The Mousetrap – a play by Agatha Christie – has been running in a London theatre since, well, since this church was founded. Over the years, Herb O’Driscoll tells us, the actors change roles. They come in as ingénue or child actor, mature and take on adult roles, then as they age gradually move to the characters in their middle and later years. Same players, different roles: but all the world’s a stage, and all the people players. Over the years our roles change, and we take on new ones, leaving earlier ones to new people. We change; but the show does –
- Go on.
Thanks, I will.
The show goes on. It is the eternal drama that we are in – the story of the love of God for humankind – and it does not end in tragedy. It is a comedy. It ends in glory – and in joy.
The story began – at the beginning, when Jesus already was, present, as the Word of God, and into the silence spoke “Light” and there was light. It continued through the days of the patriarchs and matriarchs, the prophets, and on down to the days of Joseph and Mary. They raised a son; they called Jesus. And he came to set the people free.
They were oppressed, under Herod, and under Pilate, and under sin even more. He freed them. By his death, his resurrection, and his glorious ascension, he brought home people to their home in God. We take this good news forward with us through time – we are this good news to the people around us – and as we carry the gospel with us we take on roles, to help us give dramatic life to the good-news story, and we pass those roles on to others.
The roles change, the story continues.
There is another show to tell you about – a good one, too. CATS. It was playing on Broadway when I lived in New York. I went to church with a lot of theater people. One of them remarked to me that the producers of that show had decided to start over with a whole new cast. Same show, same roles, different cast. A fresh start, I said, that’s good.
But, he said, a lot of people were counting on that income. They bought houses.
They had counted on things staying the same. But they didn’t. Not any more than things stayed the same for Caiaphas and Annas and the Temple priests and the scribes, and Pilate the procurator of Judea. Things changed, big time. There was a fresh new cast, ready to bring the story to life again – it had gone really, really stale. To be nice about it.
Cast changed, and the story that was told, that had been lost amongst overbearing production values, came to life, once more, in a new and fresh way.
Imagine a traveling troupe of players who toured out of town, three years in the provinces, then at last heading to the capital. Coming into town was a real triumph – a victory parade, premature, but full of life and hope. Then: disaster struck.
The rehearsal dinner, the night before the big opening, ends – badly.
Or – is it?
Three days later the players get a message. The women bring it. They saw him. The player-manager, the one they thought they would never see on stage again, they saw him. And he said, tell them to go ahead of me into the Galilee country.
The real show begins now. That – that was all rehearsal.
Remember what I taught you; remember what you learned. Remember what I showed you, remember what I did – and remember what we did together. You will be doing greater things. For now you must be the good news. Act it out, it’s real. It’s the best story – and the truest – that ever was or shall be.
And whenever you get together, remember me – and proclaim.
Gather, proclaim, celebrate, be transformed, and then go – for I am sending you into the world, to work, to bring life and light and love and leaven, to bring the kingdom of God.