Acts 16:16-34 (NRSV)
6 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. 17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you[a] a way of salvation.” 18 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. 19 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. 20 When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews 21 and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” 22 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. 23 After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. 26 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. 27 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. 28 But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 The jailer[b] called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 They spoke the word of the Lord[c] to him and to all who were in his house. 33 At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. 34 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.
Some Thoughts on Today’s Reading—Pastor Pam
The Sermon title for today is “What Binds Us? What Frees Us?” The simple answer might be it is sin that binds us. Sin being things that are not of God…things that separate us from God. The simple answer to the second question is that it is Jesus Christ who frees us to live new lives that are his way…the way of God. But let’s dig deeper.
The story of Paul and Silas in Acts 16: 16-34, affirm both these answers but there is more to the story. Acts reminds us that salvation is not something we do. It is something Jesus is doing in us all the time. When we believe, when we turn our focus to him, we change. We are saved from ourselves and what holds us back from sacred lives that we are meant to share with one another with care.
Acts teaches that there is freedom in unity. Just as God is the triune God…Creator, Son, and Holy Spirit…we are made to be in unity with God and one another. In this, we find the light of freedom from the bondage of human pettiness, meanness, harmful words and acts. Oh, that we would be aware of how our actions impact others and imprison us.
Just as Paul and Silas prayed and sang into the dark night with their fellow prisoners, we are meant to worship together and pray for release from prisons of hate, selfishness, lack of awareness of others and how our actions impact others. Like the owners of the slave girl and the prison guard, we can be unaware that we are the ones who are not free if we do not seek the fullness of Christ in us. As servants of Christ, we have no interest in using others for personal gain.
The Holy Spirit brings freedom to those who believe. When we get on our knees and ask for God’s will to be done within each one of us, the things that chain us and hold us back from godly lives, begin to take their leave. What binds you? Are you aware of what the answer is?
Peace and Grace,