Sunday, May 8, 2016
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Festival of the Christian Home
Service of Healing
The Rev. Kealahou C. Alika
“A Slave-Girl & a Jailer”
The season of Easter comes to an end this week. Our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday morning will soon give way to our celebration of Pentecost in the coming week. It will be a celebration in which we are made aware that the resurrection was the transformative event that gave birth of the early church.
Last Sunday, we heard the story of Lydia – a merchant of purple cloth – of how she and her household were baptized upon hearing the message of the good news of Easter from Paul and Silas. Today, we learn of their encounters with a slave-girl and a jailer as they continue their journey through Macedonia.
Unlike Lydia, we meet a young woman who is nameless and without a household of her own. She is a “slave girl” who brings her owners “a great deal of money by fortune-telling.” (Acts 16:16)
As she follows Paul and Silas, she declares that they are “slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim . . . a way of salvation.” (Acts 16: 17) Day after day she follows them and persists in making her declaration.
Eventually, Paul becomes annoyed with her unrelenting cry and puts an end to her disruptions by addressing what Biblical scholars have identified as a “spirit of divination that is in her and commanding it to come out. (Paul) never speaks to the girl. He is annoyed by the spirit, but appears to show no outrage at her . . . ” for who she is. (Feasting on the Word, Year C, Volume 2, Bartlett & Taylor, Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, Kentucky, 2009, page 522)
By healing the unnamed girl, Paul deprives her owners of their income. The owners accuse Paul and Silas with disturbing the city and advocating customs not lawful for Romans to adopt or observe. (Acts 16:21) In the marketplace and before the authorities of the city, Paul and Silas are stripped and beaten and then thrown into prison. It is while they are imprisoned that they meet a jailer whose life, like Lydia’s life, would be transformed.
Fearful for his own well-being, the jailer asks both Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answer him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus you will be saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30-31)
The jailer took Paul and Silas and washed their wounds and immediately afterward the jailer and his family, like Lydia and her household, were baptized. And like Lydia who offered the hospitality of her home to Paul, so it is that the jailer offers hospitality of his home as a sign of his gratitude.
The lives of both the slave-girl and the jailer are transformed. By the power of the risen Christ, the slave-girl is released from the bondage of those who sought to exploit her life and the jailer, who was ready to end his own life for fear of his failure, is spared and made whole. (Op. cit., page 527) Both, in their own way, are stories of healing.
Today is the Festival of the Christian Home and Mother’s Day. We are also coming the end of this year’s Easter season as we gather for our annual service of healing.
There is another story I want to share with you, not from the Bible, but from the pages of a letter we received in the mail this week. It comes from someone seeking assistance through the outreach program of our church. It is a story about a mother. It is a story of healing. It is a story said in her own words.
“I am a greatful (sic) addict in recovery. I came . . . for help one month ago after I had my daughter removed from my life at (the) hospital after we both had tested positive for meth. During my pregnancy I was so sick with myself for not being able to stop using drugs and hurting my daughter.”
“As a mommy all I wanted was for my baby to be healthy and happy but unfortunately drugs had clouded my mind and took over my heart which made it difficult and impossible to take care of myself. The father of my child was only making things harder.”
“I had no support and I had lost God in the midst of all my turmoil. Since I . . . gave birth to my beautiful girl, my heart has changed. That aweful (sic) feeling of pain and hurt that cannot be explained and described through words were more than enough to get me up and started on this long road of recovery that I am on now.”
“Going home without my daughter was the most painful experience that I have ever had, so since that day I have been clean and sober and doing everything that I have to do . . . to keep (her) with me. Every since I got her back into my arm (sic), I never wanna let her go again.”
“So I will continue on the right path witch (sic) ain’t going to be easy but I am bound and determined which is why I am humbly asking for your help. So please help me to continue being the capable mother that I can be to my child.”
Like Lydia, like the slave-girl and the jailer, and like the mother who is in recovery, all of us long for recovery and healing, for faith and salvation in our own lives. In a moment, we will invite you to come forward for the anointing of oil and the laying on of hands.
The kukui oil in this koa bowl a symbol of light and the koa wood itself is a symbol of strength. We will offer prayers of blessing asking God to provide light and strength for you and for others in need of healing. We will also offer prayers of blessing asking God to provide light and strength for the healing of the nations and for the healing of creation itself.
For ourselves and for others, the words of our opening hymn this morning serve as a source of comfort: “O Christ, the healer we have come to pray for health, to plead for friends. From every ailment flesh endures, our bodies clamor to be freed, yet in our hearts we would confess that wholeness” – the wholeness that comes when our our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual lives are in balance – it is that wholeness we would confess that “is our deepest need.”
If you wish, we invite you to forward at this time. If you are not able to come forward we will come to you.
All is ready. Come.