First Congregational Church
May 12, 2013
Seventh Sunday after Easter & Mothers Day, Mission Month
Acts 16:16-34, The Message
Rev. Dinah Haag, preaching
Acts 16:16-34 The Message
16-18 One day, on our way to the place of prayer, a slave girl ran into us. She was a psychic and, with her fortunetelling, made a lot of money for the people who owned her. She started following Paul around, calling everyone’s attention to us by yelling out, “These men are working for the Most High God. They’re laying out the road of salvation for you!” She did this for a number of days until Paul, finally fed up with her, turned and commanded the spirit that possessed her, “Out! In the name of Jesus Christ, get out of her!” And it was gone, just like that.
19-22 When her owners saw that their lucrative little business was suddenly bankrupt, they went after Paul and Silas, roughed them up and dragged them into the market square. Then the police arrested them and pulled them into a court with the accusation, “These men are disturbing the peace—dangerous Jewish agitators subverting our Roman law and order.” By this time the crowd had turned into a restless mob out for blood.
22-24 The judges went along with the mob, had Paul and Silas’s clothes ripped off and ordered a public beating. After beating them black-and-blue, they threw them into jail, telling the jailkeeper to put them under heavy guard so there would be no chance of escape. He did just that—threw them into the maximum security cell in the jail and clamped leg irons on them.
25-26 Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose.
27-28 Startled from sleep, the jailer saw all the doors swinging loose on their hinges. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he pulled out his sword and was about to do himself in, figuring he was as good as dead anyway, when Paul stopped him: “Don’t do that! We’re all still here! Nobody’s run away!”
29-31 The jailer got a torch and ran inside. Badly shaken, he collapsed in front of Paul and Silas. He led them out of the jail and asked, “Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?” They said, “Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you’ll live as you were meant to live—and everyone in your house included!”
32-34 They went on to spell out in detail the story of the Master—the entire family got in on this part. They never did get to bed that night. The jailer made them feel at home, dressed their wounds, and then—he couldn’t wait till morning!—was baptized, he and everyone in his family. There in his home, he had food set out for a festive meal. It was a night to remember: He and his entire family had put their trust in God; everyone in the house was in on the celebration.
Just a minute, Harry! I'll be right there. I just wanted to take a quick peek into this quaint, little church.... Oh, my! What a delightful place! It's like a little slice of heaven, right here in little old - oh where are we today? Frankfort. That's it. Frankfort. 24 towns in 12 days; these "elder trips" are hardly for the the elderly. I should tell Harry to come up here and take a look at this - divine - delight. But there's a part of me that wants to keep this moment to myself.
What lovely instruments. I wonder if they have any one that can play them. I so wish we had someone in our church to play something other than the "play" switch on the hymn cds. I wonder if they have a church choir here. I don't know if you'd call our 3 people a choir, but Charlie, Hazel and Ethel are faithful - even if they have the same ten notes between them.
It says the pastor is a person named "Dinah Haag." I assume that's a woman. I wonder what she's like. With the shrinking pool of ministers these days, it's not easy to find a good one - much less a live one. Since no one seems to be here - I'll just take a little look-see in the pulpit. Pulpits are probably not on the top of everyone's curiosity list, but I just love to see what pastor's keep in them.
Pencils. Practical. Lighters. Sensible. Cough drops. Brilliant. Little water bottles. Sensational! A note that the clock takes a AA battery. Clever. A sermon: score!
Title: "Expectations" That's a locquacious one. The passage is from Acts - the one about Paul, Silas, the fortune-telling girl and the jailor. How on earth did she get "Expectations" from that passage? Ooo. I know the bus is to leave in a few minutes, but I can't just take the sermon, so I have to read it.
That's right - last week was Mother's Day. I wonder if she did one of those sappy, syrupy sermons that ignores the women who want a child but can't have one, the children who long for their own mothers, those whose mothers ought to be on the FBI's top ten list. Julia Ward Howe had a nice idea 145 years ago. But it's not as easy a day as Hallmark and FTD would like us to think.
She starts off with mothers who have been pivotal in shaping our modern culture. (Oh this ought to be good!) Paul Revere's mother: "I don't care where you think you have to go, young man. Midnight is past your curfew! Mona Lisa's mother: "After all that money your father and
I spent on braces, Mona, that's the biggest smile you can give us?" Humpty Dumpty's mother: "Humpty, If I've told you once, I've told you a hundred times not to sit on that wall. But would you listen to me? Noooo!" (What a sad thought if these were read in a straight voice.) Michaelangelo's mother: "Mike, can't you paint on walls like other children? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get that stuff off the ceiling?"
Well, if her sermon is less than par, at least there is a little light in the opening jokes. I wonder how many churches in this country have sermons that begin with humor. (clock) Gotta get going here.
Let's see: the fortune-telling slave girl is doubly trapped being possessed by an evil spirit and in a human cartel. A girl with no power, no status and no freedom, and Paul acknowledges her, exorcising her not only from the spirit, but probably from the humans - once they figure out she has no profit for them. I wish I had time to see if she related this part of the scripture to the current events of women - all kinds of people for that fact - that are kidnapped and sold into various kinds of slavery. And on top of the story of the three women from Ohio being freed from their physical and emotional prison. I would "expect" that link to be made, but maybe part of the sermon is about unmet expectations. I don't hurry, they will leave me behind and I will "expect" Harry to have a canary.
No, Rev. Haag, we don't "expect" people who have just been "robbed" of a trial and severely beaten to sing hymns in their jail cell. Apparently the jail keeper expected some sort of trouble, because otherwise there wouldn't be a need for Paul and Silas to be imprisoned and chained.
Yes, we would "expect" crying and wailing, moaning and complaining; feeling sorry for themselves. If we expect any singing at all, it would be of laments and dirges. It is part of the joy of this thing we call faith - when we discover our "expectations" popped. I love that she pointed out the "robust" singing of their hymn. (sag) If only my own church could get into that robust mentality when it comes to singing. And yes, dear lady, we would "expect" the other prisoners to continue their chatting, cursing or whatever else they might be doing. No, we don't "expect" them to listen to Paul and Silas' warbling.
More famous historic mothers? The bus is waiting and the clock is running. Napoleon's mother: "All right, Napoleon. If you aren't hiding your report card inside your jacket, then take your hand out of there and prove it!" Batman's mother: "It's a nice car, Bruce, but do you realize how much the insurance is going to be?" Little Miss Muffet's mother: "Well, all I've got to say is if you don't get off your tuffet and start cleaning your room, there'll be a lot more than spiders around here!" And Thomas Edison's mother: "Of course I'm proud that you invented the electric light bulb, Thomas. Now turn off that light and get to bed!" I am beginning to really like this Haag woman.
Excellent point, Rev., that the earthquake - that we would expect to crush and trap - sets all the prisoners doors' open. And yes, dear woman, we would expect the prisoners to run away.
I guess I hadn't really thought of the expectations when a person fails at their job. In this country, they may get fired, there may be an investigation, and there may be legal actions. But we don't "expect" people to kill themselves with knives of humiliation. I didn't "expect" that link between Philippi and Asian cultures where that was a long tradition. I think it's good that some "expectations" are no longer expected.
Oh dear lady, no - no one would "expect" this whole incident to be "for" the jail keeper. I think you're right - many of us would naturally assume that this jailing and earthquake event was about setting Paul and Silas free. (Good thread about freedom in connection with "expectation, Dinah.) The jail keeper was "set free" into faith - as much as his whole family. No, we don't expect Paul's compassion - or anyone else's for that matter - to be so life changing. We don't often realize the preciousness of stability and calm - the at-peace-ness with the universe - to play such a part in the life of a person we hardy know.
Oh and excellent point in bringing up the fact that the jail keeper "expected" some sort of ritual or course of action to be "saved." We are so good to jump to the "doing" because it's easy to see an accomplishment. We don't "expect" that becoming a follower of Christ is firstly about "trust," and then what we "do" comes after that. Excellent point, Ms. Haag. We "expect" to do something with the question, "What would Jesus do?" We don't think of Jesus just "being."
Nice ending, Rev. Haag. I think she must have delivered it with a smile and a twinkle in her eye. A mother serving pancakes to her two sons who began arguing about who would get the first pancakes. The mother asked the boys what they thought Jesus would do? When the boys didn't answer the mother said Jesus would have said, "Please let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait." In reply, the older brother turned to his younger brother and said, "You be Jesus."
You know, Lord, I like this gal. But I don't think this is about her expecting accolades. I think this message is a good one to remind us to think about expectations - of you, of Jesus, of your Holy Spirit, of each other. Sometimes our expectations do get out of whack, and I, for one, am greatly sorry when those times happen. Forgive me. And bless those who have been unfairly "expected" to be a certain way or to do a certain thing. When we are wrongly "expected" to do thus and such, help us to remember when we are apt to wrongly expect things of other people - that we all be gracious and compassionate and kind to those who fail our expectations.
Oh, and God, if you would especially bless this congregation and the musicians - if they have them - and the pastor. Help them to realize what a blessing their ministry is - to be a little light in a way that is quite uncommon these days. When they are apt to think too little of what they do here, remind them that theirs is a holy gift they give - to each other and to strangers. And just one more thing, God, please let that bus be there when I get there! And all the people say, Amen.
Just the messenger. And the collector and arranger of that which has been received. References available upon request.