St. Mark's Episcopal Church

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Easter 7 2013 Sermon
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Rev. Bonnie Campbell

‘“Come!” Say the Spirit and the Bride.
Whoever hears, echo, “Come!”
Is anyone thirsty? Come!
All who will, come and drink,
Drink freely of the Water of Life!’ [The Message Rev. 22:17]
 
I wonder if Paul and Silas were praying something like this while they were in the prison. I brought a book with photographs of the ruins of Phillipi where this story took place. The Agora and a prison cell are in the pictures. [In the Footsteps of Paul by Ken Duncan]
 
In Jesus’ prayer in John 17, he prays for the whole church--those who were sitting with him that day and those generations yet to come. He prayed that they would live in unity with God, with him and with one another. That they would all come and drink of the living water.
 
And, we see this unity in Paul and Silas and their story in Philippi. We have this odd intro with the slave girl, who had a spirit of divination, who kept following Paul and Silas  to proclaim that God had sent them and they were the slaves of God. One wonders if she saw them as a source of living water and if she hoped to drink from it.
 
This girl was being exploited by not one owner but apparently her abilities provided income for several people. It brings to mind the children of today who are exploited by sex traffickers--a lucrative business. Or the women who escaped captivity in Cleveland this past week. We could probably come up with a long list of people who are virtual and actual slaves in our world today.
 
I find the slave girl interesting because we know so little about her: Paul calls the spirit out of her and she loses her abilities. We hear no more about her other than the extreme reaction of her owners. One wonders what happened to her. And, Paul’s actions are more out of annoyance, it seems, than concern about the exploitation of this young girl. I suppose we do this from time to time. People--or our kids--annoy us to the point that we do whatever we can to make them be quiet and we aren’t always listening to hear what the problem really is. We don’t know if the slave girl got access to the living water. We know she was liberated from the spirit but we don’t know if she was liberated from her enslavement. Maybe she was one of the people Paul and Silas were praying for while they were confined to the prison cell.
 
So, the whole point of the story about the slave girl is that Paul and Silas get sideways with her owners and the magistrates of Philippi and Paul and Silas are beaten in the agora and thrown into prison.
 
So, there they are, sitting in stocks in the innermost cell. It is a classic story premise used in many myths and some modern day films--this idea that there are prisons from which there is no way to escape without divine intervention or applied genius. Paul and Silas use their time singing hymns and praying. I really do wish there was a list of what they prayed for. I hope if any of us were in the same situation that we would pray for the owners of the slave girl, for the slave girl, for the magistrates, for the people who beat us, for our fellow prisoners, and for the jailer. We also might call out for the living water because we would likely be thirsty. “Is anyone thirsty? Come!” [The Message as above] And they might have prayed for release and for the healing of their wounds.
 
Then there is an earthquake. The jailer is knocked out of his bed, goes to the jail and sees all the doors hanging open. There wouldn’t have been much light in the dark of the night so he wouldn’t be able to see the prisoners. He assumes they are all gone. Rather than go through a beating himself and imprisonment or an execution, he draws his sword to commit suicide--the only honorable thing he has left to do. But he hears the voices of Paul and Silas “No, don’t do it; we are all here!” What an amazing thing! It would have been much harder in those days to track an escaped prisoner once he had left the area. Everyone in that jail would have been highly motivated to leave.
 
Compassion and unity--Paul and Silas exhibited this for the jailer. Rather than have him become one of the imprisoned, they chose to remain imprisoned themselves and so did all the other prisoners. Those must have been some inspiring hymns they were singing--that play list would be nice to have, too.
The jailer becomes a new man as a result of the actions of Paul and Silas. He takes them into his home, treats their wounds, and feeds them: all things that Jesus did for others. This man received a blessing and he is now sharing that blessing with Paul and Silas. He doesn’t stop there--he asks to be baptized. And, his family and other members of his household see how the jailer is changed and they also become part of the Church of Christ.
 
Jesus prayed that all those who believed in him because of the words of the apostles, would be joined as one body. We see this in the jailer and his family. They wanted to be part of this body that Paul and Silas were part of. They wanted to drink of the living water and they were willing to share with others the blessings they had received. Even before they knew the outcome of the case against Paul and Silas.
 
The truth is, this jailer’s family--his whole household--would have been thrown out of their home if the jailer had been found negligent in his duties. One can see where their willingness to share what they had with Paul and Silas came from--they were glad to still have a home and a livelihood. But they were also glad to be part of something even larger-part of a God who had compassion for people and wanted them to be part of the Kingdom of God.
 
‘“Come!” say the Spirit and the Bride.
Whoever hears, echo, “Come!”…
Yes! Come, Master Jesus!
The grace of the Master Jesus be with all of you. Oh, Yes!’ [The Message Rev. 22:17 & 20-21]
 
How do we share the blessings we have received? For this jailer, the blessing was obvious and the opportunity to return the favor to Paul and Silas was easy. The jailer could have cared for their wounds in the cell, he could have brought them food there and perhaps released them from their stocks and given them a better way to sleep. What possessed him to take them into his home? After all, it was the middle of the night and his family members were likely in bed. There was something the jailer recognized in Paul and Silas that caused him to want to do more for them. He could see their compassion for him and their concern for the other prisoners. They touched his heart and he wanted to be part of whatever they were part of. He was grateful.
 
Paul and Silas had gone to Macedonia as a result of a vision. Paul and Silas believed that the Europeans were as much a part of them, a part of God as any Jew. And this nameless jailer was so moved by their compassion that he wanted to be part of God, too. He not only became part of it but he immediately began to show the same compassion for others that Christ had.
 
The question we need to ask is how do we exhibit this hospitality and compassion to others? How grateful are we for what God has given us? Can we be as compassionate as the jailer to those who are not like us? Who are we inviting to drink of the living water?



 
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