6th Sunday after Easter
St Barbara’s 08.05.16
Rev Tulo Raistrick
For those of you who were here last week, you will recall that Paul, Silas and Timothy have made the momentous journey into northern Greece, and there have met a businesswoman, Lydia, who has become a Christian.
Everything at this point all seems to be going well.
But then Paul upsets some businessmen, although businessmen may be too generous a word for them. These are men who own a slave girl who is making money for them by prophesying about the future. This girl is being exploited, used, to bring financial gain to her owners.
It is a sad state of affairs and after a while Paul can’t stomach it anymore. He orders the spirit out of the girl. She stops her prophesying, and the men suddenly lose their easy income. She ceases to be an object of their exploitation. They are furious, and so wind up the crowds to the extent that Paul and Silas end up getting beaten up.
Inspired by Jesus, Paul is prepared to do what is right, no matter the cost. He is prepared to set the girl free from her exploitation, even though he and Silas get badly beaten up as a result.
I wonder if you can think of others, who inspired by their faith in God, are prepared to do what’s right, no matter the cost.
In the Bible there are lots of examples:
- Noah built an ark, a boat, despite the ridicule of his neighbours
- Moses challenges Pharaoh, despite the threat to his life
- Elijah challenges King Ahab, despite the king threatening to kill him
- Daniel prays to God, despite knowing that he will thrown into a den of lions if he does so
- Stephen would not deny his faith, even as he was being stoned
- And, of course, Jesus does his Father’s will, dying on a cross.
There are many modern-day examples too
- Martin Luther King who continued to speak up against racism even when he knew death threats had been made against him.
- Nelson Mandela, who turned down release from prison years before he was finally released, because he refused to be released without the South African government agreeing to start talks about ending apartheid.
We too, with God’s help, can also be people who stand up for what is right, no matter the cost.
Whether at work, having integrity over what expenses you submit, or challenging how your employers treat others in the workforce.
Or at home, in the way we care for others, more vulnerable than ourselves.
Or in our community, standing up against real injustices or abuses of power.
I wonder, are there any situations where you are being called to do the right thing, even though that comes with a cost.
Paul and Silas were willing to do what’s right, no matter the cost. They were also willing to praise God, no matter the situation.
Things are pretty bad for Paul and Silas. They have been beaten up; they have been flogged with whips; they’ve been thrown into the deepest, darkest part of the prison; and they’ve been put in stocks.
And yet what are they doing? Praying and singing hymns to God.
You would think they would be moaning, crying, feeling very sore and sorry for themselves. Instead, they are praising God at the top of their voices.
A few years later, Paul is to write to the church in this very place: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice!… I have learned the secret of being content in every situation.” (Philippians 4:4,11)
Here are Paul and Silas in a terrible situation and yet they are choosing to praise God, to give thanks for all his love and goodness.
What a wonderful thing! As i’ve quoted before, “Happiness does not make us grateful, but gratitude makes us happy.”
Within mental health research there is growing recognition of the role that encouraging gratitude in life can help to play in addressing issues of depression. It is often not the circumstances of life that make us happy or unhappy; it is how we choose to respond to them that matters.
And as Christians, who know God as the source of all that is good, and who know his gift of love to us, how much we have to be thankful for.
We’ve thought about:
- doing what’s right, no matter the cost
- praising God, no matter the situation, and now:
- turning to Christ, whoever we are
In our journey through the book of Acts we’ve seen some remarkable people come to believe in Jesus:
- Saul – who was persecuting Christians before he became a Christian
- Cornelius – a Gentile, “god-fearing” Roman legionary
- Lydia – a Gentile, “god-fearing” businesswoman; and now
- this jailer – not important, not even a “god-fearer”
This man was as unlikely a follower of Jesus as anyone you could ever meet. Jailers weren’t known for being gentle and compassionate, or particularly religious.
And yet so amazed is he by what happens, so impressed by how Paul and Silas act, that he and his whole household believe and get baptised, right there on the spot!
Whoever we are, even if we think we are the most unlikely person, we can all turn to Christ. He welcomes each one of us.
Whoever we love, no matter how far we may think they are from ever sharing our faith or believing in Christ, can come to believe. If the jailer could, well so can they.