The Prodigal Son of Jixian

The Prodigal Son of Jixian is a play I wrote back in 2008, for a show my then-school (New Century Language and Culture Center) put on to showcase student talent in speaking the Chinese language. I wrote this basic script, and then each student performing in the play took his or her lines and translated those lines into Chinese, and then our troupe performed the play for the school.

This play is roughly based off of the Biblical parable, “the prodigal son,” although deviates a bit as this story takes place around the turn of the new millennium in China.

 

The Prodigal Son of Jixian

Characters

Narrator: (8 parts)

Father: (26 lines)

Older Daughter: (15 lines)

Younger Son: (21 lines)

Contractor: (6 lines)

Fast Blaze/Ms. Liu: (12 lines)

Wild Kitty/Ms. Chen: (8 lines)

 

Prologue The Prodigal Son

(Enter Narrator)

NARRATOR: Welcome to our play. Some of you have heard of the story of the Prodigal Son. Tonight we give you the story with new clothes. Our story begins in Jixian, near the city of Tianjin, with a businessman and his two children, an older daughter and his younger, impatient son. The older daughter helps her father everyday, cleaning the home, cooking food, and taking care of household business, but the younger son plays everyday, not listening to his father or his sister, returning home late in the evening, and spending his father’s money. He does not go to school, but spends his days at the internet café, playing games and smoking cigarettes. This is the story of his life. This is the story of how he became a good man.

 

Act 1 Leaving Jixian

(Enter Father and Daughter. Daughter is just doing some housework, and Father is arriving home from work.)

DAUGHTER: Good evening, Dad. How was work?

FATHER: Good. That young man from your college came to visit. Do you remember him? The handsome one?

DAUGHTER (exasperated): Oh, please, Dad. You know I don’t have time for that. Everything I do here, with Mom gone…

FATHER: Fine, fine. Have you seen your brother around? I need to tell him something.

DAUGHTER: He’s been gone all day. He left this morning, said he was going outside to smoke. He has not returned home yet.

FATHER: You don’t know where he went?

DAUGHTER: He’s probably at that internet bar, the Great Wall Café.

FATHER: Go down there are tell him to come home for dinner. I have something important to say to both of you.

DAUGHTER: Yes, Dad.

(Exit Father)

(Enter Son)

 

NARRATOR: That evening, the older daughter went to the internet café. Her brother was sleeping next to a pile of cigarettes. She told him to wake up, but he refused. She was very angry. She slapped him and carried him home. His eyes were very red, and he was not in a good mood. The family sat down for dinner.

 

(Enter Father. The family is sitting down for a nice dinner.)

FATHER: Next week, because of the holiday, my workers are going back to their hometowns. Because it will be a very busy week for travel, we can go to see your Aunt in the mountains.

DAUGHTER: That is great! I miss her so much. Is Cousin Li going to come home from Beijing?

FATHER: I heard, but I do not know. He is very busy. He has a really great job, you know.

SON: I’m not going.

FATHER: Of course you are going. What are you going to do here? You need some mountain air.

SON: I’m not going.

DAUGHTER: You’re crazy! Everyday you spend our money, eat our food, but do nothing! You don’t go to school, you don’t work, and you’re lazy.

FATHER: Please, daughter, he is still very young.

SON: I’m leaving.

FATHER: See? I told you. He is already growing up.

SON: You. I’m leaving you. I’m leaving Jixian. I’m leaving this house, and this stupid family.

FATHER: What?

SON: I have friends in Shanghai.

DAUGHTER: They are his internet friends, Dad. He doesn’t know their real names.

SON: I want my money, and I want the car. It’s mine, anyways, you bought it for me.

DAUGHTER: If you graduate from school, but you have never gone to class!

FATHER: It’s ok, daughter. This is his decision.

SON: I am leaving tonight.

FATHER: Be safe, son.

(Exit Father and Daughter)

 

Act II In Shanghai

NARRATOR: That evening, his son drove to Shanghai. It was a long drive, but the son finally felt happy. Finally, he could do as his pleased. No domineering sister, no one telling him what to do. No old father, no dead mother. And money, lots and lots of money. He felt like a king. He would become a king. The king of Shanghai.

 

(Enter Fast Blaze)

FAST: Hey, buddy. What’s up?

SON: Are you Fast Blaze? From the Superman Chat?

FAST: Yeah, buddy. You want to go have some fun?

SON: Yeah!

FAST: You got cash?

SON: I’m loaded!

FAST: Great, really great. Follow me…

 

NARRATOR: The two new friends went out into the night. They gambled at the best places, smoked at the richest bars, drove down the fastest streets. They were children of the night, and they were happy. That night they found a hotel, and they slept at the top of the hotel. They watched TV all night, ate the most expensive food, and when the morning came, they slept all day. That night they met Wild Kitty.

 

(Enter Wild Kitty)

KITTY: Hey, Blaze.

FAST: Hey Kitty.

KITTY: Who is this guy?

FAST: This is “Prodigal”. Remember? He’s the guy from Jixian with the rich Dad.

KITTY: Hey, Prodigal! You’re here! So great! You want to have some fun?

SON: Yeah! Is that possible?

KITTY: I got a place in Shanghai. You can make money fast. Lots of money. Important guys come to my place. If they like you, you might get a job for them, and make more money. What do you think?

SON: This is more than my Dad ever gave me. This is so great.

(Exit Wild Kitty and Fast Blaze)

 

NARRATOR: The son joined Wild Kitty’s company. He worked hard and made lots of money. He spent money fast, bought houses, cars, love, everything he ever wanted. He was at the top of the world. Then one day, everything died.

 

(Enter Son. He is groggy and lying on the ground.)

(Enter Blaze. She looks angry. She walks over and kicks the Son.)

FAST: Hey! Where’s my money?!

SON: What? Where? What’s going on?

FAST: Where’s my money? You owe me 40,000 kuai! Last week I told you to pay up, or else I’d kill you!

SON: Wait! I’ve got your money right here…

(He looks in his pants, but his wallet is gone.)

My wallet, my money, it’s all gone…

FAST: I should kill you because of that! But I’m a generous woman. But don’t think you can work on these streets anymore. You will never again be able to get a job in this city. Leave, disappear, I don’t care. I don’t want to see your face again.

(Exit Fast)

 

Narrator: The son knew he had problems. He started to beg on the streets for money, but when no one would look at him, he started stealing food from trashcans. One day he saw himself in a mirror and started to cry. He stood up and took a job at as a city worker, making streets in the hot sun, wearing broken shoes. Everyday his body became black, and at night he slept on the ground with other dirty men who stayed up all night drinking. After six months of working, he still had not received any money, so he went to see his boss.

 

(Enter Contractor)

SON: Hey, Boss.

CONTRACTOR: Why aren’t you at work? What’s wrong? Are you hurt?

SON: Pardon me, I’m terribly sorry, please forgive your stupid worker, but your worker wanted to ask you a stupid question.

CONTRACTOR: I’m a busy woman! Ask me now.

SON: When do I get paid?

CONTRACTOR: Paid? You want money?

(She laughs.)

You see all those other men? You think they have money? You’re all the same. Don’t forget it.

SON: But the job…

CONTRACTOR: Where do you think you are? You are lucky to have a job and food to eat. Don’t come to me with your problems. You think I have money? I have no money! You think you have problems? I have problems!

(The contractor is getting a little angry.)

You workers, you are all the same. Give us money, give us food. There isn’t enough! If you don’t like it, go home, go back to the farm. Eat your own tomatoes! Don’t beg me for mine!

SON: Terribly sorry, please excuse your stupid worker.

(Exit Contractor)

 

Act III The Return

NARRATOR: The son looked into his own heart and finally understood what he must do. He must return to his father and ask for forgiveness, and become his worker to pay off his debt. That was the only way he could become a good man. Soon, the son left his job, and got on a train to return home. However, because he had no money, he had to hide in the train, but when he was found, he had to find another train or another bus, or a stranger to take him in his truck. It took him many days to return home. And then one day, he saw his home. He felt so sad, but he knew what he must do.

 

(Enter Father)

FATHER: My son! My son!

(He runs out to embrace him.)

SON (weeping and kneeling before him): I am sorry, father. No, do not call me your son. I am a stupid, stupid man. I lost all your money, I lost your car, I lost your face. I am nothing. I only ask you to let me work for you as a worker, and I will give you all your money back.

FATHER: Ms. Chen!

(Enter Ms. Chen)

Bring my best jacket. Ms. Liu!

(Enter Ms. Liu)

Prepare dinner immediately, and call all the family! We are going to have a great feast!

SON: I don’t understand…

FATHER: You are returned my son. Please come inside and rest until dinner.

(Ms. Liu and Ms. Chen make preparations for the feast.)

(Exit Father and Son)

 

NARRATOR: That evening, the father put on a huge feast. Tables and tables of food, music and songs for the guests, and the son seated at the front of the table. His father was so happy seeing him sitting there, smiling like the sun. The Daughter, meanwhile, was working late at the office. As she came home, she heard the music and saw the lights of the feast.

 

(Enter Daughter)

DAUGHTER: What is going on?

CHEN: Your brother has returned.

DAUGHTER: My brother…

LIU: Your father prepared a huge feast and invited all the family. We tried to call you, but your phone was turned off.

DAUGHTER: I was at the office…

my brother is home? He has been in Shanghai for two years. He never called, never sent a letter, and my father invites all the family for a big feast?

CHEN: Just go in, Miss. He will be happy to see you.

DAUGHTER: I will not.

LIU (to Ms. Chen): His children are all the same.

(Daughter storms out.)

 

(Enter Father.)

FATHER: Was that my daughter?

CHEN: Yes, it was. She went out to the garden.

FATHER: What was wrong? I heard yelling.

LIU: She was angry, sir.

FATHER: Angry? Why?

CHEN: She’s not far.

FATHER: I’ll talk to her. You two go inside and serve the guests.

(Exit Ms. Liu and Ms. Chen)

 

(Enter Daughter)

FATHER: Daughter, what is wrong?

DAUGHTER: I don’t want to talk about it.

FATHER: Is it because of your brother?

(She is silent.)

Don’t you understand? He has come home!

DAUGHTER (in anger): I have given this home everything! I have given you everything! You have never given me a feast, you have never even given me a party! But this stupid boy, who stole your money, your car, our family’s respect, he comes back and you throw him the biggest party of the year! I knew you loved him more than me when you gave him the car, but now…

FATHER: Oh, daughter… everything I have is yours. My love I give you, my home I give you, you are the best dream an old man can wish for. But your brother, he died when he left, do you see? We lost him. He died…

(Pause for dramatic impact.)

but now he is alive. Come to the feast, and see him. Eat with us, because he was lost, but now, he is found.

Romans 15: On Witnessing

Last night I finished watching Joseph. A bible film, made for secular audiences, complete with blood, violence, and skin, but an excellent portrayal of the story of Joseph. Really brought the accuracy of the time out for me, something that soaped-up Sunday School versions of the story could never do. The very nature of a whip crack against the back, or the madness of a society that revolves around the worship of a man as god might do to people, and yet in the middle of this, what was most amazing was the quality of being a witness Joseph was able to be.

There is a lesson in this. I was amazed by the strength of such a witness. It was different though – often, we are a witness, not to the benefit of God, but to ourselves. If we can prove to others that we are spiritual, then we are a witness. But to be a pure witness – that is, “I cannot do such a thing, for my God forbids it.” He did not say religion, nor did he say church, nor did he even say belief. He said God. And when men asked him why he only said one God, he did not argue with them – he maintained though, that his God would save him, and that he only believed in one. In a time rife with gods, this perhaps was the best witness he could have been. In our a time, a time with no gods, this would also be the best witness we could be. If you were at a meeting, and your boss asked you to do something unethical, and you knew in your heart that it would displease God, and if you said “I cannot do it. It goes against my God,” imagine the witness! Your boss might become angry, he might tell you not to put your religion above the business, and he perhaps might fire you, but the seed has been planted. Your boss knew he was doing something wrong in asking you, and when you replied that you were bound by a higher power not to do such a thing, that will no doubt stir within his mind. As Paul says in this letter, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification,” meaning that we should do good towards our neighbors in the name of God, because in the end, they will be edified because of what we have done. This does not mean we go to our boss and tell him he is going to hell if he does not accept Christ as his savior – doing that creates a rift, creates anger, creates resentment – things that are not fruits of the spirit. It means that we are a solid witness to God, we live our lives with principles, and we stand by them because we know those principles are the right thing, and we share love and peace with our neighbors, whether they love or hate us, because we know in the end, only good can come of our work with them.

But this comes from a basic, foundational belief, and a strength that you know your God will save you, or deliver you from whatever evil befalls you, in good time. This is a very hard step for a man who has little faith in the power of God. You can never be a good witness, if you do not belief God will take care of you, in any and every situation of your life, as long as you afford him the rights to every one of those situations.

There were plenty of very interesting passages in this part of the letter. As I just said, the edification part of the letter should be strongly read and understood, for it is very important. Later on, Paul says that “you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Here, Paul is talking about a holistic ministry, being from our whole selves – our minds, our bodies, our actions, everything. We cannot only speak about God, nor can we only do things for God, nor can we only philosophize, or even take two of these. We must act in totality for God, glorifying him in everything we do and how we think. For me, this means always turning your mind to God, and always turning your actions, and your day to God. It means living your life in a spirit of abandonment to God, knowing that he will take care of you and your family, with bread to spare.

Something else, later on in the letter that is interesting, is that Paul says, “And so I have made it my aim to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build on another man’s foundation,” which is strange, because he does preach in synagogues and places where other apostles have been. So my understanding of this verse is that he is telling us he does not preach over those who also preach the gospel. Perhaps he does not accept a lukewarm gospel, and perhaps he considers a lukewarm gospel not to be a true naming of Christ. This is very important, because what he is saying is that we should not preach over someone else’s ministry who is also naming Christ truthfully. Perhaps for some, they may preach over someone else’s ministry and name Christ because of pride, or jealousy, or wanting attention – but these are frivolous things, and Paul speaks against them. He says he will only preach the gospel where there is no foundation. He obviously has no problem working with his peers who are preaching the gospel in other places, and helping them to be better ministers, but apparently, he makes a point not to preach where they preach.

Paul also says that for “if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things.” The word here is minister. If we are blessed with materials things, it is our ministry to give those things, Paul is seeming to say. It is not so that we can get a better position in the church, or be received better by our peers, or even so that we can be higher in the eyes of God, or -even- so that we can do good things – but it is because it is our ministry, and those gifted with material things, are material ministers, to give their things to those who have little. This is powerful to me.

In the last part of the letter, it is interesting that Paul immediately begins introducing members of the church, starting with the women. I won’t say anymore on this, but I think it interesting that this is how he starts.

I believe the most important element of these introductions is that Paul knows all of these people by name, and he introduces them all by name in his letter. He has taken the time to know their names, he has taken the time to know their heart, and he believes it is in the best interest of his body to also know each and everyone by name. We live in a corporate world, where personal names are often forgotten, disguised by a thick veneer of nicknames, hearsay, rumors, gossip, and lawsuits which threaten our ability to even greet the person sitting next to us at work. Although the society back then wasn’t the same as ours today, it was likely also very cosmopolitan, there being very little time to meet with people and really get to know them. Roman trade was bustling, people could travel easily, immigrants came and went, religions were like seeds of giant trees, falling from the sky – in Acts, Luke talks about a prison ship bound for Rome that had hundreds of prisoners on board – just prisoners. This boat was hardly received, and could very well have been forgotten in the eyes of Rome, when it landed, and the captain knew this, yet in Acts, Paul made it very clear that he was going to stay with the ship, even though he knew he could probably escape and nobody would care if he did.

What he’s saying here is so important, I think. In every service I’ve been to, the most credence we give to names in at one point in the service, where we are to greet each other by name. In the catholic church, this action has been denigrated to a head nod, or god-forbid, the peace sign, holding up the first and index finger in a quasi-hippie recognition. In evangelical circles, it has been degraded to “Hi, my name is Joe,” and that’s the end of it. At the end of services, we leave church immediately (unless we have an interest in the person next to us), and by that time, we have forgotten the name of the person next to us.

Paul not only goes to the pain of mentioning each person by name, but he says that they should “note those who cause divisions and offenses,” which in retrospect, means that he knows each of these people by their name and by their heart, because he has taken the time and pains to understand them, and he evangelizes to his own body the need for them to also know them through his action of telling his body their names, so that they might also greet and know these people. What power is there in a body of believers who know only of the existence of other believers, but do not know them intimately, or god forbid, who do not know of them except through hearsay? There is very little strength in that. Our churches have become gathering grounds for spiritual parties. They need to be transformed into living and breathing communities of God.

Romans 12: On spiritual gifts

We in America like to talk about the spiritual gifts God has bestowed upon us, and therefore we should use that gift for the body of Christ. But that’s not what Paul says in Romans. He says, “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think…”, and then he continues, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another,” and then he continues yet again, “Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophesy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our minstering…”

I took a road trip a few months back with one of my friends. One idea he mentioned to me was how the Christians were the first Communists. We argued, and eventually came to a consensus. I don’t agree that the original Christians were really the first Communists, but perhaps they were the first communists. This is something we seem to have lost, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is individualism, perhaps it is freedom, I am not sure. But these few verses clearly state the idea of the body acting for the body, not the person acting for the body. As a church, we should be actively searching within our body for people with gifts, and then using them in the body, rather than expecting them to come to us with offers. It says, Let us use them, not Let me offer myself. The Christian community should be deeply understanding of the people in their body and the spiritual gifts they can offer. Something Paul makes so clear you have to be blind to miss it, is he says that everyone has spiritual gifts that are given to them by grace, not intellect, not strength, not will, but grace. That is, they are gifts from God, in exchange for what you have done for God in giving yourself into his service. Therefore, all members have the gifts, and all the gifts are different. It is the job of the church to understand how to use their body. And for the most part, it is done with a full heart of humbleness. Paul says that our wealth should be given to support the saints and should be given for hospitality. I’m guessing the saints in this case mean those who are in full-time ministry, and hospitality is taking care of people.

There is so much in this little chapter. Paul immediately separates the Christian community (and I say that as a nomer, not because they called themselves Christians but because it is easiest to write) from others, when he tells them to “not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble,” “bless those who persecute you,” “let love be without hypocrisy,” “repay no one evil for evil,” “do not avenge yourself, but rather give place to wrath; ‘Vengence is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’.” He also says, “If your enemy hungers, feed him; if he thirsts, give him a drink; for in doing so, you heap coals of fire on his head,” and he ends with “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

This is antithetical to nearly everything we are taught to be, and I would almost say, even in the church today. For example, if we disagree with the theology of a pastor, we leave the church. If we don’t like the music we leave the church. We church hop, searching for the best fit for ourselves. We misallocate funds, using it to pay for extraneaous things. Our focus is off, claiming that ministry in the church must be combined with business, so that both may complement each other. Our sermons have been stripped of scripture to the point where sermons are leadership and self-help talks based on a verse in the word. We have directed our churches towards short-term “mission trips” because of the profitability in the short-term, rather than the profitability of longer career missions. We send the body out on adventure cruises, adventure trips, and hold our services in convention-hall sized churches, where we can forget who we are during the rest of the week, and come together for a spiritual trance, singing vineyard style songs in a place designed for relaxation, “spiritual connection,” and “peace,” but when we return home, there remains the home, chaotic as ever, as we as the body are not involved in that, which we should be.