Readings: Acts 16:16-34; Psalm 97; Revelation 22:1-14,16-17,20-21; John 17:20-26
St. Paul and Silas, who were living at Lydia’s place, had been out and about, and it seems were returning to her place, the place of prayer. They encountered a slave girl who was a money maker for her owners, telling fortunes for paying customers. It seems she followed Paul and Silas, truth-telling, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation”. This proclamation was in fact disrupting their mission work. Paul, on the spot, called for an exorcism. Her owners were furious, their money-making slave could perform for them no more. They took Paul and Silas to the magistrates, claiming that they had ruined their business. The magistrates agreed. Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten, and thrown into the darkness in the innermost cell of the jail, and placed in stocks.
In the darkness, what did they do? They prayed, and they sang praises to God, and all were amazed. In stocks, in darkness, they prayed and praised God. But it did not stop there. In fact, it got worse. An earthquake shook the foundations of the jail, the door sprang open, and the chains broke open. They were free to flee. The jailer knew he was personally responsible for his prisoners, and readied his sword to commit suicide. Paul, knowing the jailer’s intent, called out, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all [still] here”. Paul and Silas, prayed, praised God, and acted to ensure that no harm would come to the jailer.
In those dark times in Philippi, they prayed, praised, and acted.
Friends, we are in dark times. An eighteen-year-old boy bought firearms, hundreds of bullets, and entered a school, and took the lives of 19 students and 2 teachers.
My thoughts immediately went to two of my own grandchildren who are the same age as those students, and to our son who works at their school, Moravian Academy in Bethlehem.
My thoughts went to a hymn they sing at Moravian with two young voices leading. It is the hymn we have sung during the Epiphany season here at All Saints. The hymn was written in the 17th century during dark times by one who wished to be united with his God. When sung at Moravian during vespers everyone has a small beeswax candle in their hand. Let’s read this hymn together.
The author was seeking the guidance of the Morning Star, seeking the presence of the Risen Jesus, in cold, dark times.
In dark times bearing the light of the Risen Jesus, we can see through the darkness.
In dark times bearing the light of the Risen Jesus, we can be united with him.
In dark times bearing the light of the Risen Jesus, we can discern what he is doing.
In dark times bearing the light of the Risen Jesus, we can join with him and expand the light into the darkness.
We can pray, we can praise, and we can act to expand the light.
As we cherish our students, as we cherish our teachers, we need to go beyond praying and praising to act to expand the light and value life. We need to act individually, and we need to act as a community that even in the midst of darkness chooses life, chooses to expand the light.
Today in the Prayers of the People, I encourage you silently or aloud to remember particular students by name, to remember particular teachers by name.
Today in the Prayers of the People, I will name the 19 students and 2 teachers of Valdo, Texas.
To pray, to praise, to act to expand the light in dark times on behalf of others is what Memorial Day is all about. Men and Women put their very lives on the line in the darkness of their day so that it would not swallow up the light. They prayed, they praised, and they acted to preserve life and to expand the light.
So may we! So may we!