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Devotional: July 9, 2020

Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose.

Startled from sleep, the jailer saw all the doors swinging loose on their hinges. Assuming that all the prisoners had escaped, he pulled out his sword and was about to do himself in, figuring he was as good as dead anyway, when Paul stopped him: “Don’t do that! We’re all still here! Nobody’s run away!”

The jailer got a torch and ran inside. Badly shaken, he collapsed in front of Paul and Silas. He led them out of the jail and asked, “Sirs, what do I have to do to be saved, to really live?” They said, “Put your entire trust in the Master Jesus. Then you’ll live as you were meant to live—and everyone in your house included!”

Acts 16: 25-31 The Message


The conversation between Paul and the jailer begins in the strangest way. It is literally an earthquake which gives rise to the conversation! The jailer is panicked about the jail now being insecure. He imagines all of the prisoners, for whom he was responsible, escaping. His thoughts turn to suicide. He knows that the prisoners’ escape will probably bring death to him.


It is here where Paul steps in. He sees what is going on, and offers the jailer a rebuke (Don’t do that!), and hope (we prisoners are all still here!). All of this occurs because Paul is paying attention to what is going on, and he is not afraid to talk with anyone, even his jailer.


This conversation between Paul and the jailer should inspire us. Who knows what odd circumstances will lead us into an important conversation with a stranger, or even someone we know. Perhaps that conversation will even be life-changing!


I know that many of us are having fewer conversations because of social distancing, and the pandemic. Yet in my experience, people are starved for conversation. So answer your phone, or call someone. Talk with them, and engage with them. If they have questions, answer them to the best of your ability.


Who knows? Perhaps the strange occasion of the pandemic will be like the earthquake: leading you to have the kinds of conversations which would not have occurred otherwise. Once the conversation starts, who knows where it will end? It may drift into serious topics, and even spiritual ones.


One of the great blessings about being a pastor is that people will talk with you. Most people enjoy visiting, and are even curious about some of my spiritual perspectives. A few may feel a bit uncomfortable, and check everything they are saying. Almost always, the conversations I share with others are wonderful and engaging. Frankly, I have missed these conversations. I’m sure so many of you have, also.


Paul did not hesitate to talk with the jailor. Jesus was always ready to engage in conversation with anyone. He talked with people who came honestly seeking answers. He also talked with the Pharisees who were just looking to trip him up theologically. Jesus did not play it safe, and only have conversations that would not make others uncomfortable. No, he had conversations that made people aware of who God was.


My hope and prayer for all of us is that we will always be ready to talk to friends or strangers. Jesus did. Paul did. We can do so as well. A conversation which begins with small talk may eventually lead to spiritual matters, and even salvation. Just ask Paul what happened the night the earthquake hit the jail!


Prayer


Loving Lord,

Thank you for always listening to us. Help us to lead by Your example when talking with others. Direct us into those conversations that may be uncomfortable, and help us to avoid only sticking to those conversations which feel safe. Give us the words and the knowledge as we have opportunities to share your amazing gift of salvation. Thank you that you entrust us with this responsibility. May we be vessels for Your word.

We pray this prayer in your most Holy name,

Amen


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