I was very struck by this morning's first reading from the book of Acts. In this narrative, Paul and Silas exorcise a divining spirit from a slave girl who is being exploited by her owners. Later they are locked up in an "inner prison" and an earthquake sets them free. The jailer is about to commit suicide (as he will surely be blamed for letting them escape) but Paul assures him that he and Silas are still there. The jailer then asks what he must do to be saved and is baptized along with his entire household.
How many of us find ourselves locked in an "inner prison"? And how many of us assume that freeing those parts of ourselves that have been locked up for so long is bound to be a disaster?
Here is an excerpt from a commentary I found on this reading. It has given me much material for reflection:
You can read the entire commentary right here.
When the jailer asks Paul what he must do to be saved, Paul answers simply that he should "believe on the Lord Jesus." This is still a difficult question today, and Paul's answer presents its own challenges as well. Perhaps we need to spend much more time on what it means to "believe" (and Marcus Borg has written so helpfully on this in books like The Heart of Christianity). However, Ronald Cole-Turner's reflects on this question in the context of this story and poses this question for each one of us, personally: "What must I do," he asks, "to be saved from what destroys me? What must I do to be saved from my particular bondage, my oppressive addiction, emptiness, or boredom? There are countless ways to lose our way in this world or to be in bondage, just as there are many different threats from which we need to be saved." One of the most powerful captivities of our age, besides materialism and militarism, is the way fear can imprison us in our convictions and our desire for security, making us unable to open our hearts and minds to others, to events, to the God who still speaks through them. How amazed the jailer must be, just as he's about to kill himself, to see that the prisoners are still there! Fear almost leads to death, but compassion leads to his life, and his family's life, being transformed. Cole-Turner writes that "Believing….means becoming decisively aware that our small lives are swept up into a great drama, God's story line. God is indeed reaching out to us in Jesus Christ, taking our lives into the gospel story of transformation and redemption."
-- The Rev'd Kate Huey