What started as a post on the Narrative Lectionary Facebook group has just gotten too long to put there. I'm trying to figure out what to do with the text this week - - Acts 16:16-34
Still not totally sure how I'm going to go this week, but more and more I'm being pulled (that's not even a strong enough word) by the Spirit to lift up the horror of these Nigerian kidnappings. I don't know exactly how to relate it to the text; there are some connections that seem to work, others that are stretches, many that are in the middle (work to a point, but then fall apart). I've decided to give myself some grace on this. I am an extremely textual preacher. If this one deviates a little in order to say what needs to be said, I'm going to be OK with that. Some ideas and (possible) directions are below.
|1. We have the ability to project on our walls during worship (or order of worship goes there). During the sermon I'm going to make a slideshow displaying each of the known names one at a time, 4 seconds each. Unknown names will be listed as "Daughter of God #1, etc) I understand 30+ more girls may have been taken from another village. I need to try to find that info again.
2. I am drawn to the idea of the slave girl having no name and the drive to make sure these girls' names are known (with all the complexity that comes with that in terms of confidentiality). It's not as easy to forget someone whose name is known. This works a little better if the texts that are read are the Lydia and slave girls stories, not so much if it's slave girl and jailer, since his name isn't known either.
3. There seems to be something important here about follow-through in ministry/mission. We don't really know if Paul's "exorcism" in the end was a good thing. He certainly did it more out of annoyance than concern anyway. We don't know if making this slave-girl less useful to her masters freed her from much. It may have made her more disposable, and without any kind of lasting relationship with her, Paul may have done more harm than good. There's a real good warning in this to what happens after (God willing) these girls are released. The outrage better turn into some real support in a responsible way for these girls and change in the larger system that allows stuff like this to happen. (Education, education, education - - not seeing people as property or a means to an end like in the story of the slave-girl in the first place)
4. I only slip in Mother's Day stuff when it actually makes sense with the sermon. This time it might. We have mothers, fathers, families, communities weeping over what is going on. The tag line might "#BringOurGirlsBack" pull the baptismal connection. Although, since this is a school with girls of mixed religious backgrounds, "our" might go all the way back to our shared heritage in Abraham or even just simply our shared humanity. Side note: The "our" has been a little disturbing to me personally. It sounds too possessive for me instead of uniting like it's intended to me. Were they our girls when they were studying? It works great for the actual families and villages. Feels colonialist coming from Americans.
5. The other Mother's Day connection I fear, but don't think I can speak out loud is the idea that some of these girls are likely being made mothers against their will as we speak. It makes me sick.
I don't think I'm much closer in figuring out how I'm going to preach this Sunday. In fact, somehow I'm just ending up more pissed at Paul and his selective use of influence. There might be a sermon in there somewhere, but I'm not convinced the text is saying that.