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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  • Courageous Ministry

    Dear Friends,

    I hope this month’s edition of the Pulse finds you and your loved ones navigating life and faith with as much grace and self-compassion as possible. I know that some in our community have welcomed summer as a time to travel with family and friends, and to be reunited with loved ones. Others continue to struggle with health issues, isolation, and anxiety about the resurgence of Covid with the Delta variant. In the immortal words of Paul to the Romans, as a community, we “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” There is a chair or pew here on Sunday mornings for people in all seasons of life, and an open door to my office for any burdens (or celebrations) to be shared. I hope that you will join us or tune in via livestream on August 8th when I incorporate a compassion ritual in our worship services, to mark the lingering impact of Covid on the lives of God’s people everywhere. 

    Whether you have been in Bruner Hall often this summer, or it has been some time since you’ve walked through the doors of FPC, I want to share with you some happenings that I celebrate as we continue to serve faithfully as an inclusive community of faith and compassion at FPC Logan. Since the beginning of Pastor Derek’s sabbatical on June 1st, we welcomed four guest preachers who shared the Good News with us, from Scriptures ranging from Genesis to the Gospels, from Ezekiel to Ephesians. Two of these preachers are women who I’ve had the privilege of mentoring as ministers in the ordination process with the Presbyterian Church in Utah. At summer’s end, we will welcome two additional preachers to share in our worship life, and I will conclude my ongoing spiritual disciplines sermon series later this month. 

    This summer, FPC has been home to Loaves & Fishes and a series of Red Cross Blood Drives. In June, our middle schoolers organized and delivered a supplies drive for Cache Humane Society, with two middle schoolers traveling to American Fork Canyon for a reservoir clean-up with presbytery peers. Eight high schoolers from FPC Logan traveled with me to Denver, where we served with Habitat for Humanity for four days, offering a total of 22 hours of service each. In two weeks, we will gather at Stokes Nature Center for earth care efforts. The Mission Committee is gearing up to prepare us for another Mission Sunday at FPC this fall. I learned that just this week, the Sew n’ Sews prepared a large shipment of homemade sanitary pads to benefit our neighbors in Ethiopia. Beth MacDonald and Barbara Troisi have been busy processing Deacon’s Fund applications to provide for the safety and welfare of neighbors here in Cache Valley. Barbara and Dorothy Jones visited our neighbors at Williamsburg with Cache Ministries in early July. Truly, there is no summer break in the ministry of FPC Logan! 

    In their meetings in June and July, your session has thoughtfully and prayerfully navigated decisions about worship safety precautions, knowing that there is no “right answer” about how to be the Church in a pandemic. Even among our Presbyterian churches in Utah, there is no uniform approach to worship in these strange days. We are discerning together, and the updated policy you received this week is the session’s most current discernment of how FPC Logan can be both a welcoming and safe house of worship for every beloved child of God, from the under 12 to the most senior among us. In electing the elders to serve on session, you covenant to pray for them and to abide by their decision-making. I hope and pray that you will continue to do both in the coming days and weeks.  

    Earlier this week, acknowledging the presence and concern of the Delta variant, the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA), Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, challenged us, the people of the Church, to “wait on the Lord and be of good courage.” Courage has many faces in Scripture and in our society today, but I am drawn to this Sunday’s passage from John in which the crowd went looking for Jesus. When they find him, Jesus instructs them to work for the food that endures for eternal life and reminds them that he is the bread of life. As we take up the charge to be of good courage, I hope that together, as a church community, we will be on the lookout for Jesus, the bread of life. I expect him to surprise us and challenge us, as he always does with his faithful followers in Scripture, the disciples and friends who want to do as Jesus does in the world. You will find him here at FPC Logan, whether we worship in Bruner or the Sanctuary, with or without masks, and you will find him in the community to which we are called as partners in ministry. Come and behold that God is doing a new thing in this place, if we only have the courage to answer the call, to work for the food that endures, and to fix our sight on Jesus, the bread of life. 

    In Christ’s promises,

    Pastor Meg

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