In the Epistle reading this Sunday, we are again shown the power of God. Apostle Paul and Silas were traveling in Philippi, spreading the word of God, when they met a slave girl who had a “spirit of divination.” In Greek, before translation, she had pneuma pythonos, directly meaning the spirit of the python. The python was the symbol of the prophetesses at the oracle of Apollo at Delphi. The slave girl followed Paul and Silas around, telling everyone that they were servants of God who will show the way to salvation. She shouted this so many times that Paul became annoyed, and in the name of Jesus Christ, exorcized the spirit out of her. A natural reaction to helping a girl get rid of her demons would be for the people to celebrate, be thankful, and to gain faith in the Lord. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Because the slave girl was used by her owners for profit as a fortune teller, they and the rest of the town were very unhappy with her loss of powers. The people saw Paul and Silas, the Jews who had the power to exorcize demons, to be different from them. The townspeople beat and tortured them, and put them in prison. Unfortunately, it is not difficult for us to see similar examples of hate and violence in today’s society toward people who are perceived to be different. We are a world of different ethnicities, cultures, religions, physical appearances and abilities, and personal preferences. We need to stop seeing our differences as threatening or inferior, and start embracing what makes each one of us so special and miraculous.
At some point in our lives, we will all be the target of some form of hate, or jealousy, or misunderstanding. Instead of crying, feeling sorry for ourselves, and giving up, we need to look to Paul and Silas for inspiration. Even though they were jailed, shackled by their feet, in the deepest darkest part of the prison, they were not sad. They rejoiced, singing hymns praising the Lord. They sang so loud that all the prisoners could hear them. So loud and proud that an earthquake shook beneath them and released all the prisoners from their shackles. And then, in another show of true love and faith in God, they did not escape. They stayed and helped guide the jailor and his family to salvation.
During our darkest times, we need to remember the Lord is in our hearts, always with us. Let us turn our thoughts away from hate and violence, and toward love and praise. It is only when we rejoice in the Lord that we are set free from our shackles. Sing loud and break free! Let everyone hear the songs of the Lord. They are the heartbeat of Christianity.