All a bit of a muddle
Scene 1. Scene Card: Church Sunday lunch.
Cook moving from table to table, repeats
'I thought it was beef, and it turns out to be pork'.
Diner 1 Well, you’d think they’d know what they were doing by now.
Diner 2 I know – it’s all so muddled. Not at all what I expected.
Diner 1 And in a church too! They ought to know what they are doing.
Diner 3 Why?
Diner 1 Why what?
Diner 3 Why should they know what they’re doing, in a church in particular?
Diner 2 Well, it’s obvious, isn’t it. They serve lunch here every week – they ought to know how to prepare it by now.
Diner 1 No, that’s not what I mean. I mean a church is the place where it should make sense, where everything should be well worked out – I dunno, safe. The rest of the world is so muddled – you’d think here, with all that they say about knowing what life should be, what God is like and so on, that they’d get it right.
Diner 3 But why?
Diner 1 Well, isn’t that what churches are supposed to be about – knowing the answers, making sense of things, not this “I thought it was one thing and it turned out to be another” stuff!
Diner 3 Well, when you think where it all started, it’s not so surprising. Thinking it was one thing and discovering it was something else is there right at the beginning!
Diner 2 What do you mean? You mean they put up this building thinking it was a block of flats, and then discovered it was a church?
Diner 3 No, not really. I’m going back earlier than that – right back to the very beginning, I suppose.
Diner 1 I don’t understand.
Diner 3 Let me tell you….
Scene 2. Scene Card: The garden of Eden
Diner 3 When I say the beginning, I mean the very beginning
Enter Adam, Eve and snake
Adam But I thought it was just a tree with fruit on it
Snake Oh no, it’s much more than that
Eve Well, what is it then?
Snake It’s your chance to be like God – to be gods yourselves.
Eve Sounds good to me. You mean it’s not what we thought it was?
Snake Far from it
Adam Well, I’ll have a bite
Eve Me too
Adam I thought it was just an apple
Eve I thought it meant being like God
Together Turns out it is the breaking of our friendship with God
Diner 3 They thought it was the path to freedom, and it turned out to be loss
Diner 1 That’s a bit of a muddle to make
Diner 2 Indeed – getting it wrong on a grand scale!
Diner 1 Is that what you meant then – does it go straight from eating the wrong fruit to cooking the wrong meat?
Diner 2 I always knew that this church was all about food.
Diner 3 Well, you’re right that food is right at the heart – but the story isn’t over yet. There’s more muddles to come.
Diner 2 Tell us more!
Diner 3 God didn’t want the rest of the life of the world to be based on the muddle. God didn’t want only to love people who didn’t know how to love him.
Diner 2 So, what did God do about it?
Diner 1 Is this going to take all night?
Diner 3 Well, it’s taken all of time – but I’ll give you the short version. God invited people to be people living with him and learning about him – he taught them and encouraged them, and told them off, and helped them. And even then, they got a bit muddled.
Enter Abraham and Sarah. Scene card: Abraham and Sarah entertain strangers
Abraham I can see people in the distance – let’s get a meal ready for them. If they’ve travelled a long way, they’ll need it.
Sarah OK – I’ll go and get started. Call me when you’re ready.
Enter three “angels”
Abraham Good day, friends. Have you come far
Angel 1 A long way
Angel 2 Further than you can imagine
Abraham Then you’ll be tired. Sit here, and I’ll get a meal for you.
Angel 3 Thank you
Abraham Sarah, Sarah – anything on the stove?
Sarah Here we go – soup, bread and cheese. Any allergies I need to know about?
Angel 3 No, we’re fine. This is good.
Diner 2 I told you this church was all about food
Diner 1 Ssshh. But why are they muddled?
Diner 3 Wait and see
Angel 1 This is good, thank you.
Abraham I’m glad you’re enjoying it. When you make your return journey, you must stop in again. Sarah makes a very good date cake, and we’ll have it ready for you.
Angel 3 That’s good of you. When we come back, we’ll look forward to seeing the baby as well.
Sarah Baby! Don’t make me laugh. That’s not going to happen.
Angel 2 Don’t be too sure.
Angel 1 Sometimes what you think is going on and what is really happening turn out to be different things. And now we must go. Thank you.
Abraham Well – I wonder
Sarah I don’t
Diner 2 Did they come back for date cake?
Diner 3 We’re not told – but there was a baby
Diner 1 That must have come as a shock
Diner 3 Not half as much of a shock as realising who they’d given dinner to.
Diner 1 You mean…
Diner 2 They fed…
Diner 3 Yes – the strangers turned out not to be who Abraham thought, but to be God’s own presence.
Diner 2 Wow!
Diner 1 So they thought it was some strangers and it turned out to be God himself – that’s muddle on a grand scale!
Diner 3 And it doesn’t stop there.
Diner 2 OK – what’s next?
Diner 1 But if we could avoid food…..
Diner 3 If you insist. Fast forward. There is a nation now, descended from that unexpected baby. And they have a law, and a way of life, and they think they know what God wants. And, in particular, they think God is on their side, against everybody else.
Diner 2 Don’t tell me – they’ve got it muddled, it’s not what they thought.
Diner 3 How did you guess? It went a bit like this
Enter King and Prophet. Scene card: Isaiah straightens the King out
King I know the Persian empire is threatening us. But all the holy men tell me that as long as we keep the temple running smoothly, then we’ll be fine.
Isaiah And just how do you think it’s going to be fine?
King Well, we’ll keep the Temple services going, and we’ll have the army ready, and we’ll make an alliance with the Amorites, and God will protect us.
Isaiah We are going to be defeated.
King We can’t be. God won’t let that happen. We are the chosen, the special people.
Isaiah It’s not like that.
King You mean we’re not chosen and special?
Isaiah Oh we are, - but it doesn’t mean that nothing bad can ever happen, or that we are invincible.
King Well, what does it mean?
Isaiah It means that God is calling us to live in a certain way. It’s a way that shows what God is like, and what it can be like to live lovingly. It means that God has chosen us to show other people who God is. It doesn’t mean that we get to do what we like, and expect God to step in and magic it right.
King Are you sure
Isaiah Oh yes, very sure
King Leave me.
Diner 2 I guess you’re about to tell me that the king was muddled, and that it wasn’t what he thought
Diner3 You’re right!
Diner1 So – the nation wasn’t a chosen nation?
Diner3 No, that wasn’t the muddle. It was that they had forgotten or got confused about what being chosen meant. They were in a muddle about how to be the people of God.
Sing Shepherds watch and wise men wonder
Diner 1 So, does it end there?
Diner 2 They seem to be in a muddle all the way along. Doesn’t hold out much hope that we’ll get the right dinner next week.
Diner3 Well, the story hasn’t ended yet. There’s another muddle to come.
Diner 1 Oh joy!
Diner 3 That prophet we saw
Diner 2 The one with the bad news, that the king told to leave?
Diner 3 That’s the one! Well, he promised that there would be a special person who would mend all the muddles and tell the story from the beginning again.
Diner 2 Good news at last. I mean, nobody could get that one wrong, could they?
Diner 1 I wouldn’t be too sure. Folk who can mix up beef and lamb can muddle almost anything…
Diner 3 Well, it went rather like this. They knew all the promises, they knew all the prophecies, they knew what God was like – but they also knew what they wanted, and they thought they knew how God would do it.
Diner 1 And it didn’t turn out like that?
Diner 2 I’m guessing not.
Diner 3 Look and see
Nativity story part 1
Voice 1 God sent an angel to tell Mary that she would have a baby, and the baby would be God’s own son. Mary wasn’t sure what the angel meant, but she chose to trust God’s message.
Voice 2 Joseph was worried and muddled about what he should do. But an angel came and assured him that this was God’s plan, and that God does not get things muddled. So he chose to trust God, and to care for Mary.
Voice 1 Just before the baby was born the government called for a census, and Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem. There was a muddle about a place to stay, and the had to spend the time in the outhouse.
Voice 2 And it was there that the baby was born, and the angels sang.
Diner 1 So, does that sort out all the muddles?
Diner3 Well – not always. People still want to be God, like Adam and Eve, people still don’t always recognise God, like Sarah and Abraham, people still want God to be on their side according to their own decisions without paying attention to God – and people still miss God in the baby. We’re very good at thinking we know what it’s all about, and missing the point.
Diner 2 And I guess sometimes it matters more than getting beef and lamb mixed up.
Diner 3 But we can still tell the story and remind ourselves what’s really going on
Scene 6. Nativity story part 2
Voice 1 The angels went to the shepherds on the hillside. One of them told them
Voice 2 Do not fear; we have come with news of great joy. Go down into Bethlehem and see – a child has been born who is Christ the Lord.
Voice 1 And many angels joined in the singing. The shepherds were very afraid, but the chose to trust God’s message and went into the town
Voice 2 And they saw that it was just as they had been told.
Voice 1 Then there were visitors from the east. They had seen a star and knew that a great king had been born.
Voice 2 But they got muddled too, and went to see Herod in Jerusalem.
Voice 1 He was worried and got his wise men to tell him what should be happening.
Voice 1 They told him a king would be born in Bethlehem. He thought that might be a muddle, but sent them there anyway.
Voice 2 They went, and they saw the star again. And then they found Mary and Joseph and the baby, and they gave them gifts.
Voice 1 And an angel came and told them Go home a different way.
Voice 2 And they did. And Mary thought about all these things, and tried to understand.
Sing; Away in a manger
Diner 1 So – did that get it all sorted out?
Diner 2 I don’t think it did. After all, we keep forgetting, don’t we.
Diner 3 But God doesn’t – and that’s what keeps it all straight in the end.