O God, grant them center stage.

The female slave who repeatedly proclaims who Paul and Silas are is dropped from the story.   We do not know if she thinks of herself as healed. If she becomes a follower of the Way.  If her masters cast her out. If she is beaten. If she is sold. If she is starved. If she is forced into prostitution to make up for her lost income.                                               O God, grant them center stage.

What if Paul and Silas have the whole thing upended? What if the center needs to be de-centered?    What if those pushed offstage should play the leading role? What if the life of one female slave is as valuable as a lost lamb? Or a lost coin? Or a lost son?                                                                   O God, grant them center stage.

How many heart studies were done on men before anyone thought to try them on women? How many people are there whom I don’t know about—or even think about?  Why was I 40 before I understood that I was not only female (siding with the oppressed) but white (reaping an advantage from that reality)? O God, grant them center stage.

Have you ever told someone of your woes only to have them elbow you out of center stage? They say, “That’s nothing. You should see my (fill in the blank).”  But another person’s pain, another person’s struggle, another person’s reality,  is not presented to us so that we can re-assert our pain, our struggle, our reality. Instead, we could receive a fuller picture of pain. Of the world. Of God. Of love. Of reality. 

O God, grant them center stage.

Sometimes listeners justify butting into someone’s story by saying, “I know just how you feel.” But do we really?  The first-person narrative belongs to the storyteller. Listeners should keep their hands off, instead of butting in to take over the story.      

O God, grant them center stage.

I know a family whose child underwent the surgical transition from male to female.  One of their friends asked, “How could s/he do this to you?” But the decision had nothing to do with the parents. Instead, it had to do with the child’s own self and the child’s own well-being.

O God, grant them center stage.

Years later, the child went through a period of isolating herself from her family. It would be easy for the family to put themselves first. To focus on the pain. To reject the rejection. To want to be the most important part of the story. But maybe the daughter was now starring in her own show, taking her own center stage.

O God, grant them center stage.

When the kids in my urban school wrote on violence, they all had personal experiences to share. At Montreat one year, when we discussed suicide, the kids all had experiences to share. As leaders, sometimes we want to jump over the tough stuff.  But, taking ourselves out of the center, we can let others’ experiences take center stage–and learn from them.

O God, grant them center stage.

It takes 66 books and even more authors to tell God’s biblical story. Why do we think God’s work today can be encapsulated by a single narrative?  by a single person? or a single community? or race? or nation? or continent? or hemisphere? Each view is legitimate. Each view tells one person’s part of the story. But each view is incomplete. So all are needed.  

O God, grant them center stage.

Making room for others can be hard work. We forget that the story isn’t all about us. We act as if there are no other characters. We neglect the other plotlines.  We refuse to permit any other narrators.                                                                                                                                    

But God’s story gives each person—them and us—a starring role. God honors all the plotlines.    God lets each of us share in the narration. God puts each of us center stage.     Thanks be to God. Amen.

_______

Pastor Barb Hedges-Goettl is an interim pastor at Makemie Memorial Presbyterian Church in Snow Hill, MD. She loves working/playing with worship and liturgy. She and her pastor/psychologist, Len, have four grown children, including Rev. Katy Stenta of Albany, NY. She blogs at bjhlog.wordpress.com

One thought on “Thursday Prayer (Acts 16:16-38)

  1. A beautiful responsive reading that I am saving (with credit, and not on paper — just giving them the response “O God …grant them center stage) for congregational use. Thank you.

    Like

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