Scriptural Reference: Acts 16:25-34

Sermon by: REV. DR. ROY KENNEDY FARLEY JR.

Date Published: MAY 2010

Sermon Text: Acts 16:25-34

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 him sword and saw 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.

Prayer:

Motherly Father, I dare not approach this sacred task without calling upon

your Spirit to take hold of my being, and employ it as you will. Take now

these feeble words, and lift them up so that your people might be

encouraged and motivated as we are ushered into a new season of living.

Hide me now, oh God, behind the old rugged cross so that this waiting

congregation see none me and all of thee. Let now the words of my mouth

and the mediations of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, oh Lord my Rock

and my Redeemer.

With found memories, I recall the Watchnights of my yester-years: I grew up in

a small Baptist church in central Virginia, up the road from the Appomattox

rive—in Bermuda Hundred, where Pocahontas and John Rolfe met and married.

And in similar tradition to the African Ancestors who kept watch in 1862 on

At Midnight

Freedom’s Eve, at midnight, our small congregation gathered to sing hymns

and praise God….

At midnight

On bended knee the small band of believers would give thanks

God for he had done!

At midnight

My folk would say, “thank you Jesus for being so too me!”

At midnight

Tears of gratitude would roll down our faces!

At midnight

Silences would be broken by ecstatic shouts of joy!

At midnight

Sickness gave way to divine healing!

At midnight

Sorrows were turned into festive joy!

At midnight

Fear was transformed into victorious valor!

At midnight

Fret would turn into blessed assurance!

At midnight

Hate was overcome by the power of love!

At midnight

Hungry souls were feed the Bread of Life!

At midnight those who bound the by chains of the past, were set free to

experience liberation and joy in Jesus!!

Brothers and Sisters I tell you, it was at midnight.

Midnight marks the beginning and ending of each day in civil time throughout

the world. It is the dividing point between one day and another. Midnight is

important because it is at this point of time that we are able to turn the day

from present to past.

At midnight, we are able to embrace the newness of the day.

At Midnight

At midnight, we are able to put the past behind us and press toward the

mark for the prize of the high calling in Jesus Christ.

At midnight, we are able to securely rest in the promise of a new day.

Yet for some, there is a dark shadow side to midnight. Midnight represents for

them deep dark places of pain and anguish. Midnight for some is the enlivening

of menace and mayhem in the world. It is for some it a wrestling with the

demonic; forces which eat away at all of the good that lies within humanity.

And for others still, midnight stirs ferocious fear within.

Yet Brothers and Sisters, I believe that:

With God there is something divine about midnight!

With God there is something powerful about midnights!

With God, there is something mystical about midnights!

With God, there is something liberating about midnights!

With God, there is a divine mystery about midnight!

With God, there is something joyous in the mercy that follows midnights!

When we enter into our midnight hour with God, an air of expectation can be

found....

An air of hope!

An air of liberation!

An air of gratitude!

At midnight we grab hold of our hope in the future, and seal the struggles and

strides of the past in the divine grace of God Almighty.

At Midnight

In my sanctified imagination I can see Paul and Silas as they are journeying

toward the place of prayer. On the way they encounter a woman of spiritual

insight, who was gifted with a spirit of divination and used that gift to amass

her owners large sums of money. Day after day this woman’s gift was being

abused and misused. And the Bible tells us that when she fixated her eyes

upon Paul and Silas she began to cry out in the streets, “THESE MEN ARE

SLAVES OF THE MOST HIGH GOD, WHO PROCLAIM TO YOU A WAY OF

SALVATION.” For many days and nights Paul and Silas walked the streets of

the city with this woman crying out behind them everywhere they went:

“THESE MEN ARE SLAVES OF THE MOST HIGH GOD, WHO PROCLAIM TO YOU

A WAY OF SALVATION.” When Paul and Silas could stand it no longer, the

Bible says that Paul, at that instance commanded the spirit, in the name of

Jesus, to come from within her and it did, which greatly distressed her money

hungry owners. When it was learned by them what Paul and Silas had done,

they sentenced with:

At Midnight

DISTRUBING THE CITY---ADVOCATING A NEW WAY OF LIVING, ADVOCATING

A NEW WAY OF BEING IN THE WORLD, BUT NOT OF THE WORLD---TALKING

ABOUT JUSTICE, and TALKING ABOUT PEACE!.”

And Paul and Silas, because of their fervent faith, were thrown into JAIL …..a

placed designed to produce disintegration, disorientation, discomfort,

degradation and deprivation.

JAIL, the absence of self-determination

JAIL, the systematic separation from society

JAIL, the dispiriting of individuals

JAIL, the disorienting of a people

JAIL, the sudden disruption to normal affairs

JAIL, the loss of physical freedom and mobility

JAIL, a placed designed to produce alienation, meaninglessness, isolation, selfestrangement

and human powerlessness.

Brothers and Sisters, Paul and Silas, the very ones proclaimed as “SLAVES OF

THE MOST HIGH GOD”—were bound and thrown into Caesar’s JAIL at Philippi; a

dark tight place hammer out of strong rock. Because of their faith in Jesus

Christ, Paul and Silas were thrown in to JAIL. Standing with and for Jesus,

might at times land you in JAIL, but not just jails of strong rock, but it might

land you JAIL:

Jails of wood

Jails of cement

Jails on land

And even Jails on sea…

JAIL, in the middle passage for enslaved Africans, was the bottom of

stinking slave ship—some named Jesus, others named Angel, and others

still The Grace of God. Where innocent families were separated, bound,

chained and broken.

JAIL, the place where Dorothy Day was thrown when in the1950’s she

deepened the world’s faith in Jesus and uplifted the sacredness of life in

Japan. In divine defiance to the state’s annual civil defense drill, on the

steps of City Hall, Day said, “In the name of Jesus, who is God, who is

Love, we will not obey this order to pretend, to evacuate, and to hide.

We will not be drilled into fear.”

JAIL, the place where Rosa Parks, in 1955, was thrown when she refused

to move her seat—setting ablaze righteous storms of just anger

throughout this country.

JAIL, the place where Martin King, in 1963, on the margins of newsprint

and tiny pieces of toilet paper responded to white clergy and the entire

world, saying “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

JAIL, the place where William Sloan Coffin belted out Halleluiah

choruses, when his faith and conscious stood in stark misalignment with

the southern oppressive laws of the day.

JAIL, the place where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years—almost my entire

lifetime, fighting against the demonic forces of apartheid. On a prison

island, right off the coast of Cape Town South Africa much in the

likeness of Rikkers Island Nelson Mandela stirred his people toward

liberation.

JAIL: a placed designed to produce disintegration, disorientation and

degradation. Yet through the lives of the faithful, God has a miraculous way of

shaking and troubling the unjust foundations of bondage and setting ALL people

free!

In verse 25 of our text, Bible tells us that is was At Midnight, as Paul and Silas

were praying and singing hymns to God, in spite of their situation,—that God

began to shake and trouble the foundations which kept them imprisoned.

Brothers and Sisters, the Good News of our faith is that, like Paul and Silas, we

are each so important to God, that God is willing to cause the earth to shake

and tremble in order to bring about divine liberation from that which binds us

most! The midnight, earth-shaking liberation of God is the Good New of our

faith.

AT MIDNIGHT, when you are backed up are against the walls of injustice, God

will come on down, and begin to shake the foundations which have held you

bound for so long!

AT MIDNIGHT, when you are facing the iron bars of hatred, God will come on

down, and begin to shake the foundations which have held you bound for so

long!

At Midnight

AT MIDNIGHT, when you are chained to abusive and toxic relationships, God

will come on down and begin to shake the foundations which have held you

bound for so long!

AT MIDNIGHT, if you can muster a little song in our heart,

God will begin to move!

AT MIDNIGHT, if you can whisper a little love song to Jesus,

God will begin to move!

AT MIDNIGHT, if you can grab ahold of your faith,

God will begin to move!

AT MIDNIGHT, if you can speak a WORD of encourage,

God will begin to move!

AT MIDNIGHT, if you can sing out “I LOVE YOU LORD,

God will begin to move!

AT MIDNIGHT, if you can offer a little praise,

God will begin to move!

Brothers and Sister, when God intervenes AT MIDNIGHT, God’s longing is for all

to be set free. God does not seek segregated liberation, God seeks liberation

for all.

In verse 27 the bible tells us that when the jailer awoke and saw that the

prison doors were flung wide open the he reached for his sword to end his life,

because he assumed that the prisoners had escaped. But before the jailer

could do any harm to himself, in my sanctified imagination I can hear Paul

shouting out in a loud voice, “BROTHER, BROTHER—DO YOURSELF NO HARM.

WE ARE ALL ACCOUNTED FOR, NO ONE HAS ESCAPED-WE ARE ALL HERE!”

Calling for the lights the jailer rushed in and fell down before Paul and Silas.

Trembling and shaking, realizing that he was in the presence of God Almighty,

the jailer asked a lifesaving question: “Sirs, What must I do be saved?” And

they responded to him, “BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS, AND YOU WILL BE

SAVED, YOU AND YOUR HOUSEHOLD.”

Paul and Silas were deep believers in Jesus. They were Christians living, just

like you and me, on this side of the cross. They were people

—seeking justice, AT MIDNIGHT.

—seeking peace, AT MIDNIGHT.

—seeking love and striving toward the kingdom of God, AT MIDNIGHT.

And it was around about midnight, that liberation dressed in the garb of

salvation carrying with it the earth shaking power of God came upon the jailer

and his entire household. “Believe in the Lord Jesus,” Paul and Silas said and

freedom followed.

Brothers and Sister, midnight is not simply designed to bring freedom to those

who are already invested in the kingdom of God, but it too is designed to offer

freedom and liberation to all who call upon the name of the Lord. We must

understand that liberation is not only designed for the self, but it is designed

for world-wide community. If Paul and Silas had kept their freedom for

themselves, it would have brought eternal bondage to the jailer and weeping

to his household. God’s intervention at midnight became humanity liberating

salvation about midnight.

Brothers and Sisters,

When God intervenes at midnight, mayhem turns into majesty

When God intervenes at midnight, menace turns into divine mystery

When God intervenes at midnight, demonic overtures turn into divine

symphonies

When God intervenes at midnight, death turns into life.

When God intervenes at midnight, God’s power is revealed and God’s Glory is

made manifest in the world.

On Watchnight, we teeter upon the edge of our collective future!

We know not, what the year may bring.

We know not, what the future holds in store.

But we rest in knowing—that with God on our side—We can make it!

At Midnight.

Halleluiah, At Midnight!

W.E.B. Dubois’ Prayer:

We pray tonight, O God, for confidence in ourselves, our powers and our

purposes in this beginning of a New Year. Ward us from all lack of faith and

hesitancy and inspire in us not only the determination to do a year’s work well,

but also the unfaltering belief that what we wish to do, we will do.

Such faith, O Lord, is born of Works. Every deed accomplished finishes not only

itself, but is also fallow ground for future deeds. Abundantly endow us, Our

Father, with this deed-born Faith. Amen.

At Midnight

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