29 May 2022
Sunday Cycle of Prayer
The Church of South India (United)
St. Edward’s Church, Mount Dora
St. Paul’s Church, New Smyrna Beach
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
The Holy Spirit wants to open doors to bring freedom to all who are captive.
Have you thought about the doors you have gone in and out and through this morning just to get to church? Let’s see there are the bedroom, bathroom and kitchen doors. The garage, car, Parish hall, and Narthex doors at a minimum. In our daily lives we encounter all sorts of doors; elevator doors, revolving doors, automatic doors, doors with peep holes, security latches and dead bolts. Our lives are filled with going in and out of doors!
Doors are mentioned 180 times in the Bible, doors are sometimes open and sometimes closed. Open doors suggest we are receptive to listen for God’s word. While a closed doors suggest the opposite. The doors’ very threshold is where we experience that very human struggle between our own earthy desires and our own will. Holding onto our own fear or rigidity, keeping us captive to the old, shameful and sometimes denied parts of our lives and between our willingness to let go and throw open the doors of our hearts like we open windows to fresh spring air after a long cold winter, embracing God’s will for us becoming Gods’ servant, following God’s good plan for us.
As John speaks in our lesson from Revelation as Christians we are called to lead a life of growing and purifying, washing our robes through confession and repentance willing to explore the closed places in our lives, hearts, and minds to allow God to help us new freedom in Christ.
Among all people, the Holy Spirit opens doors for us here in heaven on earth while we await open doors for our place in heaven.
As we hear in our lesson from Acts God through the Holy Spirit will open doors and cross human boundaries to invite all those held captive to the sins and lure of Satan in the jail cells or prisons of their own or others’ making and under any systemic oppressive reign, like the Romans
to cross over to God’s freedom in Christ. God’s freedom, as described by Fr. Marcus Halley,
priest at All Saints Episcopal Church, Pasadena, California, is rooted not in the world, but in God’s Kingdom, a community of faith in Christ based upon mutual care, mutual respect and mutual well-being. Where all are included in Christ’s circle of life.
Our lesson from Acts picks up right where we left off last week Paul, on his second missionary journey, is accompanied by Silas and perhaps by Luke himself. They have crossed through God’s open door to bring God’s word to Europe and salvation to the first converts, Women, slaves, and gentiles. The three groups most abhorred and marginalized by the Jewish Authorities.
Lydia a rich woman of the cloth, a poor slave girl possessed by a demon who knew God’s truth
and a Gentile Roman jailer. All three were willing to surrender to God’s will, enter into a new chapter in their lives. Now After Lydia and her household are converted Paul and Silas repeatedly encounter a young slave girl, Pytho, a person considered by society to be mad, crazy, with a mind possessed by the gods but who could give people oracles to guide their future choices. Ironically this young lady who was a slave to both Satan’s demonic forces and evil unscrupulous men speaks the truth about Paul and Silas recognizing Paul and Silas are not slaves to the world but slaves to the most high God. Paul himself identifies as a slave or bondservant to Christ who is called to move from a place of being caught in the bondage of sin and death
across the threshold and to open the door of his heart to embrace Christ as his Master surrendering his own will, knowing he would be a slave to righteousness and eventually adopted as God’s son for eternity.
Eventually, Paul became annoyed with the girl’s proclaiming the truth he did not want the Gospel to be promoted by a demon, a slave to Satan who could tell the truth one minute and lie the next for as you well know truth and evil did not and do not ever mix. And so Paul exorcises the demon, just as Jesus had three times in his own ministry, inviting the girl to cross over the threshold to a new chapter, freedom from bondage to Satan to bondage as a servant to Christ. Unfortunately, we hear nothing more of her response but we hear the business men stuck behind a closed door caught up in their greed and worldly fame have no concern for the young girl but only for their pocketbooks. So they remain behind the doorway. Paul opened in bondage to their greed and rage seizing Paul and Silas, dragging them to the marketplace, hoping to get revenge and teach them a lesson! And so Paul and Silas, much like Jesus before them stand in the public marketplace before two duumvirs men appointed by the Romans to administer the city’s civil affairs. There is no trial just these men’s message of blackmail, “These are Jews disturbing the peace and not following the local customs,” shaping their story to strike the Romans’ Achilles heel, the Romans were in place to preserve order, not chaos!!
So, not surprisingly stuck behind their closed door of tradition and power the duumvirs have
Paul and Silas, like Jesus, striped, flogged and beaten, not only by the duumvirs themselves, but also the mob gathered around them. Paul and Silas are imprisoned with the most vile criminals, cross multiple thresholds, descend into the deepest, darkest and putrid dungeon with their bare backs oozing from their wounds and their feet fastened tightly in the stocks.
Doesn’t it seem as if their witness in Europe, the door God has opened is now tightly closed???
Now I don’t’ know about you but there have been times in my life when doors in my life seemed locked tight due to situations not of of God’s doing but of situations beyond my control. And when God’s answer to my prayers seemed far off. In the fall of 2013 my sponsoring Rector in Sewanee medically retired and my process to become a priest stopped dead in its tracks. No matter what I did the process would not go forward. Looking back now I realize sometimes that when doors are closed, usually by others, sometimes by God. God uses the time in the short run to help us in the long run to gather more information to prepare ourselves further, to buy us some time until the season is right for us to cross into a new spiritual place in service to Him.
God’s answer may be “not yet”. Other times, I believe that God or others might close a door for us to protect us from our own choices or situations and other’s actions harmful actions to redirect us toward a ministry or service which might better utilize our gifts and talents. God’s answer might be “not here” both situations challenge us to draw nearer to God, to deepen and widen and broaden our faith and to build patience and wisdom. We hear this faithful response from Paul and Silas for rather than whine or mope or say “poor me” Paul and Silas, deep in the heart of the prison, were deeply anchored in their faith in the heart of God. They would not let that physical door of despair even with their bodies shackled and bruised keep them enslaved to worldly sin and bondage. Spiritually they reminded themselves and others that their Master was Christ, not Rome and in spite of their physical despair, they were together their spirits could draw near to God singing and praying at the top of their voices to worship him and to witness to the prisoners and the jailer. To embrace the freedom to which Christ called them sno matter what the circumstances and we know God who is always right on time sent a violent earthquake which shook the prisons’ foundation, opened the doors, and released the chains to which Paul and Silas were bound.
Don’t’ you find it interesting Paul and company don’t just run for their lives I think I would. But Paul and Silas all stayed, stayed to witness to the jailer and his family to the freedom they knew was not of this world.
As Bishop Brewer wrote after the horrific shootings in Uvalde, Texas this week, “When the Holy Spirit empower us we are empowered to be Christ’s witnesses for Christ sets us free to be his witnesses. But our understanding of freedom is very different from the worlds.” Our society’s sense of freedom, as we saw in the men, is self-centered focused on greed and achievement, power and status, us and them wholly divorced from our collective responsibility.
As Paul wrote in Galatians and embodied in Acts freedom in Christ is to become slaves to one another showing our love, showing our solidarity. Paul staying, speaking the word, baptizing all the jailer’s household, the jailer washing their wounds and opening his home and heart to the and all rejoicing that the Jailer had become a believer. And joined in the dance of new community, in Christ’s new community, as Bishop Brewer wrote, all children who are created in God’s image are safeguarded, respected and honored even if we have to put our wants aside at times to make sure others’ needs are met.
Christ invites us to walk through the doorways to honor as Christ did, as Paul and Silas did and the jailer and his family did. Christ and another, His Kingdom of love, here on earth which honors the common good and responsibility. Where is Christ standing at the threshold of your heart’s doorway inviting you into enter His beloved community today?