Jailbreak

The following is only an excerpt of this sermon. The full sermon can be heard by clicking the audio link below.

Acts 16.16-34

Etty Hillesum was a young Jewish women from the Netherlands, who lost her life in Auschwitz in 1943. She wrote in her diary and in letters to friends about the terrible, abysmal life that she lived in concentration camps. Even in the midst of this abysmal life, she clung to faith in God and to a joy of living. She had no answer as to the why of her suffering. She wrote: “Of course it is our complete destruction [the Nazis] want. But let us bear it with grace.”

She wrote: “There is no hidden poet in me, just a piece of God that might grow into poetry. And a camp needs a poet, one who experiences life there, even there, as a bard is able to sing about it.”

Now I don’t know about you, and I don’t know what it is like to be in a concentration camp, but I suspect, I know, that I wouldn’t feel like singing. Some people, though, just have that ability to sing in the midst of the most trying circumstances. They are able to discover something deep, they are able to access something of life and hope from a profound inner place that their outer circumstances can’t touch. Some people are just like that.

A couple of those individuals, at least as they are portrayed in Acts, are like that. And we run across them in Paul and Silas. It is not exactly clear what laws Paul and Silas have broken, the whole affair smacks like the proceedings of a kangaroo court and that’s pretty much what it seems to have been. The charge against them seems less connected to the girl freed from the profitable prophetic spirit and more based on a stereotypical fear of Jews and people who are different. The prosecutors incite the crowd. The magistrates, wishing to keep public order and mollify the local chamber of commerce arrest them, probably because it was more convenient than not arresting them.

But time in the lockup is not wasted time for Paul and Silas. They prayed and they sang. We don’t know what songs they chose to sing… maybe it was How Great Thou Art, or maybe it was What A Friend We Have In Jesus, or maybe it was the camp song Jesus Is A Rock And He Rolls My Blues Away. Any of you know that song? Great song. Next week, maybe two weeks from now. We don’t know what song they sang. But we can be certain that the music lifted them up. You see they were able to discover something deep. They were able to access something of life and hope from a profound inner place that their outer circumstances couldn’t touch. Some people are like that.

It may have been in the darkest, innermost chamber of the prison. And the doors and the walls of their cell may have been thick and the heavy chains on their legs may have been locked, but my friends, they were not bound. They were not bound because they were exactly what the evil spirit said they were: slaves of the most high God. That God who loves, that God who delivers, that God who never leaves her children alone. Their songs that night reminded them, I believe, of that deeper freedom, of more profound peace that the world could never take away.

As they were singing, right in the middle of the second verse to Jesus Is A Rock, in the middle of the night, the earth heaves and the prison shakes and the doors fly open and everybody’s chains fly off. And the jailer wakes up and he sees the doors are all open and the chains are all off and knowing what happens to jailers when all of your prisoners escape – he takes out his sword and he’s ready to fall on it himself.

(To listen to the sermon in full, please click below)

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  • Back to School, Not Back to Church…

    …at least not all the way. Some ministries of the church are in action, others are not.

    Ministry is Continuing!

    To date we have shared around $7,000 with our local community to help relieve those affected by coronavirus, and we have another $2,000 we will be distributing now. This has gone toward food, diapers for families in need, rent & mortgage relief, and other purposes.

    Thank you for continuing to worship with us—our YouTube videos get around a hundred views each week, and in some cases, there are multiple people watching one screen. Thank you for listening. And thank you for your continued financial support.

    We are going to be doing some new things in the interest of our own spiritual health, fellowship, and the ministry of the church. The first is drive-through communion (or drive-thru, as it is frequently written).

    Drive-Through Communion — Sept 6th, 9:15-9:45am

    If you wish, you’re invited to drive through our parking lot on Sunday, September 6th from 9:15-9:45am and I will serve communion to you. You are just as welcome to partake of communion from home, as we’ve done the last few months.

    Fellowship Bike Ride — Sept 13th, beginning at 1pm

    On Sunday, September 13th we will have an FPC Bike Ride. We will meet at FPC and go on a 10-mile bike ride led by John and Jean Stewart. Maps of the route will be provided, and a shorter route will be available if needed. Some of the route will be on streets and some on dedicated bike paths. Meet us in the parking lot at 1pm, and we will depart by 1:15.

    Zoom Bible Study — every Tuesday morning from 8-9am

    If you’d like to join us for Bible Study we will begin on Tuesday, Sept 8th, from 8-9am. We will meet via Zoom so you can enjoy breakfast and coffee from home. The zoom link will be available on our First Pres Logan Facebook page each Tuesday morning.

    My role as pastor is to be a spiritual guide, someone who helps each of you on your faith journey (and as you might imagine, you help me just as much). I confess to you that feeling like we are connected and in touch these months has been a struggle. Continuing to not meet in person remains one of the more challenging decisions of my career in ministry. I want to see all of you each week. Worshiping at home via YouTube is certainly just as pleasing to God as when we gather and sing, but it doesn’t feel the same to me, and I’m sure it doesn’t feel the same to you. Hopefully, some of the above activities will help us with that.

    In the Presbyterian system the pastor does not make decisions about all of the activities and happenings around a church. The pastor leads worship, teaches through Bible Study and similar endeavors, provides pastoral care, and participates in many other diverse activities around the church and community. We have Elders and Deacons who take on other responsibilities, including making decisions about church activities (reserved for Elders, who serve on Session). Who does what around a church (and how we do it) is outlined in the Book of Order, which covers all kinds of things. But as you can imagine, there isn’t a chapter titled What To Do in Case of Worldwide Pandemic.

    The Elders that we elect as a congregation (you elect them, Pastor Meg and I do not vote) make many important decisions for each congregation, although pastors frequently share their thoughts and offer guidance for any vote that is taken. The Session of FPC Logan met on Wednesday, August 19 and voted unanimously to continue with online worship for at least the next month (until the next Session meeting, on September 16th).  At that meeting we will reassess the situation and take another vote for the coming month (or months). Session made this decision because we don’t feel it is safe for us to be in the same room for an hour together. Some people may be willing to take the risk. I am not, and neither are your FPC Elders. Of particular interest is the effect that the return to school will have on coronavirus numbers. Public schools and the Utah State University are back in class now, with both online and in-person classes. Also, of great interest is progress in vaccine trials. We are praying that one (or several) of these vaccine trials provides good news in the next few months.

    May the grace and peace of Jesus Christ be with you all,

    Derek

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