September 7, 2023
Dear Hyde Park Family,
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts.”
(Shakespeare’s As You Like It)
One of the most joyful parts of living in a small town in Iowa from 2007 to 2015 was it gave me and my two daughters a chance to be involved in community theater. I’ll never forget how, within the first several months of our arrival, one of the directors stopped by my office and said:
“Magrey, we’ve always wanted to do a production of The King and I. Would you be interested in the role of King Mongkut? You wouldn’t even have to audition. And your daughters can play your children.”
Over time, we had roles in many other productions. I was the Ghost of Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol: The Musical (they even flew me on and off stage, much to the grunting chagrin of the stagehands), part of the ensemble in Les Miserables, a pirate in Peter Pan, and Gary Lejeune in the riotous Noises Off! (which involved a nightly pratfall down a flight of stairs. I still have the elbow and knee pads.)
People talk about “getting bitten by the theater bug,” and that certainly happened to me, Grace, and Maddy. Over time, we’ve seen countless productions here in Tampa, up on Broadway, and over in London’s West End. There is something powerful, even magical, about seeing performers on stage, rendering beautiful music and telling powerful stories.
A SPIRITUAL SPECTACLE
Early in my ministry, I heard former Florida Bishop Timothy Whitaker give an ordination sermon at Annual Conference, in which he unpacked 1 Corinthians 4:9. In it, Paul uses a word he uses nowhere else in the epistles:
“I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all … because we have become a spectacle to the world.”
Bishop Whitaker said that word “spectacle” is the Greek word “theatron,” which comes from the world of live theater. To be a “theatron” is to be used by God to showcase for the world the subversive, counter-cultural characteristics of the Christian life. To be humble instead of
haughty, and self-sacrificial instead of self-aggrandizing. Basically, it is to follow the example of Jesus, who established the role that we are to play.
He quoted the first century Greek philosopher Epictetus: “Regard yourself as an actor in a play … Your task is only to play well the part you have been given; the choosing of it belongs to someone else.” Epictetus taught that God chooses the role we are to play, and it is our task to perform it well.
GOOD AND FAITHFUL: LIFE WELL DONE
These ideas will come together for our new fall worship series that starts this Sunday, called, “Good and Faithful: Life Well Done,” which explores aspects of Christian character, ethics, and moral formation that God expects us to showcase as a “theatron” for the world.
Each week, we will connect these themes with stories and illustrations from well-known theatrical productions, including musical numbers as part of the sermon. It will be a way for me to share some of my reflections on my renewal leave last summer; I am very excited to explore it with you.
To keep up with book recommendations and theatrical references throughout the series, you can visit our website.
“Break a leg,” and see you Sunday!
Grace and Peace,
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist