die on the cross.  And yet I said to them, “It shall be as you wish.”  It was their wish that he die that way, not mine.  But I was afraid to stop it.

Hymn #229 Were You There (or use anthem here and hymn later)

Narrator (Mark 15:40-41)

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.

Mary the Mother of James and Joses              

We were following him all along, my friends and I.  We cared for him and for the disciples, and even after the men ran away, afraid, we moved among the crowd keeping as near Jesus as we could.  How terrible he looked when they brought him before Pilate, and how much worse after the flogging they gave him.  The soldiers made fun of him.  They wrapped him in a purple cloak, laughing and jeering.  One twisted thorns into a crown and jammed it onto his head.  And they all laughed again and started shouting, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  They struck him again, spat on him, pretended to worship him.  And then they put his own torn clothes on him again and led him out to crucify him.

Mary Magdalene, Salome and I followed them all along the road to Golgotha.  We were there when they offered him bitter wine, and when they took his clothes away and cast lots for them.  We were there when they nailed him, naked and alone, to the cross.  We were there to hear the pounding of the nails.  It was nine o’clock in the morning.  The charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.”

They tell me there is always a crowd at a crucifixion.  Two bandits were on either side of him.  That is the sort of person with whom he would die.  We who loved him were so close, but we could do nothing to ease his suffering or to save him from death.  And people walked by, taunting him all the time.  “You said you would destroy the Temple and build it up again in three days; save yourself and come down from the cross, then, Jesus!”  The religious leaders mocked him, too, only among themselves, but I heard them.  “He saved others, but he cannot save himself.  Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down from the cross now, so that we may see and believe.”

But of course they didn’t really want to see him do this.

Even the bandits taunted him.

At the time when the sun reaches its highest, suddenly darkness came over the whole land, and so it remained for three hours.  Then we heard our dear Master cry out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Still they mocked him, wondering if Elijah would come to save him.  He cried out and drew his last breath.  They tell me the curtain of the temple was torn in two pieces, from the top to the bottom, at that same moment.

The Roman centurion who had been in charge of all this looked up at Jesus, and he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”

(Nod slowly.)  Truly.

Anthem “God So Loved the World” (or hymn such as Were You There)

(Congregation departs into the night in silence.)

*Hymn numbers from the New Century Hymnal.

Advent, Christmas, Christmas Eve, Christmas pageants, Liturgical Drama

Rumors of Joy

(This is a 2-person reading I’ve used on Christmas Eve, originally written as a pageant performed by adults to mark the relationship between a local church I served and a ministry to the homeless. We coordinated the pageant with a blanket drive for the people served by the ministry.)

Carol                         “Once in Royal David’s City,” v. 1-2

Lector: In those days a decree went out from Emperor Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration and was taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. All went to their own towns to be registered. (Luke 2:1-3)

Storyteller: It was a cold winter’s afternoon, one of those days when you can hardly believe it could be much darker and still be called daytime.

Lector: Joseph also went from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was descended from the house and family of David.  He went to be registered with Mary, to whom he was engaged and who was expecting a child. (Luke 2:4-5)

Storyteller: Joe and Mary arrived in Portland (or a city close to you) by bus. They were hoping to get to Boston (or the biggest nearby city), but this was as far as the money would take them. Back at home, people knew that Mary was going to have a baby. And they knew the baby wasn’t Joe’s. That was a hard one for Joe. Mary told him some story that no guy could believe, no matter how much he wanted to.

It was a crazy story.

Mary said an angel came to talk to her.

Only a crazy person could believe it!

Maybe Joe was a little crazy in love, then, because he stood by Mary.

Maybe. He knew for sure they needed a place to stay that night, and that’s why they didn’t travel to Boston. He figured they could find a room in Portland, and if they really needed it, he had heard there was a good hospital in town.

So they checked out the cheaper motels. But they were all full. Remember, it was Christmas Eve.

Lector: While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)

Carol                         “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” v.1-2

A homeless nativity at Alki United Church of Christ.
A homeless nativity at Alki United Church of Christ.

Storyteller: They were standing outside a motel near the bus station, wondering what to do next, when they heard the wheels of a shopping cart and the jouncing of bottles and cans.

An old lady pushed the cart toward them. She could see that Mary was very, very pregnant, and she offered to help them. She told them about the place where she pitched her tent and offered to let them sleep in it that night.

After all, she said, “It’s Christmas.”

They followed her to a place down by the railroad tracks, where they were surprised to see a lot of people besides themselves seeking shelter on that dark night.

Lector: In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8)

Storyteller: When they got there, everyone looked a little protective of their stuff. All except one. Her name was Angel.

She had an overstuffed backpack, and as soon as she got a look at Mary, she started taking things out, looking for something important.

At the bottom of the bag, she found it. Someone had come down to the day shelter giving out diapers, and she took them, because you just never know what you might need.

At least that’s what she told Mary.

Lector: Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:9-14)

Carol                         “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”

Storyteller: Angel looked around the tent city and started telling her friends about Joe and Mary. She remembered the time she had a baby of her own, and she could tell just by looking that Mary didn’t have long to wait.

Angel knew there were things Mary would need on that cold night besides the diapers.

Lector: When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger. (Luke 2:15-16)

Storyteller: Sure enough, the baby was born that night. The people heard his first cry.

From the edge of the crowd, a man came forward. He was one of those guys whose looks made you want to steer clear, a silent giant with a big dog and a grim expression. He rarely talked to anyone.

He came right over to Mary, and Joe looked worried.

But then the man said gruffly, “Here, take my blanket. I’ll huddle up with my dog tonight.”

Then they had a visit from a man who thought they might need a little something else while taking care of the baby. He was one of those guys who always has an opinion about everything, who always has a lot to say on every subject. Kind of a wise guy.

But on this night, he quietly offered them his lantern. “You may want some light,” he said.

Surrounded by new friends, the little family spent their first night together.

Lector: When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. (Luke 2:17-18)

Carol                                                 “The First Noel,” v. 1-3

Storyteller: When he looked at the baby, Joe was glad he had stood by Mary.

Lector: But Mary treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:19)

Storyteller: Mary said nothing, but her smile told him how joyful her heart felt, even in the dark, cold place where the baby was born.

Lector: The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:20)

Storyteller: You may find it hard to believe, but it’s a true story that they all felt warm that night, even the ones who didn’t have blankets.

It’s a true story that the baby’s face shone even before the lantern cast its light.

You may have heard about it.

People may tell you it was only a rumor. But you should always listen to rumors of joy.

Carol                         “Joy to the World”

***Copyright 2006, Rev. Martha K. Spong (this version 2011)

Liturgical Drama, Revised Songbird Version

Even the wind and the sea

(Mark 4:35-41 — Participatory reading, based on NRSV)

Voice 1: On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them,
Voice 2: “Let us go across to the other side.”
Voice 3: And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat,
All voices: just as he was.

Voice 4: Other boats were with them.
Voice 1: A great windstorm arose!
Congregation: Whoosh! Whoosh! Whoosh!
Voice 3: And the waves beat into the boat!
Voices 1, 3 and 4: We’re swamped! We’re swamped!
Congregation: We’ll drown! We’ll drown!

Voice 2: But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.
Voice 1: They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher!”
Voice 3: Teacher!
Voice 4: Teacher!

Benedictine Sisters of Turvey Abbey

Congregation: “Do you not care that we are perishing?”
Voice 2: He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”

Voice 4: Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
Voice 2: He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Voice 1: And they were filled with great awe.
Voice 3: They said to one another, “Who is this?”
Congregation: WHO IS THIS?!?!!
Voice 4: “Even the wind and the sea obey him.”
All 4 voices: Even the wind and the sea.

Liturgical Drama

Who is My Neighbor?

Good-samaritan  (A worship drama based on Luke 25-37. For permission to use, please email me using the link in the sidebar. The Balladeer sings the hymn, “They Asked, ‘Who’s My Neighbor,'” which is #541 in the New Century Hymnal, written by Jan Wesson.)

Scene One

Balladeer: They asked,
“Who’s my neighbor and whom should I love; for whom should I do a good deed?”
Then Jesus related a story and said, “It’s anyone who has a need, yes, it’s
anyone who has a need.”

(Jesus sits on a stool, surrounded by his followers,
standing or sitting.  They converse
happily!)

Storyteller:  It was a
beautiful summer morning.  Jesus was
sitting in the park with his friends.
They had just returned, seventy of them, from traveling around to the
nearby towns and settlements to share the good news.  Now they were back at their rendezvous point,
and all of them were celebrating the work they had done, the number of people
who were open to Jesus’ message and the healings they had been able to do in
Jesus’ name.  The atmosphere was lively,
and the teacher was exuberant, and people who were just walking by, doing their
daily errands, stopped to see why all the excitement!  One of those was a scholar, a person who knew
the religious laws very well.  And she
stood up with a question to test Jesus.

Questioner:  I had a
question, all right. This Jesus talked a
good game, but there are some things I knew the answers to, and I wanted to
hear what he would say.  I wondered if he
would get the words right.  Because there
are certain right ways to profess your faith, just as there are certain right
ways to act it out in life.  So I asked
him this question: Teacher?  What do I
need to do to get eternal life?

Storyteller: Jesus turned to his questioner with an open
look of love on his face, smiled gently and asked a question in return.

Teacher: What’s written in God’s law?  How do you interpret it?

Questioner: Now the pressure was on me.  How did he manage that?  I know the sh’ma like I know my own name: “You shall love the Lord your
God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength,
and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”

Teacher:  Yes, that’s
right.  But how do you interpret it?

Questioner:  What was
he looking for?  And why was I the one
answering again?  I thought about it and
said: “That you love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer
and muscle and intelligence–and that you love your neighbor as well as you do
yourself.”

Teacher: Good answer!

Storyteller: The scholar looked pleased with himself, and
the people around Jesus cheered and clapped.
But as the sound died away, Jesus said,

Teacher:  Do it and
you’ll live.

Storyteller: That silenced everyone.

Questioner: My mind was racing.  I needed a loophole; I could tell I needed a
loophole.

Storyteller: Don’t we all, sister!

Questioner: It was all sounding too easy and yet too
hard.  And so I asked him, And just how
would you define “neighbor?”

Scene Two

Balladeer:  There once was a traveler set on by thieves
who beat him and left him to die; a priest and a Levite each saw him in pain,
but they turned away and walked by, yes, they turned away and walked by.

Storyteller: Jesus answered by telling a story.  And as he began to tell it, his followers
hopped up to act it out.  It made me
think this story had been told before, that it had been told many, many times.

Teacher: There was once a man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho.

(The Traveler starts up the center aisle.)

Storyteller: The Jericho
Road was notorious.  It stretched for twelve miles, and you never
knew who you might meet there.  You
wanted to watch your back there.  It was
sort of like going to a tough part of town, and not having a cell phone to call
the police if you got into trouble!

Teacher: On the way he was attacked by robbers.

(Robbers “beat” Traveler and leave him on the steps to the
Chancel.)

Teacher: They took his clothes, beat him up, and went off
leaving him half-dead.

(Traveler groans, robbers all disappear down the side
aisles.)

Teacher: Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same
road, but when he saw him he angled across to the other side.

(Priest comes down center aisle, sees Traveler and avoids
him.)

Storyteller: Now, that’s a person you would have expected to
give the poor guy some help!  Suppose
your minister or one of your deacons just walked right past someone lying in
the gutter—

Questioner: (interrupts) But you wouldn’t know why that
person was there, not necessarily.  That
person might just be drunk, or maybe trying to fool you!  You might end up being robbed yourself.

Teacher: Then a Levite religious man showed up; he also
avoided the injured man.

(Levite comes down the center aisle and also avoids Traveler.)

Storyteller: And the Levite—he was supposed to uphold the
law.  What if a State Trooper just drove
off instead of helping a person who was stranded and injured?

Questioner: But a Levite—now really, even you should know
this—a Levite wouldn’t want to touch a person who was ritually unclean.  Suppose the person was dead?  Touching a corpse would have been a big
problem.  The Levite knew how he was
supposed to serve God.

Storyteller: Did he?

Scene Three

Balladeer: A certain
Samaritan then came along to bind up his wounds and give aid; he took him to
stay at an inn until well, and for all the service he paid, yes, for all the
service he paid.

Teacher: A Samaritan traveling the road came on him.

Questioner: Oh, boy.
I could see where this was going.

Storyteller: Samaritans were the sort of regional
“neighbors” you just didn’t want to have anything to do with.  Sort of like those far-distant relatives you
don’t approve of anymore, because they don’t do things the way you do, or the
people in the next county over who farm their land differently, or don’t cut
their grass as often as the rest of the families in the neighborhood, or those
people who move here from another country and speak a different language and
dress in funny clothes and make you feel uncomfortable just by being
there.  They eat different food and use
odd spices and don’t smell right and don’t understand the traffic laws…you get
the picture.

(Samaritan comes down the center aisle. She goes straight to
the Traveler and helps him.  He sits up
groggily.)

Teacher: When she saw the man’s condition, her heart went
out to him. She gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds. Then
she helped him up, led him to an inn, and made him comfortable.

(Innkeeper greets them.)

Teacher: In the morning she took out two silver coins and
gave them to the innkeeper, saying, “Take good care of him. If it costs any
more, put it on my bill–I’ll pay you on my way back.”

Storyteller: Two silver coins was a lot of money.   It was
two days wages for most laborers.  And
she was ready to pay more if needed!

Questioner:  To pay
more if needed.

(The Teacher looks straight at the Questioner.)

Teacher: What do you think? Which of the three became a neighbor to the man
attacked by robbers?

Questioner: Now he had me.

Storyteller: Now he has all of us.  It was the very person we would have least
expected.  It was the person who had to
cross all the social boundaries to give help.
It was the person we might not have stopped to help ourselves.  It was–

Questioner:  It was the one who treated
him kindly.

Storyteller: It was the one who treated him kindly.  The scholar looked pained.  Jesus was giving him a new rule to live by,
breaking open his understanding of neighbor.
We aren’t just meant to love those who live like us and speak like us
and dress like us and worship like us.

Teacher: Which of these three became a neighbor to the man
attacked by robbers?

Questioner:  It was
the one who treated him kindly.

Storyteller: It was the one who treated him kindly.

Teacher: Go and do the same.

Balladeer: I know
who’s my neighbor and whom I should love, for whom I should do a good deed; for
Jesus made clear in the story he told, it’s anyone who has a need, yes, anyone
who has a need.

**************************************

I suspect it works without the hymn. When we did this six years ago, we were blessed with a young music director who sang it in a lovely way, and a group of actors including all three of my children who had a good time pretending to be both disciples and characters in the story.

Liturgical Drama

The Prodigal Daughter

This is an update of my take on the story of the Prodigal written three years ago, under the influence of Garrison Keillor's hilarious (and rather different) version found here. It's based, of course, on Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32.

Narrator:  Jesus had a lot of attention from everyone as he got closer to the end of his time in human form. A lot of men and women of dubious reputation were hanging around with him, listening to all he had to say. The Pharisees and religion scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled, “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.” Their grumbling triggered this story, or something very much like it… 

Older Daughter: "There was a woman who had two daughters.  The younger of them said to her mother, 

Younger Daughter:  'Mom, I’m tired of living here on the farm. I’m ready to see the Bright Lights and the Big City! I want you to give me right now what's coming to me when you die.'

Mother: Needless, to say, her mother was a little shocked. (to Younger Daughter) Honey, I know it can be a little dull here. But what if we just went shopping more often? Or took off for a long weekend? How about if I added on a private bath for you, with a Jacuzzi?

Younger Daughter: No, Mom. I mean it. I’m ready to leave home.

Narrator: So the mother, with a heavy heart, divided her property and gave her daughter what she asked.  

(Mother gives Younger Daughter a heavy bag full of money.  Younger Daughter weighs it appreciatively.)

Older Daughter: It wasn't long before the younger daughter packed her iPhone in her brand new Kate Spade bag, put on her Prada shoes, and left for the big city. She put her money in mutual funds.   

Younger Daughter (to people in the congregation): You should see my new place! Want to come to my party tonight? We’re making appletinis!

Narrator: After she had gone through all her cash, there was a downturn on the stock market, and she lost everything. 

Younger Daughter: Wow, I’m in trouble.  My money is all gone, and I can’t pay my rent, and I’m hungry!  I wonder if I could get a job babysitting? I don’t like kids very much, but it can’t be too hard.

Mother: But that didn’t work out very well. 

Younger Daughter: You want me to change his WHAT?!?!!!

Narrator: She tried to find work as a waitress, but since she had never lifted a finger, and the economy was bad, no one wanted to hire her. So she hitchhiked to the country.

Older Daughter: Finally she got a job on a farm, and they sent her out to slop the pigs. Now pigs were about the worst thing in the world to her, because in her religion they were unclean. You weren’t supposed to eat them or go near them. 

Younger Daughter: Also? They’re disgusting!

Narrator: She was so hungry she would have eaten the corncobs in the pig slop, but even that wasn’t allowed. And finally she came to her senses.

Younger Daughter:  All those farmhands working for my mother, taking care of our cattle, sit down to three good meals a day. I've got to go back to my mother. I'll say to her, “Mom, I’ve really learned a lot working in agriculture, and I’m ready to come back and help you manage the family business!” 

Narrator: (to Younger Daughter) Are you sure you want to say it that way? 

Younger Daughter: Okay, maybe not so much. "Mother, I've sinned against God, I've sinned before you; I don't deserve to be called your daughter. Take me on as a hired hand."

Narrator:  That sounded more like it. She left her high heels behind and started the long walk home. When she was still a long way off, her mother saw her. Heart pounding, her mother ran out, embraced her, and kissed her. The daughter started her speech—

Younger Daughter: 'Mother, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your daughter.'

Older Daughter: But her mother wasn't listening. She was calling to the servants:

Mother: 'Quick. Bring out a clean dress!! Put the family ring on her finger and sandals on her feet. Then get a grain-fed heifer and barbecue it. We're going to feast! We're going to have a wonderful time! My daughter is here—we gave her up for dead and now she is alive! We gave her up for lost and now she’s found!

Narrator: And they began to celebrate and have a wonderful time! 

Older Daughter: Now the older daughter was still working in the field. When the day's work was done, she came up to the house and heard the music and dancing. Calling over one of the houseboys, she asked, “What in the world is going on?”

Narrator: Your sister came home. Your mother has ordered a feast — barbecued beef! — because she has her home safe and sound.

Older Daughter: Get out!

Narrator: Get in!

Mother: (to Older Daughter) Daughter, you’re back!  Come on in and greet your sister!

Older Daughter: No way!

Mother: Daughter…

Older Daughter: Look how many years I've stayed here serving you, never giving you one moment of grief, but have you ever thrown a party for me and my friends? Did I even ask you for so much as a cell phone? Then this daughter of yours who has thrown away your money on bad friends and wild parties shows up and you go all out!

Mother: Daughter, you don't understand. You're with me all the time, and everything that is mine is yours–but this is a wonderful time, and we have to celebrate. This sister of yours was dead, and she's alive! She was lost, and now she's found!

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.