What Song Will You Sing?

A Meditation for the 7th Sunday of Easter
(click here for biblical texts)

The cynic’s saying No good deed goes unpunished
may have occurred to Paul in Philippi when—
after making common cause with Lydia and friends—he
ordered ugly spirits to leave a servant girl
who irritated him with public pronouncements .
We don’t know her feelings about being released
from demon’s power but Paul and Silas
find themselves on the wrong end of the law
because her owners are enriched from her fortune-telling.
Not for the first time or the last, emissaries
of The Way find themselves stripped, beaten, and locked up.

paul-and-silas-in-prison bloorlansdownechristianfellowship wordpress com
bloorlansdownechristianfellowship.wordpress.com

But the story takes an unexpected turn to become
one of the greatest liberation moments of all time,
perhaps ultimate in nonviolent revolution,
a model for how God works when we pray
and get out of the way.
Singing and praying in the night,
as their fellow prisoners listen,
some force—is it an act of nature or of God
or simply the earnest, faithful power
of their prayers and voices—
creates a midnight disturbance,
an earthquake we are told, that flings open every cell door
without so much as leaving a trace of damage
to the walls and foundation. Even more, no one
injured, not even the jailer who had confined
Paul and Silas to the worst of the puny accommodations.
In gratitude he takes his new friends home for blessing and supper.

This is the way we want our world to work!
Hebrews escape between the walls of the Red Sea
but Egyptians are so overcome by the sight
they do not pursue and thus do not die.
Israelites advance into Canaan and locals
are so glad to see them they throw a neighborhood party.
In his determination to find the child born in Bethlehem
Herod throws a giant party, treating all the children
and their parents to dinner, games and magic show
before sending them home.
In our own version of Canaan
(recreated in Palestine in 1948?),
European settlers bring much wealth to share with natives,
no attacks are made by either side, no reservations
for native peoples are created and none die
from diseases imported from Europe.
And here’s one more: needing to import labor, recruiters
go to Africa with brochures and bonuses
for early signing, inviting locals onto cruise ships
for the voyage across the Atlantic
with secure, paying jobs and health care waiting here
for those who choose the journey to try a New World.

And how about this? Police, leaders, citizens learn to sit down
with young Black men, listen to what they  need
to gain self-respect, and then work to meet the need.

A utopia, you say?

But why not? Paul and Silas were
two men, people like us. God is still God. Let’s start
praying and singing (don’t worry about your voice, it is
the intention that matters), and expecting the
disturbance. The world is ready for change.
It begins when we unlock whatever cell of despair,
discouragement, and doubt where we have put ourselves
or have allowed others with a different agenda
to confine us.

What song will you sing? What disturbance do you seek?

 

©Robin Gorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .Acts of the Apostles continues to share stories of divine intervention (at least that is how I see an earthquake that does no damage) that challenge our rational minds. But is that not the job of faith, to move us beyond our ordinary selves into the realm of Spirit where anything may happen, especially if it intends or results in liberation for the oppressed?

 

Picked Up by the Spirit

A Meditation for the Sixth Sunday of Easter

(click here for the biblical texts)

Lydia's baptism site en wikipedia org
A Greek orthodox chapel on the site where Lydia is thought to have been baptized en.wikipedia.org

Visions from God are rare for us but not for Paul
who is told where not to go, where to go, even
it seems at times what to say, to whom to say it.
He was sent to Lydia the dealer in purple cloth
and her women’s community gathered at riverside
outside the gate at Philippi, Paul’s first journey
to Europe, he an intercontinental figure
for the first time; more, he does a new thing,
baptizing women who listened without a man
to tell them it was okay and without Paul asking
for a man to authorize this church plant
far from headquarters at Jerusalem.

This woman Lydia, dealer in purple cloth,
a luxury only the wealthy can afford,
heads her own household, decides on her own
to be baptized, choosing for the rest of them, too,
and invites Paul and his companions to
stay at her home a few days—a woman
in charge of her own life and others’ too,
rare in this world where men rule all.

Can we see ourselves in Lydia, men, women
or in between, not constrained by gender,
sexuality or race or station, gathering with other
seekers, believers, to pray at chapel
or in our homes or riverside or park,
office, bar or restaurant, anywhere
people need prayer, desire union with the divine.
Must we wait until Sunday,
do we even need to be organized
or could the Spirit pick us up and draw
us together heart to heart, soul to soul,
on a street corner or in a Starbucks—
now wouldn’t that be novel, prayer and latté
with or without the whipped cream and cherry.

And could we pick a day and wear purple
not for Lent but for Lydia, claiming our spiritual
ancestor, the woman who stood up, was counted,
and many say was the first convert in Europe?
If we light a votive for St. Lydia, dedicate communion
In her name, we will help ourselves to be more brave,
open, outing ourselves as people of prayer, letting
visions take hold in us, going where Spirit calls
rather than where rote convention commands.
Can we, will we, do a new thing, honoring Lydia,
and yes Paul, boldly living out loud for God in Christ,
bending ourselves to Spirit’s way? O, what  a ride!

 

©Robin Gorsline 2016 lectionarypoetics.org
Please use the credit line above when publishing this poem in any form

writing+poetryAbout this poem . . .The story of Lydia and Paul in the Acts of the Apostles intrigues many of us. There are many delicious details . . . the community of women, the significance of purple cloth, to name two, and then there are things we don’t exactly know, like how Paul, in many ways a very traditional man, felt being invited by a woman to her home. The Spirit is clearly at work here, and it is good to open ourselves as well.