Posted on Sat, May 21, 2016
Seventh Sunday of Easter Sermon 2016
Gospel Text: John 17:20-26
(Jesus Prayed:) 20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. 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. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. 24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
20–26: Jesus’ prayer for the church universal is that believers may be indwelt by the Father and the Son and express their unity in love, thus fulfilling its mission of leading the world to believe.
Did you catch the drama of our lesson from Acts? There were men making money off a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and “brought her owners a great deal of money.” The text is clear; she is essentially their slave so that they could make a great deal of money. In those days, slavery was legal and girls like these written in our text were considered nothing more than an instrument of making profit for the slave owners. In today’s terms this is a form of ‘human-trafficking.’ Prostitutes and illegal farmer or factory workers who are essentially slaves to another person who controls them like objects so that person can make a great deal of money from their labor and suffering. In our society it can take on many different and forms, sadly much of this slavery is hidden in the darkness or hidden before our very eyes. Corrupt bosses will ‘import’ workers to perform cheap labor. They are promised great things if they sign on to the job, but when they arrive their passport is confiscated, their travel is very limited, and housing can be horrendous. We have read about some of these instances within the fishing industry when fishermen joined a boat with the promise is great food, pay and benefits. Many ended up on boats catching the shrimp and fish we may eat at the expense of their freedom. And when we our lesson in Acts 16, we essentially confirm that what went on in the days of Jesus, goes on everyday on our island.
I have a good friend, Kathryn Xian, who has worked tirelessly for years to convince our lawmakers to pass an anti-human trafficking law. It was finally passed in the past month or so.
Like Kathryn and so many like-minded people have identified and illuminated our society to the problem and helped pass this bill. I just pray it is implemented and the results are less women and children living in poverty and fear everyday.
In today’s text, it is the spirit that is inside this woman who has identified Paul and Silas as “Slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation,” and that these two, because God lives them and they are proclaimers of Jesus, that they are the best of people who has the power to free, 1) the spirit 2) the slave-girl 3) everyone within earshot of Paul and Silas.
It wasn't Paul or Silas that noticed that this enslavement of the girl by the spirit and its outcome…apparent value to the slave-owners. It was only after Paul was sufficiently annoyed did he finally exorcise the spirit… and the issue that caused the biggest stir wasn't the injustice of slavery of the girl, but the fact that her owners were now, “out of a way of making money” off her condition.
Money is the catalyst here. The men go to the authorities and complain about these two evangelists that have ‘done something’ to their slave that caused her to ‘not be able to make money off of her, and now they have lost income! It wasn't the slavery, but the fact that they were loosing money that becomes the most significant issue… sounds just like today.
The local leaders sided with the slave-owners, and Paul was thrown into prison.
That is what you get for illuminating sin and freeing a slave girl! … What is that saying, “No good deed goes unpunished?
But did you hear any complaining from Paul and Silas about the result of their Godly work, being thrown into prison? Even after being out in shackles in the furthest back place in the jail, Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God. At this point in their career, they had nothing accept one thing… the promise of God’s presence at all times, including the darkest times. And their understanding of this Promise of God was given to them in their baptism, when through the water and God’s promise, they were made Children of God, and nothing, even a beating, jailing or darkness could take that promise AND JOY away from them.
I love how even when their shackles came off and the doors swung upon after the earthquake, we are told that Paul and Silas save the guard by NOT running for freedom. Their faith has truly freed them from the power of the fear of death to the point that they were sure to prevent the guard, and possibly the one who beat them, from committing suicide. Their act so impressed the guard that he listened to Paul and Silas and his entire household was baptized. The jailor, who we assumed heard what the spirit had been saying about Paul and Silas and maybe he was even the one who flogged Paul and Silas even asked, “What must I do to be saved?” Saved from what? His terrible responsibilities of being a jailor? The horror of doing his job as a jailor? Are these the things he longed to be made free from?
The Gospel text for today is a prayer. Jesus is praying. From Chapter 13 onwards Jesus has been teaching about servant hood and love. Jesus washes their feet, he teaches them the greatest commandment, and he prophesies about what will happen to him after they enter Jerusalem. He is teaching about love and demonstrating God’s love in action for them. But in today’s text Jesus is praying to God the Father that we all can be one.
Imagine the same Spirit of God Jesus shared with the heavenly Father, living within us. The truth is, that through the Promise of Baptism the Spirit of God is indeed within us and all of Creation. The issue is, will we allow that amazing Spirit of God that produces all the good fruit of faith is within us, allow it to be expressed SO THAT CHRIST IS MADE KNOWN IN THE WORLD AND THE PEOPLE CAN KNOW THAT GOD HAS INDEED SENT JESUS TO SAVE US?
I think we need to focus on the spirit in the story form Acts. That spirit that was living in the girl with the ability for divination seem to have very little power to free itself, but it seems to may have been looking for someone with the power of the “Most High God” to free it from the girls body. Why? There is no mention that it is an evil spirit; it is a spirit that only wants to be free. It doesn't state that the spirit is evil or good; it is just a spirit that seems to know more about the power Paul and Silas have been given to them through the Holy Spirit than they even know.
What does that mean for the Church, the Body of Christ? I think we need to relate to that spirit of God that is within each and everyone of us, stranger and friend, including all of God’s Creation that surrounds and constantly blesses us. The Spirit of God is aware of God’s presence and desires to be free to do that which produces God’s fruit.
As God is in all places, God and God’s Spirit is within each and every one of us, including those trapped in the human-trafficking business, illegal labor and others who suffer with the fear of being houseless and outcasts. But can you see this spirit of God in all people? I wonder if this is what Mother Theresa was talking about when she said she could see Jesus in everyone she met; Especially the poor and suffering.
The Spirit of God desires to be free, and bring spiritual maturity to all that will accept and live according to the calling of Jesus, the Lord of all spirits and people.
Think about the woman in the story. She seems to have any power over herself at all, and the spirit was very interested in being free, why wouldn't that be the same for all people?
Think of the people like her in our society. The trade slaves, the prostitutes, homeless or those trapped in a go nowhere under paying job, are oftentimes not in their situation because that is not the life they chose for themselves. Yet, that same spirit of God that longs to be free and do what God commands is within them.
As a congregation, it is important for us to provide an environment, a community, that allows the spirit of God that is deep within them to recognize that within the arms of Calvary, they can be free, to blossom and bloom and produce good fruit.
The Spirit of God is within all of us and many people who just are looking for a community that will accept them and allow this spirit to be free. We find meaning in ourselves when we are doing what our hearts and our spirit are free to do what they ought to do.
I think Jesus was praying for us. Who are we? As a Body of Christ, as a congregation, because we have heard the Word of Christ and have believed, we are to be watchful and alert, honest, truthful, patient, humble and always persevering in being the arms of Christ, welcoming all, sharing love and mercy so that the Jesus who has always promised to be with us, can be seen by everyone we meet in this world.
We say “I would like to be at one with God” and in the next breath we say, “God is love.” It is true, Jesus and God are one. Jesus did not stay put after he proclaimed in the synagogue after in Luke 4:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18 – 19)
After proclaiming God’s love and faithfulness, he went out and did it. Now it is our responsibility.
What does Aloha mean?
From an article entitled, THE DEEPER MEANING OF ALOHA, by Curby Rule
Aloha is being a part of all, and all being a part of me. When there is pain - it is my pain. When there is joy - it is also mine. I respect all that is as part of the Creator and part of me. I will not willfully harm anyone or anything. When food is needed I will take only my need and explain why it is being taken. The earth, the sky, the sea are mine to care for, to cherish and to protect. This is Hawaiian - this is Aloha!
As the child grew, the need for a fundamental code of ethics was taught. This code is found within a deeper layer of the meaning of the word Aloha. The code is derived from one of the acronymic meanings of Aloha.
A, ala, watchful, alertness
L, lokahi, working with unity
O, oia'i'o, truthful honesty
H, ha'aha'a, humility
A, ahonui, patient perseverance
The kahuna David Bray interprets this code as "Come forward, be in unity and harmony with your real self, God, and mankind. Be honest, truthful, patient, kind to all life forms, and humble." He also stated that to the Hawaiian of old, Aloha meant "God in us."
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