Written by Mark C. Pederson, Pastor, Trinity Lutheran Church
Today’s reading is an amazing story of transformation. It’s the power of the Gospel to turn an enemy into a friend. Paul and Silas are in jail for sending a spirit out of a young woman. She had been following them around day after day proclaiming that these men were from God. It is always interesting to me that it’s the demonic spirits who recognize God at work. But, enough is enough, so finally Paul tells the spirit to get lost. Then the trouble starts.
You can tell people about God and God’s love all you want, but don’t you dare touch their ability to make money. This woman was a money machine for those who had power over her. She could tell the future for them. Once Paul casts out her evil spirit, she can no longer look into the future and all that income is lost. Jesus discovered the same lesson when he sent the demons out of a man and into a heard of pigs. The pigs run off a cliff and people get upset and ask him to leave. Paul and Silas are beaten and sent off to prison.
Instead of licking their wounds, or complaining about their horrible treatment, they end up singing songs of praise to God. Can you imagine that? I always ting these folks must have much more faith than I do. I have a hard time singing songs of praise to God when everything is going well, when I’m not in prison, when I have enough to eat, when I have an abundance of family and friends.
Then a miraculous thing happens. No, not the earthquake and all the prison doors opening and all of their chains falling off—no, it’s the conversion of the prison guard from an enemy to a friend. Maybe he’s been looking at things differently since he’s been hearing two prisoners pray and sing after being beaten and thrown in jail. Maybe it’s the earthquake that sways him. I think it is Paul’s strong directive not to hurt himself, that all of the prisoners are all still there. The man asks what he must do to be saved. Then he takes Paul and Silas to his home, has his family baptized, and then sets a meal before them and feeds them. Paul and Silas are fed in the midst of their enemies.
Oh, by the way, happy Mother’s Day! Not a really great text to read to celebrate mothers. Although maybe it might work. There is nothing in our society right now that would lead us to believe that people with differing opinions might be friends and be able to sit down and share a meal together. Often times these differences pop up in our own families. Maybe a great gift for this Mother’s Day would be to try and get along with that one member of your family that drives you out of your mind. I’m sure you know that one I’m talking about. I have a clear picture in my own head. Even that one, can be loved into God’s kingdom, if we are willing to sing through our pain and discomfort, pray for them, and then sit and have a meal together.
Quotes for the Week
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” Martin Luther King Jr.
“Always forgive your enemies—nothing annoys them so much.” Oscar Wilde
“Music . . . will help dissolve perplexities and purify your character and sensibilities, and in the time of care and sorrow, will keep a fountain of joy alive in you.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
“I always try to cheer myself up by singing when I get sad. Most of the time it turns out that my voice is worse than my problems.” Unknown
Lesson Acts 16:16-34 (NRSV)
One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling.
While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
Questions for the Week
Which member of your family, or acquaintances, drives you out of your mind? Why?
In what kind of prison do you find yourself residing?
How do we help our enemies escape from hate and fear?