Going Deeper 6-6-19

From our first reading for this 7th Sunday of Easter, Acts 16, these words: “everyone’s chains were unfastened.”  Thus far our text.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ.  Amen.
There are chains in our story.  There are a variety of chains, some literal and some figurative, but all of them heavy and all of them real.  The young slave girl is owned by others, shackled within a system of bondage to her owners, her life under their control.  She is also in a type of spiritual bondage, under the control of a demon.
Paul and Silas spend some time in chains, shackled under maximum security.  There are some political chains involved here, the kind of political maneuvering where truth isn’t really in play.  The girl’s owners are rich and powerful and when Paul and Silas set their slave girl free, they lost an income flow.  Riches and power are yet another kind of chains.  These slave owners were able to bring trumped-up charges that led to Paul and Silas being beaten and shackled.  But then comes an earthquake, and the chains and shackles fall off.
The jailer is somewhat a slave as well, under the heavy foot of the Empire.  He knows what happens to jailers after jail-breaks.  They’re put to death.  He’s inclined to save them the trouble.  
There are chains in our lives.  There are a variety of chains, though none of them are literal but rather figurative.  But all of them nonetheless are heavy and all of them are real.  
We are born enslaved to sin and destined to die.  We cannot free ourselves from the shackles of sin, nor can we be freed from death on our own accord.  Our deadly disease of self-centeredness expresses itself in a variety of ways, but it is part of the human condition… the broken human condition.  It is universal.  We cannot save ourselves.
But there was another earthquake.  Remember?  It happened on a dark day, when the Son of God, known as Jesus of Nazareth, seemingly held to a cross of wood with crude nails and rope, yet in truth held there by love, breathed His last, crying out “It is finished!”  At that moment the foundations of the worldly, spiritual prison were shaken; and immediately the doors to gracious redemption and eternal life were opened and everyone's chains were unfastened.  Grace had won the war.  Sin and death were defeated.
Our would-be master, the Satan, didn’t give up, doesn’t give up.  He tempts us to not trust the truth of grace, and/or to doubt the Gospel story.  Perhaps the deceiver tempts us to believe that while God wants to forgive us, our ongoing struggles with weakness, or addictions, or doubts have finally disqualified us.  He levels charges against us… and they’re perhaps not trumped-up charges.  He reminds us of our limitations and our failures while distracting us from the truth of limitless grace.  He uses deceit, fear, guilt, or shame.  Or he taps into a world of distractions.  
But the Gospel truth is that our chains are gone, we’ve been set free, our shackles have fallen off.  There is no need to sit there in the dark as though they still have a hold on us.  We are freed to live, freed to experience now the transforming power of God’s grace.  We are free to tell Satan where to go.  Like Paul and Silas, we are called and freed to reach out to those jailers and their families around us with the good news of the Gospel, proclaiming that the way to salvation is simple: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.  We have been declared free once and for all.  Amen.