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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion October 2, 2022 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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Easter 7C  June 2, 2019

Acts 16:16-34
Psalm 97
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
John 17:20-26

Paul, Silas, and presumably Luke, the writer of the Book of Acts, are still in Philippi. They are going to the place of prayer, we may assume the same place where they had met Lydia and her community. Now they meet a slave girl who “has a spirit of divination.” Merriam-Webster defines divination as “The art or practice that seeks to  foresee or foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge, usually by the interpretation of omens or by the use of supernatural powers.”

This young lady is a fortune teller. She has supernatural gifts. She is controlled by some owners who are making a great deal of money from her gifts. Herbert O’Driscoll calls these owners “pimps.” Today, we might call them human traffickers.

Right away, we know that this young lady is able to see through to the truth. She realizes that Paul and his team are, as she shouts out very loudly, “Slaves of the most high God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” The young woman follows Paul and his team for many days, shouting after them.

Paul finally becomes deeply annoyed, turns to her, and orders the spirit to come out of her in the name of Christ. The healing happens immediately. But now there is a big problem. The human traffickers who have been making a fortune from this young woman’s gift have suddenly lost their lucrative income.

The traffickers take hold of Paul and his team and drag them to the authorities. But they do not state their true feelings or thoughts. Instead of saying, “This man and his team just blew our whole financial scheme out of the water!” they present a high-minded argument, pretending to  be concerned about the safety of the city. Furthermore, they identify Paul and his team as Jews. In New Testament times, as now, there was a great deal of anti-semitism. Paul and Silas and Luke always tried to work quietly. They would move about unnoticed, encounter people, spread the good news, and move on. But these human traffickers have made Paul and his team Public Enemy Number One. Paul and his team are now in real danger.

The crowd attacks them; the authorities have them stripped of their clothing, and they are beaten. The jailer puts them in the innermost cell, the most secure place that is available. Then he fastens their feet in stocks.

Herbert O Driscoll reminds us of the great danger that people like Paul were in as they went out to spread the Good News. If they upset someone, false accusations could  be brought and they could be killed. (O’Driscoll, The Word Among Us, Year C, vol. 2, pp. 91-93.)

This is why it is so moving and inspiring to read that Paul and Silas break into hymns and prayers around midnight. They are not afraid. They know that God is with them. The text also notes that the prisoners are listening to them. They are paying attention. They are being inspired by the love of God and the good news expressed in song and prayer.

Then an earthquake hits. The doors are opened and the chains drop from the prisoners. Paul and his team have freed the young woman from her bondage, and now God frees them from their chains.

The jailer wakes up and sees what has happened. If these prisoners have escaped, he can be killed. Paul and Silas know this. They have not fled. They care about the jailer. They know what could happen to him. So Paul calls out to him, “Don’t hurt yourself; we’re all right here.”

The jailer calls for lights, and people come running with torches. The jailer sees that the prisoners are all present. He is stunned. He falls to his knees and asks,”Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and his team share the good news with him. He takes them into his house and washes their wounds just as Jesus washed the feet of the apostles, just as the Good Samaritan washed the wounds of the man who had fallen among thieves. He has just heard about Jesus, and now he shows Paul and his team the love and compassion of Jesus. His entire household is baptized on the spot, and everyone shares in a feast.

This encounter is a powerful example of what our Lord is talking about in our gospel for today. This gospel reading is a part of what is known as our Lord’s Last Discourse, during which Jesus tries to communicate with the apostles the power of God’s love and the joy and energy of living together in community based on that love.

He asks that we all may be one. He asks, “As you Father, are in me, and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Jesus, God, and the Spirit are one, bound together in living love, and Jesus is asking that we may be enfolded in that love together with them. He is asking that we may abide with them and they with us.

In other words, Jesus is including us in the closeness of the life and love that is experienced among the Persons of the Trinity. It is a living, active love, the kind of love that enables Paul and Silas to sing and pray in chains and stocks in a prison cell. It is the kind of love that frees those enslaved in human trafficking. It is the kind of courageous love that  empowers ministries like Thistle Farms, which frees women from all kinds of slavery, including addiction and human trafficking.

Because of the love of Christ, you and I are as close as the members of the Trinity are. They are the first community created by God. We are part of the loving community created by God. We have only to reach out and touch God, Jesus, and the Spirit. They are here with us now, They have called us together.

Thanks be to God for the gift of this love. We will never be able to understand it or fathom its depths. All we are asked to do is to share it. Amen.

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