Power of Praise

On April 23, 2018, in Sunshine Cathedral, by Rev.Dr. Robert

Power of Praise Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins April 22, 2018 Acts 16 We read in Psalm 100: Shout joyfully to the Lord, all you lands; serve the Lord with gladness… Know that God is good. God made us. We belong to God. We are God’s people, the flock that God shepherds. Bless God and give […]

Power of Praise
Rev. Dr. Durrell Watkins
April 22, 2018
Acts 16

We read in Psalm 100:
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all you lands;
serve the Lord with gladness…
Know that God is good. God made us. We belong to God. We are God’s people, the flock that God shepherds. Bless God and give thanks.

Let us dwell together in peace and let us not be instruments of our own or others’ oppression; and now, may God’s word be spoken,
may only God’s word be heard. Amen.

Paul and Silas see a slave. A SLAVE.
Did she enter slavery voluntarily to pay off a debt, to avoid a life of begging or prostitution?
Was she captured in war?
Had she been bought and sold many times or was she new to slavery?
Was she born into slavery?
Did her parents sell her into slavery out of their own desperation?
Did her enslavement include sexual abuse (it almost certainly did)?

When we see that Paul and Silas encounter a slave we know from all that we don’t know that this is a person who has experienced unspeakable suffering.

What does Paul do when he sees this slave? He demonizes her, quite literally. He says she’s possessed. She’s suffered enough without being demonized by Paul.

She’s very intuitive. She can size people up or quickly discern probabilities. Her masters are using her gifts to line their own pockets…exploiting her gifts for their enrichment, sharing little if any of their good fortune with her. Exploitation of the hard working and dispossessed remains a problem in our world.

This girl’s captors exploit her gift, her talent.
Paul demonizes it. And for days, other than disparaging her intuition, he ignores her.

She’s different. She’s unusual. She’s a little queer. And Religion tells her she’s broken, damaged, sick. Can you even imagine?

The young woman…I don’t know what people called her, but let’s give her the dignity of a name in our telling of the story. Let’s call her Vox (latin for voice).
Vox uses her gift to identify Paul and Silas. “Those guys have good news to share! They are offering hope. They are offering a message of salvation.”

What would salvation mean to a slave?
It would mean hope. It would mean dignity. It would mean liberation.

Vox sees that Paul and Silas are messengers of hope and hope is something she desperately needs. “Look! Over there! Peddlers of hope!”

Paul forgot…we all forget sometimes…Paul forgot to minister from a place of compassion. When religion loses compassion, when it loses kindness, when it loses concern for the least of these, it has lost its purpose and its power. Paul forgot that, at least for a moment.

He forgot to see Vox’s humanity. He overlooked her pain. He forgot that the good news was for her…different, possibly annoying, gifted, hurting Vox needed good news. But Paul grew weary of her uninhibited exuberance.

Paul didn’t appreciate the gifts of the different, the demonized, the queer – not that day anyway. Paul had already written Vox off. She’s some crazy slave with a chatty demon in her…who needs her? Who wants her witness? Who wants people like that in the church?

So, Paul, who has already demonized and tried to ignore this suffering slave, now publicly shames her.

She’s saying, “Hey, everybody, these guys are going to speak about hope and healing and liberation and possibilities!”
And Paul tells her to shut up.
“I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her” he says to her exuberance, her hope.

In other words, shut up. Be silent. Your voice isn’t wanted. Your experience doesn’t concern us. Be quiet.

She isn’t interrupting their worship services. She isn’t saying anything mean about them. She just recognizes them for who they are, and shares who she is with them…She’s that girl with a gift, with a talent, with a skill. She’s the girl who knows things, who can figure stuff out quickly, who is a really good guesser. Who is she hurting? But Paul forgets to care about her suffering. He just got busy, overwhelmed, shortsighted…he just forgot that what he was offering was for people like her, especially people like her. And he tells her to shut up.

And Vox didn’t say anything else about them. She may not have said much ever again. She didn’t help her masters make money anymore. She shut up; and worse, she gave up.

She was hurt by the church in that moment.
If the Apostle would call her uniqueness demonic, then she just wouldn’t share anymore.
If just for being who she was she could be publicly humiliated by the people she hoped would encourage her, she just wouldn’t say anything else.

Vox’s so-called masters saw her as property.
The evangelists saw her as a demon damaged nuisance.
She has been invisibilized and exploited and humiliated one time too many, and Vox loses her voice. She loses her hope. And we never hear from her again.

How many times have the hurting become voiceless because of religion misapplied?

Oh, one way or another, at one time or another, we have all misapplied religion. Hopefully, though, we learned from our mistakes and became determined to do better.

Paul and Silas are incarcerated because when they shut Vox up, and by doing so they damaged someone’s business. And the people who had been exploiting her all that time couldn’t use her to make money anymore. And so they complained to the authorities and had Paul and Silas beaten and jailed. I wonder what unspeakable punishments the newly silenced Vox endured? I wonder if she even survived.

Paul tells Vox to shut up, but in their moment of suffering Paul and Silas use their voices to pray and praise. And their worship gives them hope and strength, and they are so empowered and blessed by their jail cell worship service that the jailor himself gets uplifted and experiences a change in his life, and then his family even gets blessed.

Paul and Silas prayed and praised their way out of a jam, or at least through it.
They knew that even in a dark cell at midnight with scrapes and bruises and sprains from a beating, they could experience God’s presence and they could find something to rejoice about. And that positive perspective gave them strength and courage and comfort and it even inspired others. That’s the power of praise.

What if Paul had said to Vox, not “Shut up in the name of Jesus”, but instead, “Daughter of God, shout joyfully to the Lord, keep raising your voice…Know that God is good. God made you. You belong to God, not to these slaveholders.
God’s mercy endures forever…slaveholders are not merciful, but God is…God is on your side, God hurts with you, God is moving on human hearts to one day change systems that allow exploitation. God sees your dignity, and God will never let you go. Shout to the Lord.”

Paul and Silas wouldn’t let their praise be beat out of them, and they praised their way to a miracle. If only they had encouraged Vox to do the same. Instead of shutting her up, what if Paul had given Vox something to shout about?!

Too many of us have been like Vox…humiliated, hurt, and horrified by religion.
Maybe the church told us to shut up about our bodies, our rights, our love, our needs, our sufferings, our dreams…maybe a priest or parson, elder or evangelist, preacher or teacher tried to shame and silence us when we said, “This is, by God’s design and grace, who I am.”

And like Vox, at least for a season, maybe we silenced our praise. But we can get it back today.
Religion may have made some terrible mistakes, but thank God for a different kind of church that can redeem religion and give it back to us as a tool of empowerment.

We are going to redeem Vox today by letting her inspire us to never give up our praise. We’ll use her pain to heal our own and bless her memory for the powerful gift.

Praise the Lord of your life,
praise the Goddess of your being,
praise the creating, redeeming, sustaining omnipresent power that is known by many names,
praise the mystery that is beyond our naming. Alleluia!

Don’t let sad memories silence your praise.
Don’t let loneliness silence your praise.
Don’t let bad news silence your praise.
Don’t let money troubles silence your praise.
Don’t let aches and pains silence your praise.
Don’t let bigotry silence your praise.
Don’t let oppressive theologies silence your praise.

Get your praise back. Alleluia!

When we praise we are raised.
And this is the good news. Amen.

God’s love is all-inclusive, unconditional, and everlasting.
God watches over me.
And so I praise God!
I praise and am raised.
Alleluia!

Looking for something?

Use the form below to search the site:

Still not finding what you're looking for? Drop a comment on a post or contact us so we can
take care of it!

Visit our friends!

A few highly recommended friends...