This week I finished reading the book entitled Hamilton: The Revolution which describes what went into the creation of the famous play that has become an international sensation. The book describes the history of the play, the many people that went into making it a reality, the achievement of it, and the power of the statement it continues to make to many about what it means to be an American.
Truly, most of the roles of the nation’s founders are played by people of various ethnicities alone was impactful. The actors themselves spoke of the power this had upon their own sense of “belonging” in this nation. And audiences were left with a challenge to “not throw away their shot” at becoming an answer to the divisions experienced in our nation. Indeed, it helps that the story of Alexander Hamilton is the story of an orphaned immigrant, who ought to have died either in the hurricane that had hit the island where he was born or of the same illness that took his mom’s life, yet lived to change this nation.
The quotes and tweets of actors, the director, choreographer, costumer, set designer and author add power and heart to the challenges faced to produce this first-ever play of its kind. That every line is sung and done in rap is in itself remarkable.
Before each performance, the character who played George Washington would gather all the actors on stage to hold hands and have the closest thing to prayer or pre-game huddle imaginable. One thing he’d say was this: “I want you to know that the next hours are the most important hours of your life and our desire is that through this play each person who came will leave a better person.”
Lin-Manual Miranda wrote all 48-some songs, the whole thing, evoking the emotion and power of that and of this era of history.
Through a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation thousands of high schoolers came to see the production and left impacted by the lives depicted. Their teachers gave them assignments to debate various topics by using poetry and rap not verse as the medium. One teacher said the result was powerful as the students’ creativity was placed on display.
The effort to produce this magnitude of a play took years and then weeks of intense, exhausting rehearsals. Reading this I was astounded at how malleable the entire project remained right up to the critic performance on Broadway after which they could not make other changes.
But the thing which stood out the most, other than the genius behind it all was this one fact: this play illustrates that it was not through one person but through the combined work of many that this nation was built.
It was not built through all one race and gender, but through the actions of all, working in unity that brought the nation into being. Indeed, the unity of the nation is heightened by its diversity.
This one reality spoke to my heart as I read the book.
The UMC (United Methodist Church) is needing to hear this message.
We need each other.
We are instantly impoverished when we cut off any one viewpoint. Who has the corner on God or Jesus? Would any of us audaciously claim that our thinking is the only thinking possible on any one topic? Could it be this difficult journey of the UMC is an opportunity for us to rediscover the importance of each person, of each of us? Currently, the UMC is in a season of decision as to what might come next as preparations are made for the 2020 General Conference at which decisions might be made for a split.
I know that here at Westside UMC we are richer because we have a breadth of understandings within our congregation. All of us have unique experiences with Jesus. And all of us have unique testimonies to share.
None of us know what will happen in the UMC.
However, we do know: God is good and that the church is of God. So the church is not in danger due to any human action. And we do know this— we need to stick together.
In a folk story, a father of three sons is sad because his sons refused to work together and constantly blamed one another. So, the father called his sons and gave each of them a wood stick. He asked them to break the stick and they did it easily. However, when the father asked each one of them to break three sticks bound together as one, they could not break the sticks. The father explained to the brothers that if they work together, the competitors in the market would not able to outperform them, but if each one works alone, they will not be able to compete with the other farmers. The brothers learned the lesson that strength is in unity and collaboration. (Ebtehal, Saudi Arabia, 2015)
This pictures our situation.
We really need one another. So no matter what happens at General Conference, our unity remains in our diversity, it is found in our embrace of one another across disagreements; we still need one another and we need to stick together.