On my way back from preaching at White Plains Presbyterian Church today, I met Andrew Stehlik, pastor of Rutgers Presbyterian Church on the Uptown Number 2 subway. We exchanged greetings and then began to talk shop.
As he described his sermon, Andrew reminded me that on the night of August 20-21, 1968, Warsaw Pact troops invaded Czechoslovakia shattering the hopes of the Prague Spring.
He also reminded me of the use of keys during the nonviolent Velvet Revolution as it is called in the Czech Republic (in Slovakia it is known as the Gentle Revolution) that overthrew the communist government of Czechoslovakia. The people jingled keys – ordinary keys – as they gathered to demonstrate nonviolently for change. This simple, yet profound, public act carried two meanings. It proclaimed the unlocking of doors – opening doors long locked by totalitarianism. The act of jingling one’s keys also served to tell the communists that it was time for them to go home.
On a day when I preached about Shiphrah and Puah – the Hebrew midwives who committed civil disobedience by refusing to carry out the Pharoah’s order to kill the Hebrew children – and the need to live our faith publicly, the story of the keys spoke to me with great power. I told Andrew that I will no doubt use the story in a future sermon; I will credit him when I do.
Thanks be to God for Shiphrah, Puah, the people who jingled keys in Czechoslovakia, and all who work nonviolently for life and peace and justice.