(Scene: A dispatch warehouse. A row of real or imagined crates lines the front of the stage. The audience is part of the 'freight'. A rookie dispatch clerk is on stage, checking his notes on a clipboard. Enter Commander)
Dispatcher: (Trying to look as if he always works at attention) íMorning Commander!
Commander: (Much experience in the dispatch business) Good morning, Dispatcher, all ready?
Dispatcher: (enthusiastically) Yes Sir!, Sir. One million, one hundred and thirty eight thousand, four hundred and fifty eight all ready for delivery. (softens slightly) Aren't they cute!
Commander: (Peering in the nearest crate) Hmm, if you like rattlesnakes & toads
Dispatcher: Oh they're not all rattlesnakes and toads. (leads the Commander
on an inspection of the crates) Look at these kittens, (picks one up and
suddenly realises what heís put his hand in) Oh Pandora, how could you.
I've spent half the night blow-drying fur. (reads 'label' on neck) Pandora
Chelmondiston Cat, c/o Hoyland Family (name & address of local family)
Commander: Good pedigree?
Dispatcher: (slightly surprised) The Hoylands?
Commander: (patiently) The cats.
Dispatcher: (Looks carefully at label) Well actually, a bit of next doorís tomcat (hastily) but they'll never know. (Wipes & replaces kitten). And look, here are the babies (All mushy) coochie coochie coo!
Commander: (picks one up, reads label) Esther Grace Liddle, Oxford. (name and address of another local family with a small baby). (stares hard) Do the Liddles all look like that?
Dispatcher: Well, (diplomatically) they improve with time. (pause) Commander, why are babies so different?
Dispatcher: Well you know, when we make cats and dogs and rattlesnakes we follow the chief's design, choose the right parents and let nature take its course. But with babies, the chief sort of takes control; hand-crafts each one, spends a lot of time with them, and then He chooses their parents, even handwrites the delivery notes. What's so special about babies?
Commander: (Looking thoughtfully at the baby in his arms) Esther Grace. Grace is what makes babies special. Grace is not just a name, but an act. A gift, a gift from God.
Dispatcher: Babies are a gift to humans? (takes baby, replaces in cradle & rocks)
Commander: One of the greatest gifts of all (smiling sweetly at yet more babies).
Dispatcher: But then, (moves on), what about these: (reads label) Natalie Franchesca. Born: Today. Life expectancy: 2 years due to malnutrition; (reads next) or this one: Deborah Jane. Born: Today. Life expectancy 6 months due to AIDS; (reads next) or: Anthony Gordon. Born: Today. Life expectancy: 45 minutes due to "Legal Termination". Is this also grace?
Commander: (Gently) Grace is not about life expectancy, but about life. Each of these, made in the image of God, is given to humankind with love, and though sometimes the image looks broken, the love is no less, nor the gift any meaner.
Dispatcher: But why is the image sometimes broken? Why are not all babies perfect and why don't they all live? Why give babies, when so many are rejected?
Commander: It is not just babies that humans reject. You know the story, how that first man chose to disobey, how he chose to reject the very person who crafted him and gave him life. All the rest is consequences.
Dispatcher: And so consequently, God rejects man?
Commander: No, you are forgetting that baby. Born in a cattle stall; in an obscure place and at a brutal time.
Dispatcher: Mary's son.
Commander: Yes, Mary's son - God's son. The only human to never reject his Heavenly Father. Obedient in life, obedient to death, even death on a cross.
Dispatcher: He too was rejected by man?
Commander: By man, yes, but acceptable to God as a perfect and obedient Son.
Dispatcher: And so these (indicates babies) are not rejected?
Commander: They are not rejected. Do you think the chief would spend all that love and effort handmaking each one, crafting each cell, counting each hair, just to throw the result away? Look, this is grace: here on each delivery note, after the signature, in his own hand, the words: Return To Sender.
Dispatcher: You mean ultimately he takes them back, all of them?
Commander: No, not all. There are some who donít want to come back.
Dispatcher: They donít want to come back? They reject their home?
Dispatcher: But why? Why reject God? Why reject grace?
Commander: Simple: accepting God means rejecting disobedience. Accepting God means agreeing He is right. (pause) Come on, time to load 'em up.
Dispatcher: (Picks up a crate, and after a slight pause, as an afterthought) But what about these (indicates babies & audience), will all these return? Will they make the right choice?
Commander: (About to answer, thinks again, turns to Dispatcher and asks gently) Would you?
Copyright 2000 A. Jackman, email firstname.lastname@example.org
May be used under the church copyright licence scheme (CCL) for non-profit production.