Introduction to the readings for Mothering Sunday & Communion, May 8, 2016

Our first reading this morning, picks up from just a few verses after last week’s reading and Paul and Silas’ encounter with Lydia, wealthy trader in purple cloths.  Like that encounter, this morning’s story is also one of swift and powerful transformation offering hope and liberation from the oppression of life at the Roman Colony of Philippi.  

The Acts of the Apostles tells of the founding of the Christian church and the spread of its message to the Roman empire. It was thought to be written around 80 - 90 AD

 This section of Acts tells us of Paul’s mission in Asia Minor and the Aegean while accompanied by Silas

 Last week you heard about the baptism of Lydia in Philippi, Macedonia, a Roman colony

Macedonia was the northern province of what we now know as Greece.

Interestingly Philippi, 10 miles north of the Aegean Sea, became a Roman colony after the defeat of Julius Caesar’s murderers, Brutus and Cassius, by Antony and Octavian (the later Emperor Augustus) in 42 BC. (a Roman colony, i.e. a settlement for veteran Roman soldiers who possessed the rights of self-government under Roman laws and freedom from taxes.) (www.padfield.com/acrobat/history/philippi.pdf)

 There were in fact so few Jews in Philippi that there was no synagogue (ten married men were required to establish one), so the Jews who were there met for prayer along the banks of the Gangites River. It was customary for such places of prayer to be located outdoors near running water. (John H. Walton, Archaeological S tudy Bible)

The story of Paul and Silas continues today after Paul & Silas had stayed in Lydia’s house following her and her households her baptism.

 

Listen with care for how this story might inform your own experience of the Risen Christ, this last Sunday in the season of Easter.

Acts 16: 16-34 Paul and Silas are freed from prison

“One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune telling.  While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.”  She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.”  And it came out that very hour.

But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.  When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us to adopt or observe.”  The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods.  After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailor to keep them securely.  Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet to the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.  Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.  When the jailor woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped.  But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 

The jailer called for lights, 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.” 

They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.  At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay.  He brought them up into the house and se food before  them;; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.”

Our second reading this morning comes to us from the final portion of Jesus’ high priestly prayer spoken within earshot of the disciples.  This is the end of Jesus’s farewell discourses with his disciples. In the first 2 verses of the passage Jesus prays for believers in the future and around the world. The final verses are about the glory Jesus gave to and prayed for his disciples Listen for how Jesus’ own intimate relationship with God is expressed in his parental care for his beloved followers.

Reading from Chapter 17 of John’s gospel, verses 20-26

Jesus prays that they may all be one

“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through your word, that they may all be one.  As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they 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.  Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  “Righteous Father, the word does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me.  I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”