Rome & Real Christians - 6/29/2018

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” - Jeff Sessions.

There’s an ancient jail in Filippoi, Greece. Legend (and I’ll bet a gift shop or two) claim that it’s where Paul and his friend Silas were imprisoned without a hearing after they were stripped and beaten for being a threat to the moral fabric of Rome. It didn’t take much to whip up the crowd at their trial into anti-Semitic frenzy. Paul and Silas were foreigners with strange, religious practices and they looked weird too. When Paul and Silas were handed over to a guard, (let’s call him Frank) he threw them into an already overcrowded cell. Tired and bored, Frank decided to fasten their feet in stocks so he could grab a cup of coffee and watch a few episodes of “Star Trek” without having to worry about escape. Everything was nice and quiet in the jail until about midnight. That’s when Paul and Silas got the great idea to start singing and praying. You’d think that the thieves, tax evaders, murderers and draft dodgers sharing the cell would have yelled at them to shut up or convinced Paul to lay down by breaking his other arm. Instead, they just sat there listening to the psalms being sung in Hebrew and to Silas calling out “Daddy” with slurred speech through his bloody nose and fat lip. Before anyone had time to tell them that their Daddy wasn’t there and that jail isn’t church there was a great earthquake. The doors of the jail broke open and everyone’s chains came loose. Frank, having fallen asleep on the employee lounge, woke up on the floor. As the room stopped spinning and the reality of what had happened seeped in he was filled with terror. Whether the God of the Jews would roast him over an open fire for all eternity for imprisoning his children or the Roman legal system would nail him to a cross for letting them escape, Frank knew he was toast. Just as Frank was about to impale himself on his own sword he heard Paul shout, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:28) Frank couldn’t believe it. Paul and Silas convinced all of the prisoners not to run because they were worried about what would happen to Frank. Apparently, they weren’t going anywhere without him. Bewildered, Frank burst into tears, fell at Paul’s grimy feet and asked what he had to do to be saved from everything- from a vengeful God, from a soul sucking, dead end job, from himself and from a brutal world. That’s when Silas and Paul told Frank about how to escape. The story ends at Frank’s house. Smiling like a fool, Frank’s rummaging through the medicine cabinet for Neosporin to dab onto Paul’s whipped back and Silas’ bloody lip. Then Paul and Silas baptize Frank and his whole family. Who knows what happens to Frank when he gets back to work. Whatever punishment waits for him, I bet he prayed to his Daddy and sang psalms through the whole thing. Our Attorney General is right about what Paul wrote in his letter to the Roman Church. Paul begs Christians to be obedient to the law just like he was and just like Jesus was, even at the cost of their own lives. Athough the Empires of this world are now and always have been in open rebellion against God, just like you can tell a storm is coming when you see the sky darken and hear the thunder, you can tell Jesus’ Kingdom is on its way when we hang out with Frank, when we take care of the poor, when we provide refuge for the stranger, when we pray for our President and Attorney General and when we return evil with good. Rome can always stamp out revolutions. What it can’t withstand is real Christians. Your sister in Christ, Rev. Laurie

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