Like Paul, we need to find comfort in our current condition
I will confess that I have had my fair share of “grumbling” since COVID-19 was thrust upon us.
Like all pastors serving churches, we have been put in situations where there is a high level of “disgruntlement.” For instance, when the quarantine was put into effect and we could not gather in person, pastors and churches scrambled to get FM transmitters to hold drive-in worship services, or create online worship service opportunities. Our church is blessed with live radio broadcasts each Sunday, so we had that going for us.
But even that doesn’t stop some measure of unrest. When in-person gatherings began, it then became divisive regarding the use of masks. Congregations become divided over how best to safely gather. We are fortunate to have had the resources to provide in-person worship gatherings safely since May 24, which seems so long ago. Providing some measure of stability while mostly has been positive, some have explored other ways to provide safe worship services, such as the aforementioned drive-in services. Throw in racial discord, the adoption of social and cultural issues in professional sports (which used to provide a neutral escape for our society) and the biggest divider, an election year.
Here’s how Paul handled negative situations from his time in prison, where he and Silas were thrown into after doing good things like driving out demons in a possessed woman. Those who were exploiting her possession for financial gain were not happy when Paul’s act of deliverance put them out of business. A not so peaceful protest began with mobs demanding racial justice, specifically for Jewish customs that were illegal for Romans to practice. The encounter ended with Paul and Silas severely beaten and thrown in prison. Did Paul grumble and complain? He certainly had reason to. It would have been understandable. But the Bible records that he was praying and singing hymns to God. Other prisoners couldn’t help but notice. Would that same action be noticed today?
The Bible records that “suddenly” there was a massive earthquake that shook the prison’s foundations. Chains that were on every prisoner fell off. An escape seemed likely. The jailer was about to kill himself, presumably because his retribution would be worse than a self-inflicted death.
Paul interrupted his suicidal efforts with the news that all the prisoners were accounted for. The word of God was shared. People’s hearts were changed. Wounds were cleansed by the jailer. People believed and were baptized. A meal was shared with an entire household of people grateful for God’s message of love, forgiveness and grace embodied through the name and action of Jesus. Freedom from imprisonment and salvation from death occurred all because Paul did not grumble, but instead focused on talking to and worshipping Jesus. I believe that’s what our world needs both in and out of the four walls of the church building today.
REV. JOHN MOXLEY can be reached at Jmoxley1@juno.com.