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Sunday message: Trapped or free—or unsure?

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Ascension Sunday – June 2, 2019

Scriptures:

John 17:20-26

Psalm 97

Acts 16:16-34

On a February day in 1925, Floyd Collins climbed into Sand Cave in search of fortune. Suddenly, his lantern failed. Crawling through the darkness, Collin’s foot hit a seven-ton boulder. It fell on his leg, trapping him in the coffin-like narrowness of a dark, subterranean straitjacket. For days Collins was trapped 125 feet below ground in an ice-cold space 8 inches high and 12 feet long. In the meantime, his plight became a national sensation. As the rescue attempt wore on, some 50,000 tourists bought hot dogs, balloons, and soft drinks from vendors at the cave in Kentucky. But in the end, Floyd Collins died alone in the icy darkness, crying out deliriously, “Get me out. Why don’t you take me out? Kiss me goodbye, I’m going.” 1.)

One of the worst places to be in life — is to feel trapped — a place that sucks all energy from you, a place where you feel captive. You cannot get out. Do you feel you’re held captive? People can be trapped in a whole variety of ways. It can be through addictions, a relationship that they want to get out of, but simply can’t, or behavioural patterns such as bullying, or a relationship of dependency. We can end up in “mental prisons” or “emotional jails” that can lead us to believe there is no escape and that we just have to accept our situation, or that nothing we do will ever improve it. I wonder whether we can even become trapped in our routines?

The slave-girl in our story according to Acts 16 was trapped by a spirit of divination.  She didn’t even know it. Her owners were stuck in a pattern too, hence their anger and reacting with so much vengeance. They did not want her to come out of her art of divination, literally her “spirit of Python.” Once she was freed of that, they couldn’t make money off of her fortunetelling. It was only the divine nature of God in Paul that drove away the divination in the slave-girl. 

Paul and Silas were caught and put in a prison cell afterwards. In this state, were they really trapped? I wonder whether they weren’t actually singing songs in their shackles due to their sense of freedom despite being tied down. 

These songs brought forth joy in the middle of the night. The resulting earthquake set them completely free. Perhaps it was ultimately the faith God instilled in them that enabled them to have a larger perspective. 

There are also times when a dependency puts you in a trapped position, but you are in denial. Perhaps you are in that spot and unsure whether you can or even want to break free or not. 

In this story that we heard from Acts 16, the overriding theme is one of bondage or a freedom from bondage. The “main actor” in the story is God. God’s presence or God not being allowed into the circumstances, is portrayed throughout the narrative. First there is the slave-girl under the power of a spirit of telling fortunes. She knew full well what made the big difference in Paul and his friends’ lives. God was working through them.

How often are we able to make the difference because of the God who works through us, very naturally and without any force? It’s simply God who guides our actions. 

Everything in the narrative comes to a head when the owners of the slave-girl see the difference that Paul and friends made. The end-result after all the flogging and beating? Paul and Silas end up imprisoned. They were a nuisance. More than a nuisance, they brought upheaval and it was uncomfortable to the local people and their authorities. Are we willing to let God work through us in bringing about change, even if it’s uncomfortable for the people around us?

Just a side remark: It does strike me that we as the Presbyterian Church in Canada are once again at a crossroads when our meeting on a national level takes place this upcoming week. Our General Assembly will gently and carefully be voting on important matters. One matter is that we have become stuck with regards to sexuality. Let’s pray to God, the Son Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit for the freedom to discern which way to go towards becoming un-stuck. 

Where are there places in your life where you are stuck, fastened to a predetermined view? God’s love needs to flow. There are many ways in which Jesus the Christ wants us to express our love and to be freed from our fetters. 

Amen

 

1.) Today in the Word, Sept 20, 1990. Source: www.sermonillustrations.com under the keyword “Trapped”

 

Copyright 2019 – Heinrich Grosskopf, Minister of Dayspring Presbyterian Church

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