Thirty-Eighth Day of Easter   14 comments

Above:  Yosemite Morning

From Worse to Better

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

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Acts 16:16-34 (Revised English Bible):

Once, on our way to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who was possessed by a spirit of divination and brought large profits to her owners by telling fortunes.  She followed Paul and the rest of us shouting,

These men are servants of the Most High God, and are declaring to you a way of salvation.

She did this day after day, until, in exasperation, Paul rounded on the spirit.

I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her,

he said, and it came out instantly.

When the girl’s owners saw that their hope of profit had one, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them to the city authorities in the main square; bringing them before the magistrates, they alleged,

These men are causing a disturbance in our city; they are Jews, and they are advocating practices which it is illegal for us Romans to adopt and follow.

The mob joined in the attack; and the magistrates had the prisoners stripped and gave orders for them to be flogged.  After a severe beating they were flung into prison and the jailer was ordered to keep them under close guard.  In view of these orders, he put them into the inner prison and secured their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas, at their prayers, were singing praises to God, and the other prisoners were listening, when suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken; the doors burst open and all the prisoners found their fetters unfastened.  The jailer woke up to see the prison doors wide open and, assuming that the prisoners had escaped, drew his sword intending to kill himself.  But Paul shouted,

Do yourself no harm; we are all here.

The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and threw himself down before Paul and Silas, trembling with fear. He then escorted them out and said,

Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

They answered,

Put your trust in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household,

and they imparted the word of the Lord to him and everyone in his house.  At that late hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds, and there and then he and his whole family were baptized.  He brought them up into his house, set out a meal, and rejoiced with his whole household in his new-found faith in God.

Psalm 138 (Revised English Bible):

I shall give praise to you, LORD, with my whole heart;

in the presence of the gods I shall sing psalms to you.

I shall bow down towards your holy temple;

for your love and faithfulness I shall praise your name,

for you have exalted your promise above the heavens.

When I called, you answered me

and made me bold and strong.

Let all the kings of the earth praise you, LORD,

when they hear the words you have spoken;

let them sing of the LORD’s ways,

for great is the glory of the LORD.

The LORD is exalted, yet he cares for the lowly

and from afar he takes note of the proud.

Though I am compassed about by trouble,

you preserve my life,

putting forth your power against the rage of my enemies,

and with your right hand you save me.

The LORD will accomplish his purpose for me.

Your love endures for ever, LORD;

do not abandon what you have made.

John 16:4b-11 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

At the beginning I did not tell you this because I was with you; but now I am going to Him who sent me.  Yet not one of you asks, me ‘Where are you going?’  Just because I have said this to you, your hearts are full of sadness.  Still I am telling you the truth:  it is for your own good that I go away.  For if I do not go away, the Paraclete can never come to you; whereas, if I do go, I shall send him to you.  And when he does come, he will prove the world wrong about sin, about justice, and about judgment.  first, about sin–in that they refuse to believe in me.  Then, about justice–in that I am going to the Father and you can see me no longer.  Finally, about judgment–in that the Prince of this world has been condemned….

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given your Church the great joy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Give us also the greater joy of the kingdom of your elect, when the flock of your Son will share in the final victory of its Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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The situation looked grim.  Authorities were about to apprehend Jesus, torture him, and put him to death.  Yet, in the context in the Johannine Gospel, Jesus comforted this apostles and foretold his victory, his departure,  and the coming of the Holy Spirit.  (FYI:  The Fortieth Day of Easter is the Ascension and the Fiftieth Day is Pentecost, hence the positioning of this reading at this point in the Episcopal Easter lectionary.)

The situation looked grim.  Paul, empowered by the same Holy Spirit, had committed a good deed, delivering a young woman from economic exploitation.  In retribution her owners had Paul and Silas arrested, beaten, and imprisoned on false charges.  As bad as this situation was, it set up the opportunity for Paul and Silas to save the life of their jailer and to bring him and his family to Christ.  Imagine the fear the jailer, a low-level government employee, must have felt.  It was sufficient for him to prefer suicide to the alternative.  Yet, at that moment, he found new life.

I have experienced very dark times in my life.  More than once I have preferred death to life, although I was too afraid to attempt suicide.  More than once I have cursed a day on which I woke up because I feared what life might hold for me.  That was true in 2007; I write this in 2010.  Out of those dark times came great blessings.  Although I take no joy in those events from my life in 2007 I rejoice in the blessings which have flowed from them.

Human life consists in part of peaks and valleys, deserts and rich fields, light and darkness.  It is easy during happy times to ignore God and rely on oneself, but more difficult to do during hard times.  When we exit the valley we need to carry with us the knowledge of dependence on God, of which God has reminded us.

KRT

Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

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Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2018, Easter, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May

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