Sunday – May 8, 2016
Christ Lutheran Church – Manchester, PA
Did you ever have one of those days? You know, the ones where it seems no matter what you do everything seems to be going all wrong. It might have started out bad by waking up late, or feeling sick, or worse the cat or dog is sick and you step in it, and then your car breaks down, and you receive bad news, and then you forget your lunch, and you receive more bad news, and it just keeps going. The day goes so bad that you just can’t wait until it’s over. And you hope that the next day will be better. It was just one of those days.
Or have you ever tried to help someone and instead of receiving a word of thanks things got a lot worse for you? Maybe you tried to do something nice for someone and they thought you had an ulterior motive. You didn’t, but for whatever reason they didn’t believe you. Or you might have tried to stop an argument and instead the person or persons got mad at you and they told you to mind your own business. You were just trying to help, but it seemed you only made matters worse. It was one of those days.
That was the case for Paul and Silas in our first reading today from the book of Acts. It starts off where Paul and Silas were heading off to go to a place a prayer when they meet a girl who is a slave. And she is possessed by some kind of bad spirit. So Paul and Silas call on the name of Jesus and the bad spirit leaves her. But instead of being grateful, her owners are angry because now that the girl is freed from that spirit, they can no longer use her to make money. In fact, they are so angry that they have Paul and Silas arrested and put in jail. That was not what Paul and Silas had expected. It was one of those days.
We’re not unique in having those kind of days. They’ve happened in the past and they will continue to happen. The question is what do we do when we’re having those kind of days, the kind of days when no matter how hard you try things just go from bad to worse? There’s a multitude of possibilities. Some people just get angry and fight back. Or they push people away and let these kind of days harden their hearts. When you get a lot of these days that turn into weeks and months, your perspective can turn from hope to despair or depression and hopelessness. You start to become synical and wonder what the point is any longer. You may ask yourself, “Why even try? It’s not going to get any better.” You might not even know how to pray any longer.
But that’s just where we have to stop and pause and realize that’s exactly what we need to do when we’re in that kind of a situation. Yet it’s easy to say that prayer isn’t working when we don’t see results right away. The problem is that we have forgotten how to pray like Jesus taught us. We pray to get things, to have things work out the way we want them to. We expect certain results and certain answers and we have a specific time-frame in mind. And if time goes by and our prayer isn’t answered we are tempted to feel that God isn’t listening, or worse yet that God has no intention of doing anything about it. We’ve forgotten how to pray like Jesus.
In our gospel reading today, the writer John takes us back to the night before Jesus was about to be betrayed, handed over to the authorities, and eventually persecuted and then killed. The human side of him certainly did not want to suffer and die. No one wants to feel pain. Yet, instead of Jesus praying for things to go differently, he prays to his Father – our Father – for his disiciples. Jesus is about to face the most horrible of days and yet he prays for those who believe in him and therefore Almighty God. And the amazing thing is he is not just praying for the disciples that were with him at that time. He prayed for “those who will believe in me through their word.” And that means all the people that came to believe in Jesus because of the witness of the disciples all the way through history. That means you and I as well. Thousands of years ago, when Jesus was facing the worst, he was praying for us today. If that doesn’t make you feel both humbled and filled with gratitude I don’t know what will.
We are where we are today because countless people throughout our lives have prayed for us – our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, friends, Sunday School teachers, pastors, strangers, grandparents, great grandparents all the way back generation after generation as far back as Jesus. And Jesus’ prayer is one of unity. He prayed and continues to pray that we will all be one with each other and one with him and one with God. Because unity with God is the most incredible gift of all. That’s why Jesus suffered, died, and rose again- so that we would all be one through him. He doesn’t want anyone to be left out.
When Paul and Silas healed the slave girl of the spirit that possessed her, it was the power of Jesus that healed her and set her free. When Paul and Silas were thrown in jail, it was the power of Jesus that opened up the prison cell and set them free. When the jailer believed because of Paul and Silas’ prayers and actions, it was the power of Jesus that saved him and his family when they were baptized. It is always the power of Jesus that saves and turns our lives around. It is that power that we can rely on when we turn to God in prayer knowing not how things will work out, but knowing that God will work to bring about God’s glory at the right time.
Faced with struggles and challenges in our lives, we need to pray like Jesus taught us. That is what Paul and Silas did and the foundation of the prison cells were shaken with the power of that prayer. They didn’t pray to have the doors opened, they simple prayed and praised God. In fact, after they were inprisoned, they began to sing, which is praying put to music. And that was a witness to the others in prison. We are called to witness in the same way.
Today we celebrate the seventh Sunday of Easter. We celebrate that Jesus has risen from the dead. That in itself, is reason to sing and pray to God in gratitude for that amazing gift that has saved us. Nothing in this world can ever truly defeat us since we have the promise of Jesus with us forever. When Jesus prayed for unity, he prayed for the unity of all people that will come about as a result of the witness of we who are Jesus followers. When we are faced with troubles, and we have faith and know that God will work in the midst of them, and we pray and sing confidently knowing God will act, that is a witness to others. They will see our faith in the middle of our trials just like Paul and Silas, just like Jesus, and they will come to believe in God too and then we will all be one in Christ.
This week as we encounter those days, let prayer and singing be our first response. It’s time to lift our voices in praise and thanksgiving for the gift of Jesus’ resurrection. This week pray without ceasing. Pray for each other, pray for the church, pray for our congregation, and pray that God will open your heart to be the answer to the prayers of others including Jesus. He prayed that we would all be one. It starts with each one of us. One prayer, one word, one note lifted in song can change the world. It starts with each one of us. Today is one of those days. Today is the day to lift our voices in gratitude for Jesus Christ, our risen Savior, who endured one of those days on Good Friday so that we who believe would share in the joy of his resurrection. He is always with us, will always love us, and will always be praying with and for us. That’s Jesus’ promise we can hold on to and rejoice in always. Amen.