Grace and peace to you, from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
This morning, we have a reading from Acts 16. Paul and Silas have been traveling together, sharing the story of Jesus. This morning, we see them in Philippi, preaching and teaching, when Paul is upset by a slave girl who was possessed with a demon. She was following Paul, and shouting to all who would listen, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” After many days of this, Paul couldn’t take it anymore. What she was saying wasn’t bad. She was telling the truth! But day after day would be a little much for anyone, and we already have heard that Paul had a temper. Remember before he was converted? He was breathing threats against the followers of Jesus. He may have changed what he believed, but not his personality.
The unintended result of freeing the slave girl from the demon was that her owners realized Paul had just ruined their ability to charge people for fortune telling. So they dragged Paul and Silas to the middle of town, and started accusing them of treason against Rome. They were quickly arrested, beaten, and locked away in the deepest prison cell.
Knowing Paul’s temperament, I was almost expecting him to be really mad, still. But he and Silas began to pray and sing hymns, sharing the Good News with the other prisoners. Around midnight, when the earthquake hit, the jail was so damaged that the prisoners could easily have escaped. But Paul and Silas stayed, and so did the other inmates. The poor jailor assumed they had all escaped and was about to kill himself when Paul cried out, “We are all here!” When the jailor asked Paul how he could be saved, Paul told him about Jesus. And that day, he and his whole family were converted and baptized. Amazing how God can use any situation we find ourselves in, to give us an opportunity to share our faith.
When I was in seminary, one of our professors gave us an assignment: “Come up with an elevator speech.” We kind of looked at each other like, what the heck? But she was serious. I want you to write a short, 3-minute, message describing your faith. If someone asked you, “Why are you a Christian?” or “Why do you believe in God?” what would you say? It was a lot harder than it sounds. Most of us were lifelong Christians and had never even thought about how we would share our faith with anyone. It’s not very helpful to just say, “Well, I was born into a religious family.”
So, there we were, enthusiastic first-year students, strong in our faith in God, or so we thought, scratching our heads trying to think what we would say. I think that is one thing we can learn from today’s lesson. Paul and Silas were the first missionaries. They traveled around sharing the story of Jesus and God’s love. They weren’t perfect, but they just kept going. Even being in prison didn’t stop them. They were in the deepest part of that jail, but they still reached out to the other prisoners, singing hymns and praying.
I know I never thought, growing up, about how to tell the story of God’s love and how Jesus came to share God’s love through his life, death, and Resurrection. Everyone I knew was a Christian, like me. But that is not the case today, is it? Many of the people we know, our friends and coworkers, may not have ever been to a church, temple, or mosque. I think we are called, in this time, to be like Paul and Silas. We need to learn how to share our faith. I know it sounds scary, but think about how you feel about your faith. God loves us. Jesus came to teach us about that love, and how to love each other.
Can you imagine if that message was lost, because people didn’t know how to talk about their faith? Christ is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia! We are called to leave here and share that good news with a world that is hurting. Here at Dobbs Ferry Lutheran, we are considering who we are as God’s people, going forward in a changed world.
Starting on May 15th, I strongly encourage you to come to Bible Study here, after coffee hour, where we will explore partnering with God to bring the Kingdom on earth, as it is in heaven. Amen.