SCRIPTURE READING Acts 16:19b-34
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.
MESSAGE “We’re All Here” James R. Renfrew, Teaching Elder
World Communion Sunday. It’s a day for Christians to celebrate their unity around the table of Jesus Christ. Our hopes and prayers for unity are what we give our hearts to today, not violence, not war, not division, not racism, nor hatred. We have to use our imagination that our table is a small corner of a much bigger table that includes people from all walks of life. Our table doesn’t look big enough, but if we need to we’ll always find a way to fit more chairs around it.
It’s not just about hopes and prayers, it’s about deeds, too. So how cool that Jordan has been recognized for the work that he does to help others. How awesome that we hear first-hand about the work of the Judicial Process Commission and offer direct support to their work. How important it is that we are collecting food and clothing and distributing them to our community later this month.
Now some might declare that our church is naïve about the ways of the world. The world is a dangerous place. With lots of bad people doing lots of bad things. Who do we think we are believing that a Sunday School teacher can change the course of history, or a bag of food given out at a mobile pantry will change the course of hunger, or that a winter coat given by Quota Club will resolve poverty, or that one mentor at JPC will transform the criminal justice system, or that sorting clothes at a women’s shelter will bring an end to domestic violence, or that one young man like Jordan can change the world?
But we are visionaries, visionaries with heart and courage. You can see something of that in our story from the Book of Acts. Paul and Silas have been placed in the deepest darkest dungeon of a prison, locked up in chains to keep them from disturbing the peace with their preaching. “Bury them away and the world will forget them!”, the authorities said. “Bury their faith, bury their dreams, bury their naïve belief that they can change the course of history.
Then came a powerful terrible earthquake in the dark of night. Buildings rattle and shake. People are frightened. But to Paul and Silas, and the other prisoners, as the walls crumble and their chains break, it is an unmistakable sign of God’s power and love! Praise God, who responds in our moments of deepest need! Praise God, who keeps building up our hopes and dreams.
When the dust settles the walls are thrown down, the metal bars smashed and the leg irons broken. The prisoners are free! But the man in charge of the jail is in despair, because he will be blamed if prisoners escape. He decides to kill himself! But then he hears Paul’s voice from deep inside the jail. “We’re all here!” There’s no reason to be afraid, no reason to be scared any longer. The love of Christ is not for a few; it’s for everyone! Paul, Silas, the other prisoners, and the jailer, too.
“We’re all here!”, words from long ago, but also living words for the faithful in this present moment. When we describe our ministry, the phrase “We’re all here!” represents our starting point and our goal. “We’re all here!”, declares that our ministry includes an incredible group of people in the love of Jesus Christ: members, friends, neighbors, visitors, seekers, saints, doubters, the lost, and the found. Most importantly, “We’re all here!” includes you!
“We’re all here!” On World Communion Sunday it means we’re committing to each other as we gather at the table. “We’re all here!”, however we got here. “We’re all here!” as we move forward together in faith and hope.