Sunday, June 2, 2019
Seventh Sunday of Easter, Year C
Prayer of the Day
O God, form the minds of your faithful people into your one will. Make us love what you command and desire what you promise, that, amid all the changes of this world, our hearts may be fixed where true joy is found, your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Readings and Psalm
Acts 16:16-34 While in prison, Paul speaks to the jailer, who is then baptized
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 Blessed are those who wash their robes
John 17:20-26 Jesus prays that the disciples will be one and abide in his love
Pride in the Pulpit Series for Stonewall 50
Title: Busting In, Coming Out
At the dedication of the Stonewall National Monument three years ago, one of the speakers was a man who was there on that night of June 28, 1969, 50 years ago this month. He described the events. He spoke of the doors bursting open, of the police coming into the dark bar, of the world busting into that secret enclave. And he witnessed to the patrons’ feelings that the doors were opened in a way that they had never been opened before. That they were coming out in a way unlike other times. That there was no going back this time. There was a fundamental change – in them, in the LGBTQ community, in the city and the nation, even in the world. The world busted in and they were coming out.
In one of the funniest episodes in Saint Paul’s great missionary adventures, he busts into and disrupts a great money-making venture for the owners of that slave girl we heard about in the first reading. Here is Paul, preaching the gospel and trying to win converts for the Way, for this Jesus movement. Last week, we heard of his great success with the successful businesswoman Lydia and her household. And now they are enjoying her hospitality and seeing if they convert more citizens of Philippi. Giving special attention to members of the Jewish diaspora. (That is what is referred to as the place of prayer, probably a synagogue on the edge of town.)
And there is this young slave girl who is possessed by a spirit. And that spirit keeps harassing Paul and company as they move about the town. And finally, Paul has had enough, he doesn’t drive out the spirit because of compassion for the young slave girl, he doesn’t perform a healing miracle for the sake of displaying the power of the God and Savior he serves. No, he busts in and drives out the spirit because the possessed girl is bugging him to no end. He takes action simply because he is so irritated by her. (Is this an example of holy passive aggression? God using even our weakness and brokenness for the sake of good?) Well, his action irritates the girl’s owners because they were making money off her possessing spirit. They were not too happy with the coming out of that spirit.
And now it is Paul and Silas who need someone to bust in and release them. They are imprisoned for disturbing the peace. But when the spirit of God busts into the prison to bust them out, they don’t come out. They stay, for there is work to be done even in the depths of that dark, dank prison. Their refusal to accept the get out of jail free card is certainly good news to the jailor. Because he was about to kill himself, since he would have been held responsible for any escaped prisons, earthquake or not, and he figured he might as well get on with his own inevitable execution. Instead of death, he is baptized because of the busting in witness of Paul and Silas. He comes out into new life.
Today has a certain element built into it of both revisiting and anticipating the busting in work of God in the risen Christ. For today, the seventh and final Sunday in the Easter season, falls between Ascension Day (this past Thursday, 40 days after Easter) and Pentecost Sunday, which we will celebrate next Sunday. (Don’t forget to wear red.) We gather with the disciples in this in-between-time. Jesus has gone up to heaven. They stood there, mouths gaping opened such that angels had to come and move them along. And without Jesus, waiting for the Spirit, they are back to being hold up in a room, wondering what is next. They seemed to be hold up in a room wondering what is next quite a bit these days. In today’s gospel, we are back in that Last Supper room. Jesus is praying for them, for all believers of every time and place. They (and we) are wondering: What does all this mean and what happens next? And then there was that locked door room on Easter night. Jesus was dead, women said he was risen, the disciples were left wondering, what’s next. And today they are back in the room. Waiting for the promised Spirit. What did that mean? What is next? And next week, we will see the surprising power of God busting in yet again.
And it is this Easter season that celebrates the greatest of busting in occurrences, the culmination of the greatest and best busting in story. Jesus, the incarnate word of God, the heart of God made flesh so that we might encounter the great love of God; this anointed one seeks to burst into our lives. This Jesus has busted into our world of darkness and death and has brought light and life. And just so we know how profound and complete this busting in is, Jesus busts into every aspect of our earthly journey, including dying our death. And the stone-rolled away, empty grave, proclaims the good news that death is defeated and we now, through Jesus’ victory, we can come out of our own graves. All of our graves. All of the fear-filled rooms and secret places, the prisons and the possessions, the guilt and the shame. Whatever is holding us from being the fullness of the new creation that was recreated in the waters of baptism, wherever we need God to bust in so that we can come out.
Yes, coming out is an invitation God makes to all of us. Coming out is a spiritual practice encouraged for all of us. You don’t have to own one of those LGBTQIA letters for your identity to benefit from and/or participate in coming out. And it is certainly not a once in a lifetime, “glad I’m done with that,” kind of occurrence.
So assured that God in the risen Christ has busted into all of creation, where do you long for coming out? Perhaps like those Stonewall folks of 50 years ago, there is coming out to be done around the fullness of your identity and sense of self (not limited to emotional orientation). Perhaps you are like that slave girl who keeps praying and praying, harassing, waiting for deliverance. Perhaps you are Paul and Silas, singing praises to God in spite of the prison that you are in. Perhaps all of us, individual and communally, are those disciples in their various rooms, waiting to see what is next, yet knowing we must come out.
Wherever you are finding yourself this day, this month, this year; witness the power of God that busts in. And then, by the power of the promised Spirit, come out! Come out and splash again in the water of new birth that flows from the font. Come out to be fed and filled with the presence of Christ in the supper that he hosts, in the bread and cup that we share. Come out and hear the good news of God’s love, Christ’s victory, and the Spirit’s working. Don’t be enslaved by those who would keep you bound by their merciless power and for their own ego-serving profit. Come out into the freedom that is ours in Christ.
And because we have been made one in the risen Christ, let us come out as one, knit together as the body of Christ, so that me might join in the work of the busting in reign of God. That is Jesus’ prayer. That is our call and our mission.
This month, during this Stonewall 50/World Pride celebration, our opportunities to share the good news will multiply a hundredfold – whether in special events, or simple acts of hospitality. There will be various roles for volunteers to play as we seek to keep the doors of the sanctuary open more (especially while the AIDS Quilt is in residence during Pride week), help will be needed as we host a variety of events, and as we welcome the world to our little village. Yes, the world is busting in. And as the body of Christ in this place, we are richly blessed with an opportunity to come out and do what you can, for many still have not heard that this good news includes them just as it is for all creation, this news that…
Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed.
The Rev. Mark Erson