Preparing for Sunday's worship at Fifty United Church --
the readings, some background, a few thoughts ...
Thursday, May 05, 2016
Towards Sunday, May 8, 2016
Acts 16:6-34(Paul and Silas roll into town and after beginning a small Christ-centred fellowship, they run afoul of the local power brokers and authorities by freeing a spirit-possessed young woman who is
being exploited by her 'managers.' They are thrown into jail because the town council can't have people like them disturbing the way things work for the good of the people that count. But then the Spirit of God turns the tables
and sets them free from the power of the jailer.The jailer is understandably afraid of what will
be done to him by his superiors when they learn that he has been over-powered …
until into this apparent power-struggle to see who is greater in the world,
Paul ends the struggle for supremacy and power with a different kind of message
and way of being together -- which, he says, is what Christ is all about.)
Quite a power struggle going on here. Who is allowed to do what on the streets of Philippi? Whose interests and well-being are more important? Who is in control?
The story could easily have become all about who (or whose God) is more powerful -- a religious version of the old my-dad-can-beat-your-dad playground argument. (Or -- when we get older, my car/cell phone/job/kids' resumes can beat your car/cell phone/job/kids' resumes.) And I think that's how I was taught it years and years ago in Sunday school.
But Paul doesn't fall into that death-trap. When the Spirit frees him and the others from the power of the jailer, he doesn't triumphantly process out of the prison to broadcast the power of his God. (How does that song go? Na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na, hey-hey-hey, good-bye?)
Rather, he sits down and stays where he is, talks with the jailer about what's going on, and invites the jailer to join him in a community that seeks and practices a new way -- a way of inclusive love, rather than dominating control.
It takes a lot of confidence in the gospel and in the kingdom of God to be able to do that -- to not exert the control or act out the power you have, to not assert your superiority, and instead to invite the other into honest, equal dialogue and relationship with you.
I wonder if I have that confidence in God? To let go control? To not be in charge? To let wider and more inclusive community happen for the good of all? In what situations does this get tested?
And ... thinking of being inclusive and inviting ... one final niggling question: what about the slave-girl who was freed of the demon? What happens to her once she is freed of the disorder or demon that made her of worth o her master? She was his slave because she was of use to him; what happens to her now?