Pride, the personal characteristic, can often get a bad rap (I.e. too full of one’s self),
But today I propose the power and holiness of pride.
Pride can inspire others to faith.
Pride can transform a society.
Pride is the practice of standing firmly in God’s love.
In today’s scripture, Acts 16:16-34, Pride is key to why the jailer comes to believe in Christ.
The jailer was a Roman whose life was entirely changed so much that he brings his whole household to be baptized.
What happens to so transform the jailer?
It probably was not the cries of the slave girl saying they were Holy,
since Paul rids her of the demon crying out from her.
the jailer probably did not come to believe because of the singing of Paul and Silas in prison,
since the scripture tells us he was asleep and awaken by the earthquake.
So Did the jailer come to believe because an earthquake threw open the bars of the jail?
Probably not, since his job was to keep the prisoners confined.
In fact, the earthquake and freedom of the prisoners was so terrifying the jailer sought to take his life.
What saved him was the presence of the prisoners, still in the jail, despite the bars flung off.
Against their own self-interest, the prisoners remained.
Perhaps there was something in the songs of Paul and Silas that motivated their odd stance.
Perhaps they were too shocked themselves to flee.
In any case, the prisoners remain and thus the jailer need not fear for his job or his life.
In this moment The jailer experienced grace:
That is, the jailer experienced love and blessing beyond reason or cause.
There was no logical reason for the prisoners to stay, but they did.
They sacrificed their freedom so the jailer’s life would be spared.
Perhaps the prisoners were practicing a type of sacrificial love they heard about in Jesus.
Jesus suffered and died even though he was innocent.
Being mighty, Jesus could have overtaken his captors, but chose not to.
Jesus practiced a sacrificial love:
A love that refuses to destroy another for one’s own gain.
Sacrificial love is at the core of the Christian faith.
We believe that God incarnate, Christ, showed us how to love by sacrificing his life.
This core tenet of sacrificial love has, unfortunately, been twisted or misunderstood by some.
Some have urged people in abusive relationships to stay,
Sacrificing themselves, their physical and emotional safety, for “love”.
Such an interpretation misses the mark entirely by ignoring the requirement of mutuality and care in love.
Some use the theological tenet of sacrificial love to argue that various groups ought to remain subservient, submission to injustice, weather inequality for “love” or just because that is the way the world works.
Such reasoning ignores the profoundly liberating equity Jesus proclaims is the kingdom of heaven and are call as disciples.
These two wayward interpretations have caused such great harm,
That some swing the pendulum the other direction,
Pushing for no sacrifice at all in the area of love and justice.
The result is selfish boasting that puts down others in order for one to stand.
What we see in today’s scripture is the center of the pendulum.
We see Paul and Silas confident in who they are, beloved of God, followers of Christ.
They do not proclaim their status with annoying cymbals and shouts –
In fact, they rid the girl of demon who is doing so.
Neither are they silent and subservient to the status quo.
They sing praises to God in jail.
They speak their truth.
They do not run away, even when the bars are gone.
By standing proud, the jailer is blessed and comes to believe.
The ability to stand proud and sing the truth, even when confined, takes great faith and courage.
Here is how Paul and Silas are like some certain drag queens.
Fifty years ago a line of drag queens formed a kick-line and sang out with pride as the New York City police tried to arrest them for the “moral indecency” of being men dressing in women’s clothing.
At that time, cross dressing was illegal. You had to have at least three gender conforming articles of clothing, or you could be arrested.
In the 1950s and 1960s people lost their jobs if they were suspected of being homosexual.
The US Postal service tracked where mail of a homosexual nature was sent.
Police worked undercover to entrap gay men.
Homosexuality was illegal in every state but …. anyone have a guess? Illinois.
Vigilantes beat up, name called, and killed homosexual people.
Police sought to cleanse cities of homosexual people by raiding gay bars –
Which were basically the only place gay people could go.
They were not welcome in parks or book stores or dances.
It was a crime to be gay.
The mafia ran gay bars to make an extreme profit. The mafia would pay off the police, but still
The raiding of gay bars was common.
On June 28, 1969 the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in NYC.
Except this time it was different.
The police came later than normal and were determined to close the bar down.
However, the gay community had had enough.
They did not submissively bow their heads and quietly go into the police wagon.
They fought back and stood their ground.
That night and in the nights to follow the people pushed the police out.
Some call it the Stonewall Uprising:
For the people rose up.
They would not be silenced.
They sang out. Literally.
In a chorus line.
Powerful things happen when people stand proud of who they are.
When Paul and Silas proudly sang and stood their ground,
The jailer came to believe in Christ; and the fellow prisoners probably did too.
When the drag queens and gay community proudly sang and stood their ground,
The gay liberation movement ignited.
A year after Stonewall, thousands of people participated in the first Gay Pride March.
The participants were so nervous that they practically ran the route:
They were justifiably afraid of being attacked.
Instead they were met by smiles and cheers.
This year, 2019, marks 50 years since that march/run.
Gay marriage is the law of the land.
Gay-Straight Alliances are in many high schools.
Many churches now openly welcome gay people.
Yet, the fear of rejection, the fear of exclusion remains.
Heterosexuality is still assumed on most government forms, work forms, medical forms;
In conversations at the store, social events, and churches individuals and couples are most often assumed to be heterosexual, unless they look a certain way.
As the pastor of one of the few churches explicitly open to GLBT people,
Too often I hear the trauma young and old GLBT people experience.
Some came to the church, some during worship, others during the week, to share their story and hear they are loved as God made them.
Many came because we had a rainbow flag out front, so they hoped this place could be a haven.
People who were not GLBT came to the church because of the rainbow flag.
The rainbow flag is a symbol of acceptance.
It originated in 1978 in San Francisco, at the request of Harvey Milk,
for the purpose of creating symbol of pride for the gay community.
It was used that year in the pride parade.
Our first rainbow flag was donated by Peg Spiller and after a few years got a bit raggy.
So we have a new flag, generously hung up by Erin Cattanach.
We also have these rainbow magnets you can stick on your car.
Put one on your car or fridge to lessen the fear that still permeates our society.
Maybe someone will ask you about it and give you an opportunity to share about God’s love for all.
Both are symbols of support and pride in the wide diversity of people God has created.
Let us take a moment to call upon the Holy Spirit to come and bless these symbols.
Would you join me in blessing these symbols of love, acceptance, and pride, by stretching out your hands in blessing – one towards the window where the flag hangs and another towards the magnetics. Notice in stretching our arms we create a circle of embrace.
Blessing of the Rainbow Flag and Magnets
God send your Holy Spirit to bless these rainbow symbols!
May they be symbols of your radical love for all people, especially people belittled or harmed because of their sexual orientation and gender identity or gender expression.
As the rainbow after the great flood bore the promise of your everlasting love,
May they be symbols of your promise to be forever present.
As we strive to learn and grow in our understandings and acceptance of others,
May these rainbows be symbols of our commitment to extravagant welcome and loving embrace of all your beloved creation.
Details about the Stonewall Uprising from the PBS Documentary “Stonewall Uprising” which can be viewed for free online by clicking here.