Acts 16:16-34 (NRSV)
Verse 16One 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. Verse 17While 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." Verse 18She 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. Verse 19But 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. Verse 20When they had brought them before the magistrates, they said, "These men are disturbing our city; they are Jews Verse 21and are advocating customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to adopt or observe." Verse 22The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates had them stripped of their clothing and ordered them to be beaten with rods. Verse 23After they had given them a severe flogging, they threw them into prison and ordered the jailer to keep them securely. Verse 24Following these instructions, he put them in the innermost cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
Verse 25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Verse 26Suddenly 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. Verse 27When 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. Verse 28But Paul shouted in a loud voice, "Do not harm yourself, for we are all here." Verse 29The jailer called for lights, and rushing in, he fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. Verse 30Then he brought them outside and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" Verse 31They answered, "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." Verse 32They spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. Verse 33At the same hour of the night he took them and washed their wounds; then he and his entire family were baptized without delay. Verse 34He 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.
Today is the 100th anniversary of my father’s birth in the farmhouse with a view of the steeple of Spring Garden Lutheran Church, rural Cannon Falls, Minnesota, on the horizon. Just twenty days later he was baptized there in the same unifying spring waters where generations of our family had been baptized.
The ministry of Paul and Silas in Philippi freed a slave girl from the demon that possessed her, and from slave owners who used her for an ill-gotten income. For doing this, angry crowds mocked, stripped, and flogged them; sufferings not unlike those of Jesus before them. When city officials jailed them, by faith they prayed and sang hymns at midnight, ministering to a jailhouse full of prisoners. When God intervened and freed Paul and Silas and all those imprisoned, the salvatory upshot came in Word and Sacrament, as the jailer heard, believed and, with his entire household, was baptized without delay!
Christian fellowship followed, in which we too share, freed through the same unifying word and water!
Most merciful God, we confess that we are captive to the forces of evil and sin and cannot free ourselves. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, forgive and free us according to your will. Amen.