For two full years, Paul stayed on in his rented lodgings, welcoming all who came to visit. With full assurance, and without any hindrance whatever, Paul preached the kindom of God and taught about our Savior Jesus Christ.
The second half of the Acts of the Apostles may well be labeled “the perils of Paul.” Through the highs and lows of Paul’s ministry we are swept: his dream of carrying good news to those naive of the Sacred, his speech at the Acropolis in Athens, his collection for the poor back home, his arrest in Jerusalem, his adventure of being shipwrecked on the way to face the authorities in Rome, and now his house arrest.
If I didn’t know better I would say the point of the second half of Acts was to inform us of what a failure Paul was. Yet, far from being silenced we find Paul at the end of this tale just as vigorous and active as at the beginning.
As a gay leader in a religious tradition that in arrogance abused and continues to abuse queer persons I have often wanted to throw my hands up and turn my vestments in. I am ashamed of myself when I delicately sidestep my own sexual orientation when listening to a church lament the loss of their secretary because of the pro-queer stance of my denomination. Under a “queer house arrest” I am tempted to throw the towel in and say “up yours!”
Then I am reminded of Paul in Rome. Safe in Rome the religious leaders of Jerusalem no longer needed to worry. Safe in Rome the more confirming religious leaders of the budding church no longer needed to worry. Safe under the watchful eye of the imperial authorities Paul could be kept in place.
But Paul did not play along. Instead of heeding those who worked to keep him walled in, Paul heeded the call to spread the good news. To speak about how God is stretching a realm that is marked by inclusion and understanding. And even though sequestered, Paul’s insistence was unhindered and full of competence.
I am by far not the only queer minister. Many have accomplished far more then I will dream of. Many will minister faithfully in situations and circumstances that overwhelm any experience I may ever have. I give thanks for these colleagues and for their competent ministries in spite of the opposition they encounter.
The narrative for us queer ministers, rabbis, imams, and other religious leaders might read as if to show our own failure. Yet like Paul, our competence and insistence will prove another story is at work – the story of the radical grace and blessing of the Sacred.