“One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.” (Acts 16:16-18)
Other than this being a story from Paul’s journeys, what I find interesting about this story is the shift in narration. Some of Acts is written in third person, as if it is being reported as what happen to others. But in this passage, and other portions of Acts, the narration is first person – it is happening to the person who is writing the book of Acts. I had notice it in other portions of Acts that have been cited by the Revised Common Lectionary, and thought about making note of it – but never got around to that.
The other interesting thing is that Paul cast out the spirit because she annoyed him! Now, bible commentators give all sorts of reasons why Paul was annoyed. And if I set aside my own baser impulse of needling Paul, I can see where he delivered from the spirit because there was ample evidence that she was doing this out of compulsion and it was a burden to her; of, it was probably a burden to Paul in some way too. (I could not resist!) But, giving credit where it is due, Paul was very powerful in the Lord in being able to do this thing. And he might have known, as it turned out, the the girl’s owners would be very displeased. Paul is/was quite well known for thinking less of his own safety and concerns and acting as he felt the Lord called him to.
“But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities. When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, “These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.” (Verses 19 – 24)
And God used Paul’s impulses to accomplish great things. When Paul got himself into a situation, such as being put in jail, God used Paul’s daring-do to further Paul’s witness. I may poke and tease Paul, but I cannot deny the impact that he had and the impact that God had through him.
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was an earthquake, so violent that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened. When the jailer woke up and saw the prison doors wide open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, since he supposed that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted in a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them outside and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. He brought them up into the house and set food before them; and he and his entire household rejoiced that he had become a believer in God.” (25 -34)
I think, beloved reader, it would be good to reminder that this year’s lectionary theme is confession, penance, and forgiveness. And that we should not define these words too narrowly. Confessing or coming to faith in God is just as much part of this theme as confessing one’s sins. Note too that the jailor did “penance” for the treatment that Paul and Silas suffered. And that as a believer in God, his being forgiven for what he might have done in the past was assured. Paul, along with whatever else he might represent and symbolize, is also a symbol of confession, penance, and forgiveness.
May you beloved reader continue journeying through this taking good advantage of the opportunities that God sets before you; and at every juncture confessing faith and your sins, doing penance for the missteps you have taken, and receive forgiveness through the Lord’s compassion. Selah!