Today's Lectionary Text
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 in 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.
Mark 10:21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
Have you ever been surprised by God? It is delightful. It is both a thrill and a comfort when God’s presence just pops up. Paul and Silas had that experience when jailed in Philippi. Or, maybe it was really their jailer who got the big surprise, as he discovered that even though the prisoners could have escaped, they had remained. It was a surprise that led to the jailer’s heart being opened to the Good News Paul and Silas had to tell him, and to his belief in that Good News of God’s love for him.
Such a surprise came my way a couple of weeks ago. It was a Sunday following morning worship, our first all-church lunch after COVID, and our first in-person Ad Council meeting. I left the church and went to the ATM at our nearby bank, and withdrew cash for the upcoming two-week period. I decided to allow myself a large pop at McDonald’s, even though I had already had my weekly allotment of one. I went through the drive and stopped to put my straw in place. That is when I noticed a woman calling out to me. As I rolled down my window, I heard her say “I ran out of gas. Can you take me to ...“ and then named an address about a mile away.
Clad in a maxi spaghetti strap dress with a matching headdress and sandals, I concluded she would not harm me. I cleaned a space in my back seat for her, stacking all my stuff on the side right behind my seat. Then I stood by the back passenger door holding it, in case I could help her in some way. She struggled to get in, breathing hard, helping herself with her cane. As she eased her feet into the seat-well her toenails impressed me. Each great toe’s nail was at least an inch in length. Between the cane, the sandals, and the nails, she could not have walked the distance to the location she had named.
Following her directions, we proceeded to what became the first stop. She introduced herself en route as Deidre. I shared my name, and we chatted a bit. Upon arrival at the address, I looked more closely at her. Her face was so soft and beautiful. How kind and respectful she acted. She signaled to the occupant of the house, who came out with the key to unlock the chain-length fence surrounding the little yard. Deidre went inside and came right back with a little gas can.
As we got going to our second stop, I asked her if the man was a family member. Her reply stunned me, “He’s my uncle. He’s so negative. He asked why I was out (in public) without a bra on. I didn’t tell him, ‘I don’t have one on because I can’t afford one.’" She recited instructions to the final destination, not too far away, which was her home. I turned into her driveway, and as she prepared to get out she asked me if I had $5 she could use for gas. I did, but I just handed her a $20 bill. Her response, in addition to “Thank you!” was “This will last me all week. I take my husband to chemotherapy five days a week. Thank you.”
Wow! Was I surprised by God that afternoon! I had prayed for clarity about what small thing I might do that day to bring God’s kin-dom a step nearer. God surprised me with a clear opportunity. Even more God surprised me with a closer glimpse at poverty. I needed to have that reality check and the chance to become acquainted with a beautiful child of God. I was truly blessed that day. Thanks be to God for the surprise!
-Rev. Dianne Tombaugh
Retired Elder, Wichita
Prayer for Reflection
Open my eyes, O God. Expand my heart, Holy One. Help me respond in Your name. Amen
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