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THE TRAVELING PREACHER

 

Nathaniel and Jonah enter stage left.  They cross to stage right and knock on a door.  Amos emerges.

Amos:  “Nathaniel, what a nice surprise.  You’re back from Damascus so soon.  I hope
your merchandize sold well.”

Nathaniel:  “Thank you, Amos.  In fact, it was a profitable trip.  I was able to obtain some
fabric that a tailor like you might find desirable.”

Amos:  “Ah!  No one supplies me with finer goods than you, my friend.’

Nathaniel:  “You remember my cousin Jonah, the shepherd, I trust.”

Amos:  “Of course.  It’s good to see you, Jonah.”  Amos and Jonah shake hands
“My fig tree is producing.”  Amos gestures toward his fig tree, and Nathaniel
               and Jonah turn to look at it.  While their backs are turned, Amos smells his
               right hand and then wipes it on his hip.

Nathaniel:  “Indeed it is.”

Amos:  “So, where is your flock?”

Jonah:  “It’s the shearing season.  I brought my sheep to town for the shearers to do
their work.”

Nathaniel:  “This is one time of year when my cousin gets to leave the hills and visit
family.  I poured some of my best wine into a jug for the occasion, and
grabbed a loaf of bread.  Jonah seldom gets bread fresh from the oven.
We thought you might like to share our refreshment.”

Amos:  “Absolutely!  I hope you intend to serve a bit of gossip with it.  You merchants
are famous for gossip.  Let’s sit outside, under my fig tree.  Jonah, why don’t
you sit here, and Nathaniel and I will sit over here with our backs to the wind.”
The three men sit as indicated.  “I hope your day off has been satisfactory so
far.”

Jonah:  “Oh yes!  The Good Lord provided a rare opportunity.’

Amos:  “Really?”

Jonah:  “On the way to the marketplace, Nathaniel and I stopped to hear a traveling
preacher!”

Amos:  “Not another one!”

Jonah:  “Another one?”

Amos:  “I’m afraid your experience was not as rare as you think.  Lately, we seem to get
these characters on a weekly basis. ‘Repent!  The end is near!’  Does that sound
familiar?”

Jonah:  “Oh. I was hoping that you might like to hear the preacher’s message.”

Amos:  “I hate to disappoint you.  Lectures about Hell get old pretty fast, and  
these preachers all sound the same.  Although, the one called ‘The
Baptist’ had a different approach.  If you missed it, I’d be happy to dunk you in
the stream across the road.”  Nathaniel and Amos laugh.

Nathaniel:  “You are wicked, Amos.”

Jonah:  “Why would you say that?”

Nathaniel:  “Because my naughty friend is suggesting that you shepherds have a certain
air about you.”

Jonah:  “You think I smell?”

Amos:  “Not to your sheep.  But never mind that.   I want to be a good host.  Go
ahead.  Tell us about this week’s preacher and why you found him so
fascinating. Then we can move on to more cheerful topics.”

Jonah:  “His name is Jesus, and he comes from Nazareth.”

Amos:  “How splendid.  Have you ever been to Nazareth?”

Jonah: “No.”

Amos:  “I wouldn’t say the town glows with enlightenment.  But, proceed
with your story, anyway.  Nathaniel’s juicy tidbits can wait.”

Nathaniel:  “Actually, Amos, Jonah’s story involves some tidbits that are much juicier
than anything I have to offer.”

Amos:  “Really?”

Nathaniel:  “Yes, I am pretty certain.”

Amos:  “Then do continue.”

 

Jonah:  “As people began to gather, the man next to me whispered that Jesus is known for
preaching in parables.  Jesus had just begun to speak when a lawyer interrupted
him by asking how one can  attain eternal life.”

Amos:  “A lawyer trying to get into heaven?  It’s hard to imagine a parable to cover that. 
Nathaniel can tell you that I am not terribly fond of lawyers, especially….Wait a
minute.  What lawyer are we talking about?  Surely, not Malachi!”

Jonah:  “I think I heard someone call him by that name.”

Amos:  (Glaring at Nathaniel)   “Not THE Malachi!”

Nathaniel:  “Has Jonah’s story gotten juicy enough for you?”

Amos:  “Malachi! You know I despise that man.  This Jesus had better be a master
magician.  Nothing short of magic will get Malachi into heaven.’

Jonah:  “The lawyer seemed quite sincere.”

Nathaniel:  “Not if you know Malachi, Cousin.  I felt he was testing the preacher.  But,
to his credit, Jesus answered with a test of his own.  He asked Malachi,
‘What is written in the law?’”

Amos:  “And Malachi was happy to show off his knowledge, I imagine.”

Jonah:  “He answered by quoting Scripture:  ‘You must love the Lord your God with
all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your
mind and your neighbor as yourself.’”

Nathaniel:  “But, you know Malachi.  He tried once more to trip up the preacher.”

Amos:  “I’m so shocked.”

Jonah:  “Why do you dislike Malachi so much?”

Amos:  “Malachi represented the goat herder in his false claim on part of my land.”

Nathaniel:  “The court decided in favor of the goat herder, and Amos lost some of his
property.”

Amos:  “Part of my inheritance.  It had been in my family for generations.”

 

Jonah:  “My goodness.  I’m sorry, Amos.”

Amos:  “Thank you.  But, getting back to the story, how did Malachi test this Jesus the
second time?”

Jonah:  “Malachi asked, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ Jesus answered with a parable.”

Amos:  “Of course he did.  If you don’t know the answer, make something up.”

Nathaniel:  “Don’t be too hasty to judge Jesus.  As stories go, this is a good one.
It will make you think.”

Amos:  “Well, then, go ahead.”

Jonah:  “A man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by
robbers.  The robbers beat the man badly, took his belongings and left him
lying in the road.
A priest walked by, crossed the road, and kept on walking.  Then, a Levite
passed by, crossed the road, and kept on walking.  Finally, a Samaritan
approached the dying man.”

Amos:  “Stop right there!  A Samaritan?  Why would a low-down Samaritan be in
the story?  Was this Jesus person born in Samaria?”

Jonah:  “No. He was born in Bethlehem, actually.”

Amos:  “Then he is one of us.  And I would hope that he is preaching about OUR faith?
The faith of our forefathers?”

Jonah:  “Of course!”

Amos:  “Then what’s with the Samaritan?”

Nathaniel:  “Let Jonah continue.  Perhaps you will discover the answer to your
question.”

Jonah:  “The Samaritan stopped to help the wounded man.  The Samaritan bound up his
wounds, and took him to an inn.  The Samaritan paid for the injured man’s   
stay, so that he could recover.  When Jesus had finished the story, he asked
Malachi, ‘Who was the neighbor?’  Malachi responded, ‘The one who showed
mercy.’  Jesus answered, ‘Go, and do likewise.’”

 

 

Amos:  “That story stinks!  A Samaritan, a foreigner, helping one of our brethren?
Ridiculous!  What’s next?  A parable about a woman?  I suppose, of course, if
Jesus had to drag a Samaritan into the story, then the Samaritan would have to
be the hero.”

Jonah?  “Why?”

Amos:  “Think about it.  If a Samaritan were robbed and beaten, everyone in the world
would pass by and let him die in the road.  End of story.”

Nathaniel:  “Why is it so ridiculous to imagine that a Samaritan might help one of our
countrymen?”

Amos:  “Because there are no helpful Samaritans.”

Nathaniel:  “Do you remember when the governor placed an order with you for a dress of
scarlet for his wife?”

Amos:  “Of course I remember!  That order boosted my reputation as a tailor.  It
increased my business immensely.”

Nathaniel:  “And, do you remember how scarce scarlet was at the time?”

Amos:  “Yes I do.  And you, my friend, were able to find fantastic scarlet at a very
reasonable price.  Are you going to tell me now that you are not one of my
people but a Samaritan in disguise?”

Nathaniel:  “I am not a Samaritan as you well know.  But, my supplier is.  He sold me
that scarlet at a loss.  He said that I am a valued customer, and that he
wanted to ensure my continued business.  And, he succeeded.  I buy fabric
from no one but the Samaritan.”

Amos:  “Oh God!  I hope my customers never find out!  You realize I hope that this
Jesus has completely corrupted the law!”

Jonah:  “What are you talking about?”

Amos:  “Malachi is not the only one who can quote Scripture.  The exact words of God
to Moses are these:  ‘You must not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the
children of your people, but you must love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the
Lord.’”

Jonah:  “I’m totally lost.  How has Jesus corrupted those words?”

 

Amos:  “The law regarding your neighbor begins by referring to the children of your
people.  The children of your people are your countrymen.  Therefore, a
Samaritan cannot possibly be your neighbor.”

Nathaniel:  “What you see as a corruption of Scripture, another might see as an
expansion of the meaning.”

Amos:  “What?”

Nathaniel:  “I think Jesus is teaching us to be tolerant.  He wants us to be inclusive.  I
believe he is saying that it should be just as easy to love a foreigner as to
love your own countrymen.”

Amos:  “What God told Moses is good enough for me.  It is fine for me to love my
own kind.  Period.”

Nathaniel:  “Jesus is testing you, Amos.”

Amos:  “He’s wasting his time.”

Jonah:  “Which is easier:  loving  Nathaniel’s supplier or loving Malachi?”

Amos:  “That’s an unfair question!”

Nathaniel:  “On the contrary, that’s an excellent question!  Good for you, Cousin!”

Amos:  “Which raises another question:  How did the high-and-mighty Malachi
react to Jesus’ story?”

Jonah:  “Malachi was in awe of Jesus.”

Nathaniel:  “Um. Malachi looked stunned.  I’m not sure that’s the same as being in
awe.”

Amos:  “Well at least Jesus got Malachi’s goat.  However, this whole Samaritan business
has soured the wine.  I wish you’d kept your story to yourself.”

Nathaniel:  “Don’t feel bad, Jonah.  When I fetch the silk I brought from Askar, that
should sweeten the wine considerably.”

Amos:  “Now, that’s news I welcome.  But, I’m afraid your Jesus is not going to
get very far telling parables about Samaritans.”

Jonah:  “He had a pretty good crowd gathered.”

 

Nathaniel:  “And he’s gotten your attention.”

Amos:  “Don’t remind me.  I am trying to forget.”

Nathaniel:  “How would it be if I brought my supplier around to meet you one day?”

Amos:  “In daylight?  What would people think?”

Jonah:  “Are you really so concerned about what others think?  Are you not more
principled than someone like Malachi?”

Amos:  “Of course!  But then so is everyone—except maybe Herod.  Hm. It’s hard to
decide (making a scale with his arms and hands) Malachi, Herod, Malachi,
Herod.  That’s a tough one.  What I’d like to know is how do you, a simple
shepherd, come up with these questions?”

Jonah:  “They are simple questions.”

Nathaniel:  “I think Amos means simple as in simple minded.  He underestimates you.”

Amos:  “Well, Jonah is bringing up topics that I would rather not think about.”

Jonah:  “Perhaps these are topics that everyone should think about.”

Amos:  “I prefer to think that my beliefs are true to the letter of the law.”

Jonah:  “But is the letter of the law more important than the spirit in which it was
written?”

Amos:  “There you go again!  Do you never run out of questions?”

Nathaniel:  “As I say, Amos, you underestimate my cousin.”

Amos:  “Okay, I will admit that you have given me new respect for shepherds. 
And, while I am confessing, let me add that I would welcome the opportunity
to thank your Samaritan supplier, Nathaniel.  You can bring him here.”

Nathaniel:  “I will convey your gratitude.  My supplier seldom travels this far
south.  His buyers and sellers tend to seek him out, so he pretty much stays
put in Askar.  Yes, I was testing you, too!”

Amos:  “All that’s left is for this Jesus character to wander by and annoy me with another 
parable.”

Jonah:  “Would that be such a bad thing?”

Amos:   “You and your questions.  Shouldn’t the shearers be looking for you by now?”

Nathaniel:  “Amos is probably right.  The hour grows late.  We should be on our
way.  Thank you, friend, for your hospitality.  You can keep the rest of the
wine. I will be back tomorrow with the silk I purchased.”

Amos:  “I look forward to that.  Thank you for thinking of me. Jonah, perhaps
we will meet again when shearing season returns.”

Jonah:  “I hope so.  And, in the meantime, you will be in my prayers.  I will pray
that you can find peace with the message of Jesus.”

Amos:  “Hmm.  From aggravation to peace is a long journey.  But, if anyone can pray me 
down that road, it’s you, Jonah.  You’ve convinced me of that much, today.”

 

 

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