Our “jailer,” the docent at Cape Coast Castle, in Ghana closed the cell door. What little light there was disappeared quickly and I could no longer see my hand in front of my face. The breeze from the sea ceased and the air in the room stilled. In a matter of minutes, I was sweating. The smell from the walls and floor permeated the air. I tried to breathe shallowly to avoid the odor but that didn’t help. I placed my handkerchief in front of my nose instead. It helped a little. If an earthquake had shaken the door open, Paul and Silas would have had to tackle me to keep me still.
We weren’t in the cell very long. It was no more than 10 minutes and after the door was finally opened we talked about what we could do. We talked about the way we still enslave and imprison people literally and figuratively. And we agreed the only answer, the only way to transform the world was to help others see and know Jesus. We can’t stay silent; people need to hear our voices.
Paul and Silas, beaten and in stocks held in the innermost cell – no window to the outside. The only air or light, if any, from the room next door. Darkness, stale air, and the smell of sweat and excrement. Their bodies sore and probably bleeding. And they sang and prayed.
The jailer was in his own prison. Charged with the guarding of prisoners he was enslaved by fear. So fearful of the consequences of making a mistake, he was ready to fall on his sword.
Paul shouted in a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." The jailer called for torches, 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."
Paul freed the slave girl too, from the spirit who had kept her imprisoned for her owners’ personal gain. It had cost Paul and Silas their physical freedom but their knowledge of Christ
Paul freed the slave girl and the jailer. He spoke the Word of God and gave them a new life. We aren’t told what happened with the slave girl. The jailer, transformed, cleansed their wounds, was baptized, and became their host.
We are not to remain silent. There are people we encounter every day that need your voices. The migrant, the refugee, victims of human trafficking – like the slave girl, they suffer under the hands of men and women who exploit them for their own personal gain.
There are those who use any means necessary to obtain what they want or think they deserve. They are imprisoned themselves. The end doesn’t justify the means. The end only justifies the means when the means is the way of Christ, the way of love.
Our families, friends, and colleagues – who are burdened under the weight of debt, alcohol, drugs, or grief
The children who suffer because they are denied an adequate education – who grow up marginally literate – unable to find employment that pays a livable wage.
Those who are abused and neglected - in prison or in detention centers – who live in fear daily and even if released have an uncertain future.
Those in pain – physically or emotionally – who no longer have hope and feel the only way is to harm themselves or others.
There are people who are physically free but their souls are thirsty; their souls are imprisoned.
They need to hear your voices, your stories. To hear about your relationship with God and how and why it makes a difference.
Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
Ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.
Tell them about God’s love and mercy. Tell them how you found forgiveness and grace. Let them hear about your life in Christ.
I didn’t know much about you when I came in September. I had only met Maisie and it was in another context – not connected to Holy Comforter at all. It was an invitation for me to learn how to be a better priest. I did learn what I was supposed to learn about that but I also got to hear your voices.
“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16
With the new building you can no longer hide. There will be people who come because of the building but the building won’t transform lives. It doesn’t really tell people about God and about Jesus.
Jesus has already interceded for you. He has prayed for you to know the love of God so you can show the world who he is. He has prayed that “you may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
God has given you what you need to speak boldly and justly.
Use your voice and your life to tell them about the transformative love of God. Show them the of God, neighbor, and enemy. Tell them about forgiveness, generosity, and faithfulness. Speak for those too weak to speak for themselves, too tired to take another step, too beaten down or beaten up to move.
To do this, the world needs to see and hear you. They can see the building from the street but they need to see you and hear all of you too. And you helped my hone my voice.
And you have a lot to tell them! Tell them who you are. Let them hear how you pray, what you study, and where you go. Introduce them to Christ with stories about your ministries here - Kid’s Hope, the employment ministry, senior care, and missional communities.
Tell them about your youth. If you were here for the stations of the cross, you witnessed the depth and breadth of their faith. Tell them about the reflections they crafted for you, what their mission trips accomplish, vacation bible school.
Tell the searching, the lost, the hopeless, tell the world – that God’s invitation is for everyone especially them.
tell them that Jesus says,
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come."
And let everyone who hears say, "Come."
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
Help them see, through you, what a difference it makes to know the love of Christ.
It doesn’t have to be a 10-minute sermon – but find your voice, and don’t let it be silent.
Help them find to Christ where they are through your voice. Don’t keep this treasure – your lives and faith – a secret.
You are not to remain silent. The world needs your voices, to see how the love of God has transformed you and given you the courage and compassion to intercede for the least, the marginalized, and those who are suffering.
To see and hear the spiritual freedom that comes from knowing deeply that your peace and love comes from and through Christ. Paul, and Silas, were physically imprisoned, but their spirits were free. Free to proclaim the Way of Love.
Jimmy’s sabbatical is a time for you to perfect your voice, to find the octave that proclaims freedom for those imprisoned by fear, by addiction, by exploitation, and by … the list is endless.
You are not to remain silent. Let them hear you.