Texts: Acts 16:16-34; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21; John 17:20-26
It’s all fun and games until someone has to wear an eyepatch.
I saw that on a t-shirt recently.
What is it about witnessing to the love of God in Jesus
that makes some people lose sight of the love part?
From the gospel today it sounds like Jesus knew.
Knew that the witnessing wasn’t always going to go well.
Someone was going to get mad. Or lose control.
So Jesus launched a major petition to God
(John doesn’t call it a prayer, exactly)
Jesus asked on behalf of the disciples.
God help them. God help them.
To be one as we are one.
A pattern of movement from Jesus and God’s essential unity
To the disciples unity
To the world’s unity.
This pattern is how John understands the whole ministry of Jesus
Which becomes the ministry of the disciples.
Which becomes the ministry of the church.
Where the concern is to make the “other” into the friend
So that no one and nothing is outside of the circle of affection.
This is a pattern of reconciliation.
Consistent with Jesus’s wish to give his disciples (followers) shalom.
The more shalom they are, the more shalom the world is.
The more shalom the world is, the more God is known.
i.e. God was, in Christ, reconciling the world to God’s self.
But one day, Paul and Silas forgot.
It began with the fortune-telling slave girl whom they didn’t befriend.
It’s not so much what she says, but how she says it that makes Paul react.
To be fair, Paul starts it, responding out of anger rather than compassion.
And you think people are going to see the God of love in this?
Oh yes. It’s all fun and games until someone…
The situation quickly disintegrated further.
With the spirit of divination gone from the girl, her owners are now angry.
They reacted the loss of her services with a flurry of accusations:
Disturbing the peace, promoting the Jewish religion in a Roman pagan city.
The crowd joined in. Things got ugly.
The magistrates had them beaten and jailed with their feet immobilized.
At this critical point anything may happen.
But Paul and Silas chose to de-escalate the situation.
Perhaps Paul did a little repenting between the exorcism and the prison stocks.
Maybe he remembered what Jesus said.
Unity is everything where God’s love is concerned.
Like unity with a half-crazy slave girl
Or unity with the broken people around you doing hard time.
Or even with the one who’s got you locked up and holds the key to your release.
So they witnessed to their faith in God by praying and singing.
for themselves and everyone around them. They gave glory to God.
They became shalom when they could have chosen despair, disintegration.
The other prisoners were captivated (!) by the behavior of Paul and Silas
Something different was happening.
Then came the earthquake. The prison destroyed.
A natural disaster intervenes. How lucky is that?
Or is it a divine shift? God is mysterious.
The jailer is about to take his own life because of his failure to secure the prison.
Paul befriends the jailer. He and Silas have modeled integrity, shalom.
The jailer is so moved that he asks for instruction from them about how to be shalom.
Paul and Silas said, see Jesus. See God.
In our prayer, in our songs
In our unity despite our circumstance, God’s glory is here.
Believe this and you will know shalom too.
And everyone in your own sphere of influence.
So they were baptized, one and all that day.
And the shalom of God spread further that day.
There was washing of wounds and feasting and rejoicing.
Because that’s how it works.
When the love of God goes viral.
Person to person to person to person.
It’s caught, more than taught, really.
And when it happens, there God is.
And it’s glorious.
The Rev. Beth Purdum Eden is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church. She has served in more than 6 parishes in the Western United States for 30 years.