ONE … Enough to Share

Acts 16: 25-34
JOHN 17: 20-26

May 24, 2020

There were three of them together … one literally scared to death for his life. So frightened that moments before he was about to take a sword to himself to avoid what the earthly powers might do when they discovered the prisoners had escaped. But, he heard Paul’s voice … “Don’t harm yourself! Don’t harm yourself!”

Thankfully, the power was still on. Scripture tells us the jailer called for some lights before he rushed in … so someone flipped the switch … and then he entered the cell, saw them amidst the crumbling walls, and fell trembling before the prisoner who had just told him not to end his own life. Realizing that the building was not safe to be in, because of the violent earthquake, the jailer led Paul and Silas outside but he knew that there was something incredibly special about these two men because they had not tried to escape to freedom. They had stayed inside.

The jailer knew that there had to be more to the story … there was something that had to be discovered … there was something that this jailer knew he needed that to these two men was worth more than escaping back into society. More than leaving the isolation of a jail cell to boldly and brazenly return to the lives they were living before the isolation of jail had put them alone with each other … these men had not run out … the jailer knew Paul and Silas had something special that had already rescued them.

Church this morning … we are friends and strangers from around the world worshiping together today because this church called St. Paul’s is no longer just the corner church whose foundations were laid in the late 1850’s … this church is now global and will never be just a place where horses were hitched and neighbors walked in … the mission and message of St. Paul’s is essential and we are worshiping together this morning globally; as we have since the pandemic began. And, I would suggest we are worshiping with a new power of faith … a faith that I pray has rescued you from falling into the trap that the world wants to ensnarl us in. A trap that suggests God cannot be worshiped outside of or beyond brick and mortar buildings … perhaps a fear from some that God is bigger than humanity and so they want to issue directives that people of faith must only go to their buildings to find, worship, or follow God. They don’t want to accept the truth that people of faith already know, which is that the God and Christ of Paul and Silas was alive then and is alive today not only in buildings called church but also in the isolation of a jail cell … thriving in the ICU’s where nurses and doctors are compassionately holding the hands of the dying and giving their all to rescue those who are ill. God is alive in the homes of families who are staying safe inside protecting themselves and others by not rushing to join the unmasked ‘me and my crowd’ who have no concerns for the well being of the strangers in the mix who might have a child like our Megan in their homes.

Have you heard this historical report of Luke before? Luke, the first Christian historian, who interviewed Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Luke who had spoken with the disciples and other witnesses of Jesus’ work … Jesus’ life … Jesus’ death … and Jesus’ glorifying resurrection that verifies God’s love for all humanity … Luke brings us this history lesson of faith this morning and frankly it comes down to the question of whether God and Christ and the Holy Spirit .. the Three in One is One that is enough to share with others? Are we interested in sharing? Are you living a life that is so different from the world that others want to know why?

In these days of pandemic as I have listened to the voices scream out … I have wondered why numbers of individuals who claim to be Christians insist that it takes a building to make their faith happen. I know the ONE that I worship is alive and well every day. The ONE I pray to … the ONE who has saved me by grace to a future in heaven through Jesus Christ has never required me to sit on a wooden slab … Jesus Christ never demanded of His followers that they own thriving businesses, work 50 hour weeks, adorn their homes with big screen tv’s … leather furniture … while driving automobiles whose sticker price could feed a hungry family in Africa probably for two years. Jesus did not say rush to fill buildings where the world cannot hear you as you open your song books, greet the exclusive church attending crowd with hugs that only the insiders can see … no Jesus directed His followers to go out into the world. I hear voices saying … we must thrive; we must go back; we must fill our purses and wallets but Jesus told the rich young man who had kept all of the commandments that he had to do one more thing .. Jesus said, “If you want to be complete, go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven and follow me.”

Luke reports on the response of early believers who heard Peter preach, “Change your hearts and lives in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you, your children and for all who are far away. Be saved from this perverse generation! … BE SAVED FROM THIS PERVERSE GENERATION!” So, the believer changed their lives. We read in Luke’s book of Acts “devoted themselves to the teaching, to the community, to shared meals, and to their prayers.”

And, then friends guess what happened … no these believers were not in a beautiful building adorned with a cross; they didn’t have big bank accounts and great jobs … these believers were devoted to community and sharing and praying not to their own gain … here’s what happened next, “a sense of awe came over everyone. All the believers were united and shared everything. They would sell pieces of property and possessions and distribute proceeds to everyone who needed them. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone!”

Pretty darn awesome don’t you think? Nowhere in Scriptures are we told to get as wealthy as we can regardless of those we might harm. The saints who are remembered throughout history are not remembered because they had fantastic jobs that made them the wealthiest people of their time. The saints of God are remembered for how they helped others and how they shared the truth about the ONE … Jesus the Christ who came to teach us how to live and to save us from our sins. Those early believers lowered their economic realities by selling what they had and sharing food and possessions with each other. The young man left Jesus disappointed and sad because it was clear he valued his brand new I-Phone more than living a life of simplicity in following Jesus.

So, we have this jailer who had come close to ending his own life … leading Paul and Silas out of the crumbling jail and asking them, “Honorable masters, what must I do to be rescued?”

Are your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers asking you in amazement as you refuse to join the unsafe and selfish … do you hear them saying, ‘Honorable friend, what must I do to be rescued. Like you are?’ Or are you rushing to get more … to have more … to pack more of your time into the world so that you fit in and have more? Are you angry with those who want communities to be safe and well?

Paul and Silas knew that the ONE they had … the special relationship and truths of faith in Jesus Christ that was theirs … JESUS was big enough to share. They replied to the jailer, “BELIEVE … BELIEVE in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!” The jailer took them to his home and Paul and Silas shared their faith … shared their Jesus … shared our Jesus … shared God’s Jesus … JESUS IS ENOUGH TO SHARE with the world and it doesn’t take a building … it doesn’t take a job that takes away 40, 50 to 60 hours a week to reach the sky of success … Jesus takes believing and changing! And that night over the dinner table in Philippi (Yes, the place they were jailed would become the Christian community Paul would write his letter we call Philippians to.). And, the jailer fed these prisoners at the table with his family and his family came to believe in God.

Bob Marley sang “One love … One heart … Let’s get together and feel alright.” His song continues, “Give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel alright.”

This morning we heard the prayer of Jesus as He spoke with God “I pray that they will be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. I pray that they also will be in us, so that the world will believe that You sent me. I’ve given them the glory that You gave me so that THEY CAN BE ONE just as we are ONE.”

Jesus word … Jesus prayer … was that we come together as ONE in faith not divided not separated by concepts of borders or delineations that lead to wars over property or land … ALL humanity created in the image of the Holy … ONE humanity taught to love ONE GOD while loving ALL neighbors. ONE GOD … Father, Son, and Holy Spirit wanting to be shared by the ONE people … people of faith; believers … not needing a building just needing a connection … from around the world just as we are right now a community connected around the world in this worship service coming from West Deptford.

This church family feeds the hungry unselfishly … this church family protects our neighbors by delivering food to the homes of the hungry without hesitation and not pausing if the person needing food is not like our church members … Sunday School starts at 1045 for any child in the world … daily devotions and Bible studies for all … we fed the ICU staff who are living God’s love each day … we are now being called to help those hurting in Liberia …

Jesus closes His prayer before His arrest by saying “Righteous Father, even the world didn’t know You. But, I’ve known You, and these believers know You sent me. I’ve made Your name known to them so that Your love for me will be in them, and I myself will be in them.”

Peter preached that this love is for us, our children and for those near and far away. ONE LOVE … are you sharing … is God’s love in you and the essence of your life and is God and Jesus worth sharing and living for? These are questions for those with faith but if you are wondering why you don’t sense it but want what Paul and Silas had please reach out … we can FACETIME-SKYPE-TEXT or even talk on the phone but I want you to feel this ONE LOVE that is universal and not limited to one place or one building. God didn’t build a building God created love.


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