Today’s reading consists of many layers of past experiences and future expectations laced with the role that business concerns and cultural norms play in the eventual imprisonment of Paul and Silas.
A woman with a divining spirit follows Paul and Silas for many days as they make their way in the city. This woman shouts out exactly who Paul and Silas are: “These people are servants of the Most High God! They are proclaiming a way of salvation to you!” (ceb). It is as if she senses something of the kingdom of God and has become a proclaimer of faith despite the still-raging darkness deep within her soul; she cannot help but tell all and sundry that salvation is at hand.
We do not know how genuine the woman with the divining spirit is. Does she make her proclamation about God and the apostles because she sincerely believes or because she sees a Spirit bigger than the one within her? We know that Paul discerns the “wrong” spirit and commands it to leave the life and the body of the woman afflicted. We see some of God’s grace-already-at-work in the life of this woman.
Today’s reading speaks of the reality of Jesus and of what happens when fortunes are reversed. While we can only imagine what happens to the enslaved woman after Paul sends out the spirit, we know that her owners can no longer profit off her suffering. For that, Paul and Silas are thrown in jail. But it is only the beginning of the reversals their ministry will bring to this city.
Lord, help us to discern the voices around us from your true voice whispering deep within us. We ask in the name and Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
How did you first hear about the gospel? Was it from your family or a friend? Or was it from a completely unexpected source? This week’s readings remind us that God uses many different techniques of revelation. Paul and Silas are in prison in Philippi, and the guard of the prison has no idea that he is about to encounter the power of God and come to faith. The psalmist says that creation itself reveals God’s glory and power. In Revelation, Jesus speaks directly about his future return and reign, as attested by his messenger and by the Spirit. Jesus prays in John for his followers, because through their unity the gospel will be proclaimed to others. Although Jesus ascends to heaven, the revelation of his plan and purpose does not end.
Read Acts 16:16-34. Recall a difficult time in your life. Were you able to continue to praise God through this time?
Read Psalm 97. Write your own word picture of what it means to be a child of God, who is in control.
Read Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21. How has Jesus’ invitation to partake of the water of life changed you?
Read John 17:20-26. What signs of division do you see in your community? How can you work toward the oneness to which God calls us?
Respond by posting a prayer.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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