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  • May8Sun

    Mediterranean Ministry Adventures

    May 8, 2016
    Filed Under:
    Pr. David

    Acts 16:16-34

    This snapshot we have today of Paul’s ministry adventures in the Middle East has it all!
    From a boisterous fortune teller, to a fortuitous earthquake!
    It’s a breathtaking story.

    And this is what I notice about it:
    Like the call to Paul and Silas, the call of God is one that involves motion, movement, a going forth, a sending out – a leaving from familiar safety zones, and going out into unknown, risky, even dangerous territory.

    And once this `going forth’ happens, healing, restoration, transformed lives ALSO happen!
    Once the barriers of the familiar are breached, and the sending forth into unknown territory for God’s purposes occurs, blessings and goodness abound!

    Prisoners are released.
    Those enslaved and imprisoned in oppressive, abusive relationships are set free.
    New life, new hope, new beginnings open up.

    And this is what we see in the book of Acts.

    From Jerusalem, Paul travels to Europe for the first time after receiving, remember, that vision of a man calling him over to Macedonia.
    And so, Paul and his companions make that long, dangerous journey by boat across the Mediterranean to the far-off Macedonian shores.
    Once there his ministry finds fertile ground, a blossoming of goodness, healing, and a new, hopeful life for others … for Lydia for example as we heard about last Sunday.

    In today’s passage in chapter 16 of Acts, Paul and Silas are arrested, beaten, and dragged into prison… hardly the blossoming of goodness we’d expect.

    In there, they’re shackled to the wall by their feet, in the “innermost prison cell”, which likely was deep in the ground.

    And it’s right at that low point, the text says “in the middle of the night”, at that very low moment when all seems lost, when all their courage and boldness following God’s call `to the ends of the earth’ seems to have come to nothing … when suddenly, surprisingly, the power of God’s goodness is unleashed.

    An earthquake suddenly strikes, shaking the ground, breaking open the locks and freeing Paul and Silas and all the other prisoners.
    The head jailer finds new life, new hope and new beginnings in following the way of Jesus, and Paul and Silas continue on in their ministry journeys.

    The good blessings and transformed lives that result from Paul and Silas first answering the call of God, and boldly, courageously venturing forth!

    The transformations that result include even simply the way one looks at another person, the way one perceives another person.
    Speaking of prisons and prisoners, take for example how one looks at a prisoner.
    Isn’t it easy at first to look at anyone behind bars in only one way – “bad.” A “bad” person. That prisoner behind bars is: “bad.”

    Being transformed by the Spirit of God however leads us to see with new eyes, beyond surface impressions and the external, visible presentation of a person.
    We see even beyond the mistakes they’ve made, looking past that and straight to their heart, mind and soul, to behold the whole person before us, with a story, a life.

    Sister Helen Prejean, the author of Dead Man Walking, often says this about inmates on death row:

    “People are more
    than the worst thing
    they’ve ever done
    in their lives.”

    We see each other differently, in a new light, as a whole person, with worth, dignity and delight.

    What originally landed Paul and Silas in prison, was their act of healing a slave girl who was not only held captive to a “spirit of divination”, but also to her owners who made a lot of money off of her fortune-telling gig.

    Scholars will say that owners of slave girls often would induce these girls with drugs, to try to manipulate them to perform in the way their captors wanted them to; in this case, fortune-telling.

    This could’ve been the case with this particular slave, given her annoying habit of stalking Paul and Silas day after day, and screaming at them out loud.

    In any case, Paul and Silas finally heal her in the name of Jesus, thereby restoring her to right mind, releasing her from her captors and enslavement to drugs, giving her a new found freedom, new beginnings, new possibilities.

    The good blessings and transformed lives that result from Paul and Silas first answering the call of God, and boldly, courageously venturing forth!

    Paul sailed on a boat across the Mediterranean Sea.

    The Church has often been compared to a boat.

    The boat analogy arises from the many key references to boats in the Scriptures – from Noah’s Ark, to the fishing boats of Jesus and his disciples around Lake Galilee, for example.

    Even the center area of worship spaces in church buildings where most people sit, is called “the nave”.
    “Nave” is from the medieval Latin navis meaning ship.

    So we can imagine ourselves, all sitting here together in this nave, in this “big boat.”

    But, as you know a boat is constructed, engineered for the sole purpose of getting out there into the water, to ride the waves and travel the seas, however stormy they may be.
    A boat is built to get out there onto the open water.
    A boat was never meant to stay in the harbour, to remain forever moored at dockside, in a safe harbour, tied up and going nowhere.

    Boats have to “get out there.”

    So with the Church.

    The Church is the boat. The world is the sea.
    The Church has to “get out there” into the world.

    And as that often quoted John 3:16 verse says: “For God so loved the world…”

    God loves the world.

    And so the Church is meant to get out there into it.
    Theologian David Bosch writes: “Mission is the church sent into the world to love, to serve, to preach, to teach, to heal, to liberate.”

    Through practical, visible and tangible acts of service to others in need, we enflesh that love of God for the world…

    We do so …

    … among those who’ve endured the terrifying ordeal of the wildfires around Fort McMurray… through Canadian Lutheran World Relief …

    … among those enslaved by addictions ….

    … among those escaping violence and despair in Syria and Iraq …

    … among those imprisoned, behind bars, serving sentences…

    We pray for boldness and courage, for a new bolstered trust in God, knowing that however, and wherever, we step forth in bold courage in Christ’s name for the healing and restoration of the world, God goes with us, and will bless whatever endeavour we undertake.

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