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.

Liturgical Drama

When Jesus Wept

When Jesus Wept
A Drama for Lent Five, Year A
Based on John 11:1-45

Mary: He was born long after Martha and I were, the child of our father’s old age.

Martha: His own mother died bringing him into the world, and we became his mothers, feeding him, washing him—

Mary: –singing to him, playing with him.

Martha: You can see how we divided the work.

Mary: He was still a very young man when our father died, but old enough that we could remain under his protection.

Martha: His protection! It sounds so funny, since we still took care of him.

Mary: But what mattered was that we could still be together, that we could still be a family.

Lazarus: All my life I had the two of them. Martha worked so hard and could be a little gruff, but I knew she loved me and that I could rely on her. Mary was softer, quieter, more likely to smile. Still, when Martha laughs, you want to laugh with her.

Martha and Mary: He was the light of our lives.

Lazarus: When I misbehaved, as boys will do, Mary was quicker to forgive, but Martha was quicker to forget.

Martha and Mary: The light of our lives.

Lazarus: I went to hear a teacher, and I invited him home to dinner.  Martha was in charge of the meal, of course. Mary sat with him, listening to his stories, stories that held the truth about our God and how we are to live. We all have our parts to play.

Martha: The teacher brought a big crowd with him. It was hard to sort out who was really with him and send the local folk home again.

Mary: I couldn’t take my eyes off the teacher.

Lazarus: Soon we called him “friend” and “brother.” He became as dear to us—

Martha, Mary, Lazarus: –as we are to each other.

Martha: When Lazarus fell ill, I could see that it was bad. I sent for Jesus.

Mary: We waited and waited, but he did not come.  Where was he?

Martha: Where was he?

Lazarus: I remember lying on the bed, restless and hot. Where was he? Where was my friend?

Mary: His fever was high.

Martha: And so was mine, the fever of frustration that our friend and teacher, who I knew to be a healer, had not come to us, had not come to help Lazarus.

Lazarus: I died.

Mary: Martha took charge.

Martha: Mary cried and cried, but I had too much to do. There was no time for crying.

Lazarus: Somehow I could see them, the neighbors bustling around, Mary weeping quietly in a corner of the room, and Martha, dear Martha, making sure that everything was done in accordance with the law. I was with them, but not with them, could hear them, but couldn’t speak. I felt their sorrow, but not my pain.

Martha: We laid him in the tomb.  Four days went by.

Mary: Four dark days.

Martha: And then someone came to tell us that Jesus was on the way. Now I was angry. I went out to meet him.

Lazarus: I saw them meet, but I felt nothing.

Martha: Jesus, I said, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him. 

Lazarus: He answered her, “Your brother will rise again.” They seemed so far away, yet I was with them.

Martha: I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.

Lazarus: Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha: Of course I believed! Why else would I have been so sure that he could heal my brother? But now Lazarus was dead and beyond all help. I told him what I believed, that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, the One coming into the world.

Mary: Then Martha came to me.

Martha: The teacher is here and he is calling for you.

Mary: No one in the house knew where I was going, but they followed me as I went to Jesus. I couldn’t stop crying. I told him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I knew that was true.

Lazarus: “Where have you laid him?” I was so close to them, but not.

Martha and Mary: Lord, come and see.

Lazarus: Jesus wept.

Mary: Oh, how he wept. He loved our brother.

Martha: We led him to the tomb. It was a cave, with a stone against the entrance. He said, “Take the stone away.” I told him, Lord, he has been in there four days, surely there will be a stench.

Mary: But he reproached her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?”

Martha: Did he not tell me? I had some neighbors roll the stone away.

Mary: Jesus said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.”

Martha: Then he cried, “Lazarus, come out!”

Mary: “Lazarus, come out!”

Lazarus: Come out! I heard his voice. This time it was not as in a dream or through a mist, or even clearly as if he stood beside me, but through my own ears, wrapped tight in a cloth. I knew his voice.

Mary: Lazarus!

Martha: Our brother walked out of his tomb.

Lazarus: As they unwrapped the cloths, I could hear the rustle of many people.  When my head was free, I saw only one face, still wet with tears.  I stepped forward, and stumbled. It was Martha who caught my arm and Mary who smiled at me.

Mary: Soon so many more people believed in him—

Martha: Believed what I already knew! And how could they not believe?

Mary: Our little brother was returned to us.

Martha: Our brother who was dead is living.

Lazarus: I am alive because I heard his voice. He called to me. I rose up and followed.

Mary: He calls to me even now and I feel him in my heart.

Martha: Even now I hear his voice and I know what to do.

Lazarus: Listen. He calls to you.