JESUS: Any replies yet Peter?
PETER: Replies? Replies to what?
JESUS: To my invitations.
PTR: What invitations?
JESUS: I sent them out yesterday.
PTR: You mean ..... the Kingdom?
JESUS: Yes it's time.
PTR: But you never told me!
JESUS: Of course I didn't - I know you of old. You would have tried to change my mind.
PTR: No I wouldn't. (pause) Jesus ..
JESUS: Yes Peter?
PTR: Would it hurt to leave it a bit longer?
PTR: People won't be expecting you now. They all thought you were bound to return in the year 2000 and when you didn't, well, the whole thing has gone off the boil.
JESUS: But Peter, I'm supposed to catch them off guard. Thats the idea.
PTR: Yes I suppose so. (knock at the door) That sounds like someone knocking!
JESUS: Why the surprise? I did send out 6 billion invitations. (Peter exits)
PTR: (Peter returns looking embarrassed) Er...
JESUS: Well, what's the matter? Did you let them in? There's plenty of room.
PTR: That's not the problem. Theres only one person there.
JESUS: Well that's a start. Show him to one of our best rooms for being so prompt.
PTR: Er, actually, Jesus, he wants to give his apologies. Shall I send him away?
JESUS: No, of course not. I'd like to hear this. (Peter exits)
PTR: (returns with man) Jesus, this is .. er, Trevor.
TREV: (informal, natural style) Jesus, I'm really ever so grateful for your invitation and under normal circumstances I would have been the first here -
JESUS: - You ARE the first here.
TREV: Oh, I am? As a matter of interest, how many have you invited?
PTR: (Peter intervenes) Everybody.
TREV: Everybody .. as in ... everybody?
PTR: (nods) Over 6 billion invitations.
TREV: And I'm the only one who's come?
PTR: So far, yes. And you've come to apologise for not coming.
TREV: Well, no, not exactly. I will come, of course. But not right now. Later on.
PTR: When, later on?
TREV: A year .. or two .. or -
JESUS: - or however long it takes to spend 20 million.
TREV: Oh, you know? Well of course you know. Stupid of me. I don't normally bother, I mean, it's a mug's game -
JESUS: - but there was a roll over.
TREV: Three roll overs, actually. 40 million up for grabs. It was worth a couple of tickets.
PTR: Only a couple?
TREV: Well, more than a couple, yes, but don't you see, I won.
JESUS: 20 million. A lot of money.
TREV: A king's ransom! Jesus, I've got dreams and now I can fulfil them! (goes to leave)
JESUS: What about my Father's dreams that all things should return to their perfection through him from whom they took their origin?
TREV: That's a nice idea and I will give it some more thought (goes to leave again) - So it's not good-bye, then. Just au revoir. (pops back for one last thing:) Obviously I shall be giving a lot to charity. (exits)
ANNE: (A woman enters) Trevor said I should just come in. My name is Anne. You sent me an invitation?
PTR: That's right, along with 6 billion others.
ANNE: (enormously relieved) That's exactly what I thought - it couldn't just be for me and a few friends! Im so glad you won't miss me amongst a crowd like that.
JESUS: Did you SEE any crowds as you came in?
ANNE: Well no, I didn't actually, but I assumed they were all here ahead of me: I'm never the first.
JESUS: That's true. You're the second.
ANNE: You mean you've only got Trevor .... ?
PTR: Not even Trevor, I'm afraid. Came to give his apologies. Won the lottery. And you .. ?
ANNE: What? Oh nothing like that, no. It's William. He finally did it.
JESUS: He proposed.
ANNE: That's right. But how - ?
JESUS: Never mind. Go on.
ANNE: Yes, after all these years of ... of ...
JESUS: ... living in sin?
ANNE: No, not living in sin: you said it was wrong to call it that now.
JESUS: I said that?
ANNE: Well the Church said it and that's the same thing isn't it?
JESUS: (Goes to answer that but thinks better of it) Never mind. Go on. William .... ?
ANNE: He said he'd never get married. Always hated commitment.
JESUS: But you persisted.
ANNE: You're thinking I nagged him. Well I suppose I did. But I want children, you see.
JESUS: And so does my Father. He wants his children to come home. What about the invitation?
ANNE: I feel awful, I really do. But how would I explain it to William?
JESUS: He's had an invitation too.
ANNE: Yes but he thinks religion is a load of rubbish. If he can't see it with his own eyes ...
JESUS: Yes, I know. If someone were to come back from the dead, he still wouldn't believe.
ANNE: But he might in time. He's good really, you know.
JESUS: Anne, I do know.
ANNE: Yes of course you do, I'm sorry. It wouldn't be so bad but I've already sent out the invitations.
JESUS: I know the feeling.
ANNE: Oh this is really dreadful. But you know I want to come. (goes to exit) I just can't. Not now.(exits and then pops back) We'll have our children christened - I'll make sure of that!(pops back again:) Jesus! You've got nothing to worry about! There's a great crowd outside!(exits)
JESUS: Go and see to them, Peter. We'll have a feast after all.
PTR: (returns) They're all bishops, every one of them. Hundreds of them. And they're all -
BISH: (enter a bishop in a fury) This is preposterous, you can't do this, not now!
JESUS: Do what, bishop?
BISH: You know very well what. Everybody's talking about it. Breakfast TV was swamped this morning by people claiming they'd been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb.
JESUS: Religious cranks surely?
BISH: No not these. These were ordinary people going about their business. Prostitutes, thieves, beggars, all pretty convincing: I know my Bible, remember. But what really convinced me it was genuine was when the hosts confessed that they'd had invitations.
PTR: Why did that convince you?
BISH: Only Jesus would stoop so low as to invite breakfast-tv hosts into the kingdom. (to J) But you've got to stop it.
BISH: What impression does this give of the Church? We're conducting highly imaginative and successful evangelistic campaigns to bring people in and wham! time is called. It looks bad - like there's been no communication.
JESUS: Well, has there?
BISH: That's not fair. You gave us a job to do and left us to get on with it. It's not been easy and it's still not easy. But we're getting somewhere.
JESUS: Where exactly?
BISH: Well, here, I suppose. But we need a lot more time. People find it so hard to believe. But given enough time, I think we can work out something that everybody can believe in.
PTR: What about the truth?
BISH: What is truth, Peter? Surely the important thing is that people believe what the Church tells them to believe? (to J) So anyway, I thought you should know that we're putting the lid on your attempted Advent. We've called a special meeting of Synod. (pops back) By the way, nice touch, not sending me an invitation. That's when I really knew it was authentic. (exits laughing)
PTR: Did you really not send him one?
JESUS: He got one. But he thought my angels were JWs - so he didn't open the door.
PTR: What happens now?
JESUS: We go ahead.
PTR: But the bishop, and all his fellow bishops?
JESUS: Not all of them will follow his lead. But those for whom the Church has become their own Kingdom will naturally not be interested in mine.
PTR: What about Trevor?
JESUS: Cant serve two masters, Im afraid.
PTR: And Anne?
JESUS: Anne is in for a surprise. William is not so godless as she thought. (there is a knocking on the door) Thatll be them now. (Peter goes to let them in) Oh, and Peter, leave the door open, will you?
English. Masters in French. Retired parish priest. Associate Writer with Redemptorist Publications (Anglican Dept). Also published in Church Times and BBC 'Book of the Future'. UK tour manager of Russian Orthodox 6-person choir. Works copyright of Geoff Anderson in perpetuity. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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