I mentioned a few columns ago that I am working on a summer production of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." The deadline for this column arrives before we open on July 13, but already much work has been done, youth and adults teaming together to understand and give life to the 400-year-old words of a genius, William Shakespeare.
It's a remarkable process, really, and "teaming" is the operative word. Together in relationship with one another, the cast and crew have brought the brilliant text to life from the read-through-session to where it stands today, as I write, a living breathing work of beauty.
I have not directed "Romeo and Juliet" before. I've read it. I've seen it. I've acted parts of it. But I have not directed it until now. I am struck, as I watch the cast and crew work and bond together by the irony that a play, which centers on youth and adults feuding to the death, serves so well as a vehicle for bringing together youth and adults in a caring and cohesive team. It's lovely to see, really.
Being a pastor, I have also reflected on theological implications in the play itself. I personally believe that God is love and Creator and operates in creation not by coercion, but by persuasion - calling all that is to the best it can be in the given moment, no matter what has transpired up to that point.
I believe that Jesus's existence on earth proves that the best humans can be in any given moment is love incarnate. I believe His way is about our answering God's call to be compassionate and desire the well-being of others - in other words to love.
In "Romeo and Juliet," Shakespeare has a number of characters try, in various ways, to answer this call to betterment and love as the story unfolds. Benvolio tries in vain to maintain peace. Romeo turns the other cheek. Romeo and Juliet try to overcome city-wide hate in order to move toward love itself. The Nurse and the Clergy both aid mightily in the efforts of the lovers toward love and away from hate.
But in the end, out of the worse possible moment in their lives - the death of their beloved children - the chief instigators of hate themselves pull off the greatest miracle when they stop at last and listen to God's call to betterment and answer it with love (which is God).
There is no doubt the story is a tragedy, but it ends with a spark of hope: that the God of Love never stops calling, and that no matter what has happened in the past, in each and every moment, we can answer the call and in so doing, transform our lives and those around us.
The Rev. Scott Elliott is the pastor at Riviera United Church of Christ in Palm Bay. Visit Riviera UCC's website at rivieraucc.org.