First Rehearsal – Paul of Tarsus

Today was the first rehearsal of the play.  After distributing 150 flyers throughout the neighborhood door-to-door largely by foot, running around trying to find a pin-up board for the signs, and sharpies, and writing a lot of the stuff out by hand because I couldn’t get power for the printer, the rehearsal was boycotted by the community.
Someone had given a $400 gift for the production of the play, and it had been eaten up by scratched paint on the fender of a parked car that I had bumped in to.  No dent in the car.  Well, this had happened in Memphis in a church parking lot.  I was dealing with the play, and was looking at the issues of forgiveness, and integration.  Here I was presented with the opportunity to let someone make a real choice in real life (not a play) for God.  I apologized profusely about the accident (I had left a note and she had called me).  I show them the copy of the play, and explain that these $400 had been given to me for the production of the play (to feed kids during rehearsals who might not have lunch every day when school is out, to distribute God’s word to this community – photocopies).  I said that she could have the $400 to fix the 4 scratches of paint on her bumper, and if she wanted could send whatever money was leftover to the church.  I gave her the church’s address.
Well, she called me the next day and said that it would cost $800 to fix her bumper.  So, she chose greed and vanity over feeding kids and spreading God’s word.  Well, it is a choice that each of us gets to make. Some of us more consciously than others. 
The incident was suspiciously tainted by the racial divide.  An african-american being asked once again to make a choice between forgiveness in God’s name, and restitution from a white person for the sin of slavery and discrimination.  No, I have not been a participant in either of those things, but I may have had certain benefits in an american society simply by virtue of being white.  On the other hand, my family has been directly hurt by racial violence – a black man shot my father in the head for drug money when I was 12, a young black man raped my mother’s closest 80 year old friend last Christmas.  There are events that are racially motivated that I too have to forgive and look past.  I look at the events, forgive, and let it go.  I recognize that we are all made in God’s image, and skin color can be simply skin deep.  Even when it is not skin deep, there is a black african american identity formed by years of culture that has much to offer and can be a source of pride.  In spite of the violence that has occurred in my family, not every black man is violent.  The overwhelming majority are not.
Alright so maybe money is going to fix those problems that might otherwise be fixed by violence.  I wonder, is capitalism a redirection of aggression toward others?  What does paint on a car bumper have to do with a play on nonviolence?  Well, the 2 things are directly coupled through the economy.  When there are limited resources and 2 events that are competing for those resources, a choice has to be made  (teaching kids about nonviolence, and painting your bumper when someone runs into it).  I gave a Christian black woman coming out of a church in front of her congregation and preacher the direct choice (that each of us can make), and accepted the consequences of that choice – NO FUNDS FOR THE PLAY.
Ok. So we are outdoors – God made a day escpecially for us – not too hot, no rain.  No pizza, or food or even water.  Like the sermon on the mount, I’m nervous about what if the kids have to go to the bathroom or want to drink.
Well, no need for the nervousness.  No one showed except for my friend, and her family who has a fourth grade gifted child that I sometimes tutor.
Now, one thing I have learned about this community, is that actions are largely collective.  They start I guess with one person, and spread through the community with such thoroughness that it must be fear of life itself that inspires this loyalty.
So, although I am crushed by the amount of effort that I put into preparing for this, and the complete counter-refusal to participate, I stick it out, and when my friend’s daughter offers to go and pick up some kids from the trailer park, I let her have the truck while I wait in vain at the church in case someone shows up.
Well, she manages to pick up 10 kids. One 14 year old, a couple of 10 year olds, and 7 6-9 year olds.  The kids could read, but they had little to no religious preparation.  I had asked that the kids know the Lord’s prayer, This little light of mine, I want to be a Christian, and a part for the play.  With the exception of 1 child, none were prepared.
OK.  I get to start from scratch and roll my sleeves up.  Well, apart from the fact that I am dealing with young children and they lack an attention span, I manage to cover:
The Lord’s Prayer
This little light of mine
Who Jesus was, what he accomplished, how he died, when we celebrate his birth and death
the story of paul (reading of the signs)
who Peter was
4 of the 10 commandments
what is sin, what is persecution
the difference between a jew and a christian
what the early church believed is a requirement for salvation (baptism)
basic acting (projecting, speaking up)
portions of the letters Paul wrote
a little discussion about the violence in the play, and saying no if someone asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable
I’m praying that no one decided to spread a disease among the kids so that they could blame it on me, and bracing myself for the possibility that the kids will go around saying that it was a terrible rehearsal.  As I said before, there are times when the trust level drops, and you can cut the tension with a knife. I want to trust these kids, and believe the best about them.
I sent the kids home with activity sheets.  Now I’m gearing up for choir practice tonight. I won’t put nearly as much preparation into it.   It might happen, but it looks like rain. Perhaps God’s patience is also strained.
Edited 6/11:  Yep.  Choir practice also did not happen.  The phone number of the person that I had chosen for the choir director dials to someone who claims never to have met me, and doesn’t go to the choir director’s church. 
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