Acts of the Apostles...The Movements of the Mysterious Spirit. The last six weeks of Easter have taken us on a wild ride through the life of the early followers of Jesus. Blinding lights from the sky, Dorcas raised to life, a Roman military officer baptized, visions and dreams, women leading and beginning churches, and more baptism.
This week’s narrative picks up right where we left off last week in Philippi. Luke, Paul, Silas, and Timothy, are living with Lydia and her community of (now) Jesus followers—the first community of its kind in Europe. As Luke and his companions are walking to that familiar synagogue down by the river, they meet a girl that is enslaved both by a spirit and by the people who make money from her ability to speak fortunes. The disciples would pass by her regularly, and she would always shout the same thing: “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to a way of salvation." An entirely true assessment of Luke, Paul, and The Way of Jesus. At one point, Paul has had enough and commands the spirit out of the girl.
She is free from the spirit. Her narrative, in our text, complete.
We are left to wonder where she goes from that initial moment of freedom. Is she still enslaved by the powers and systems of bondage and oppression? Does she have a family? Perhaps Lydia was walking with them to the synagogue and welcomed her into her community of sharing purple cloth makers?
American Christian culture often puts an emphasis on the conversion event, the instant gratification of a service project, a short-term mission, or a flashy worship music set. I think sometimes we are like Paul in this moment—swooping in like Superman and freeing the girl from the bondage of the spirit. A powerfully transformative moment, indeed! Yet, as a community, we must be mindful that the protest movement of the Gospel is a sustained subversion of the systems and powers that continue enslave and possess people today. Are there people we have left behind? How can we act as a community to walk alongside people in solidarity, unity, and grace? After all, this early community of people is characterized by a journey, a road. In our text today Paul and Silas are thrown in jail for their economic and political act of liberation. Perhaps we are called at this point to insert ourselves in the mysterious movement of the Spirit and extend radical hospitality and hope to the one still in need.