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Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

August 2019


August 4, 2019  "Five Lies & the Truth" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

July 2019


July 28, 2019  "Walking Hand in Hand" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

June 2019


June 23, 2019  "The New, True You!" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 16, 2019  "The Fuzzy Logic of Discernment" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 9, 2019  "Speaking of Dreams and Visions" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2, 2019 "Who's the Prisoner?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

May 2019


May 5, 2019 "Vision Correction" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

April 2019


April 21, 2019 "So, Where Is He?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 14, 2019 "A Wondrous Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 7, 2019 "For Love, or Money?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2019


March 31 "Grace Forgotten" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 17, 2019 "The Love that Won't Quit" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2019


February 17, 2019 "The Kingdom Vision" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 10, 2019 "Fishing Tips for Amateur Anglers" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 3, 2019 "Grace Unlimited" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2019


January 13, 2019 "The Promise of Baptism" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 6, 2019 "The Message of the Magi" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2018


Christmas Eve, 2018 "Self-giving Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 23, 2018 "Sing Along" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 2, 2018 “Living in Between" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2018


November 18, 2018 “Persistent Witness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 11, 2018 “Everyday Foxhole Faith" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2018


October 28, 2018 “True Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 21, 2018 “How the Truly Great Get that Way" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 14, 2018 “The Cost of Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2018


September 30, 2018 “Holding It All Together" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 23, 2018 “Gentle Wisdom" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 16, 2018 “Finding the Right Words" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 9, 2018 “Jesus: Savior...and Lord?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

June 2, 2019

“Who’s the Prisoner?” by the Rev. Don Wahlig, June 2, 2019, Year C / Easter 7 – Acts 16:16-34  •  Psalm 97  •  Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21  •  John 17:20-26

THEME:  Trusting in Jesus frees us from the prison of fear to experience the joy of love.

 

Last fall, I had the opportunity to do something I’ve always wanted to do.  I finally got the chance to tour the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia. Have you been there?  It’s a fascinating place. 

The prison itself was closed in 1971.  Then it reopened in 1994 as an historic site.  Today, it’s open to the public.  For a small fee, you can take a self-guided tour, which is exactly what I did that Saturday afternoon.

When it first opened in 1829, it was America’s first modern prison. It was the first one to have central heating, flush toilets, and shower baths in each private cell.  These things weren’t even available in the white house at the time.

And over the years, it became the temporary home for some of our nation’s most famous criminals, including Al Capone. It was also the scene of some of our most famous prison escapes.  The most famous escapee of all was Slick Willie Sutton, aka “The Gentleman Bandit”.  

Willie Sutton was smart, devious, charming and a master of disguise.  But that didn’t stop him from getting caught when he held up a Philadelphia bank using a machine gun.

Willie was sentenced to Eastern State Penitentiary in 1934.  Over the next 11 years, he tried to escape no less than five times.

The most famous attempt happened in 1945.  It’s known as the tunnel escape.

Willie supervised a crew of 12 fellow prisoners who worked in two-man teams in 30 minute shifts.  Using spoons, tin cans and little picks, they dug a 2 ½ foot opening through the back corner wall of cell number 68.  Then, they dug twelve feet straight down and another 100 feet out beyond the prison wall and up to the street level.

On April 3rd, 1945, after months of digging, the tunnel was finally ready.  On their way to breakfast that morning the 12 men made their escape. 

At the time, my mother and her family lived two blocks away on Green Street.  She was 19 years.  She vividly remembers the terror that gripped everyone when they got word of the escape.

Unfortunately for the escapees, their freedom was brief.  By the end of the day half were recaptured.  Within three months, all of them were back behind bars.  For their ringleader, Willie Sutton, freedom lasted a mere 3 minutes, because he literally ran into two policemen on Fairmount Avenue.

But for all of them, no matter how long their freedom lasted, there was a moment of sheer joy, euphoria.  They rejoiced as they clamored out of that tunnel and looked around, squinting in the morning sun, looking at all the other free people.  After years spent behind those prison walls, they caught a glimpse of the real world.

That euphoria is exactly how the jailer felt in our passage from Acts.

He was just an ordinary guy with an ordinary family doing his best to provide for them.  We can be fairly sure he was someone other people considered trustworthy – after all, you don’t give the prison keys to just anybody.

Whether he realized it or not, he was in prison, too.  He was a pawn in the Roman Empire, a system that held him solely responsible and personally accountable for ensuring that prisoners stayed in jail. 

The assumption was that, if they escaped, he was the one who let them do it.  The penalty was death.

As a result, he lived in constant fear.  And that fear made a stressful job even tougher.  No doubt, that was as true for him then as it is for prison guards today.

Several recent studies have shown that, among all US workers, corrections officers experience some of the highest rates of mental illness, sleep disorders and physical ailments.  The rate of PTSD among prison guards is just shy of 20%.  That’s six times the national average. It’s comparable to those in active military deployment in combat zones.

The root of their stress is fear, plain and simple:  the fear of violence.  And that same fear of violence was also the basis for all power in ancient Rome.  The very existence of the Roman Empire was predicated on fear.

Fear was a tool Rome knew how to use all too well.  There’s no better example of that than crucifixion. 

The Empire was always under-policed. By the time of Jesus, the Romans had conquered so much land and so many peoples, there weren’t enough soldiers to keep order everywhere.  

So they used crucifixion as a highly visible method of execution in order to instill fear in the general populace as a deterrent to rebellion.

That’s why the jailer was so afraid when he woke after the earthquake to find all the doors of his prison open.  It’s why he was prepared to do himself in, rather than wait for the Roman authorities to do it for him.

And it’s also why he felt such overwhelming relief and joy when Paul called out, "Don’t harm yourself, we’re all here." 

In a flash, the question that went through his mind was the same one you and I would ask:  why on earth are you all still here?

But, then, in the next instant, he began to connect the dots.  He remembered those oddly peaceful and curiously happy hymns Paul and Silas sang earlier that night as he drifted off to sleep.

And he recalled how unusually quiet the other prisoners were as Paul and Silas prayed aloud, including that one prayer that began “Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name.  Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is heaven.”

And then, in a moment of sudden clarity, this jailer had an “Aha!” moment.  He understood there was a God greater than any of the ones he knew, a God who ruled his kingdom not by fear, but by love; who saved his people not through violence, but by choosing to become fully human and willingly sacrificing himself on the cross.

Which meant he actually chose to endure the single most humiliating death imaginable, so that everyone who believes in him could be saved.

That’s when he thought, “Sign me up. I’m tired of living in fear, wondering when the axe might fall!” 

And these two Jewish prisoners know this God.  So, he asks, Paul “What must I do to be saved?” 

Friends, at one time or another, haven’t we all felt like that jailer did?  Whether by choice or necessity, we’ve all found ourselves in situations where power is exercised through fear.  It’s not fun.

Some of you grew up in homes like that, where a parent ruled with a constant iron hand.  Most of us, somewhere along the line, have had a teacher or a coach who did the same.

Maybe you’ve had to work in an environment like that, one where your boss thinks fear is the only way to motivate performance. 

But as psychologists and business consultants have shown time and again, unless there is imminent life-threatening danger, fear is a lousy motivator.  It produces compliance in the short-term, but in the long-term it damages pretty much everything and everyone.

For all of us who’ve experienced that kind of tyranny, there inevitably comes an “Aha!” moment when we come across someone like Paul and Silas, people whose peace and joy are obvious, even in difficult circumstances.

And we want that.  We want that peace, that joy.  And we realize, with sudden clarity, that we too can have it. 

All we we have to do is what Paul told his jailer to do:  put our trust in Jesus. 

What that really means is, first, trust that he is the living proof of just how much God loves us.  Second, trust him by doing what he commanded:  loving others the same way.

Even for those of us who’ve been Christians a long time – maybe our whole lives – there’s always room for more trust. 

And a funny thing happens when we manage to do that.  We discover anew just how trustworthy God is. 

That doesn’t mean he won’t test us.  And it doesn’t mean we won’t have hard times. 

But it does mean we never go through them alone.  Because we not only have God with us; we have one another.   

And we’re not afraid of one another, because we’re no longer prisoners of fear. 

Then, like Willie Sutton and his fellow escapees emerging out of that dark tunnel and into the light real world outside, we taste the joy of true freedom – the freedom that comes from being loved, and loving one another.

Now I’m not suggesting you go and get yourself tossed in jail in order to enjoy this kind of escape, but with even just a little bit more trust in God, we can all know that joy.  

It was true for Paul’s jailer.  It was true for his family.  And, friends, it can be true for you and me.  May it be so.

Last Published: June 4, 2019 10:03 AM
Sermons

Click here to view Worship Videos.

For sermon texts, please click on the links below.

August 2019


August 4, 2019  "Five Lies & the Truth" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

July 2019


July 28, 2019  "Walking Hand in Hand" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

June 2019


June 23, 2019  "The New, True You!" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 16, 2019  "The Fuzzy Logic of Discernment" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 9, 2019  "Speaking of Dreams and Visions" by Rev. Don Wahlig

June 2, 2019 "Who's the Prisoner?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

May 2019


May 5, 2019 "Vision Correction" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

April 2019


April 21, 2019 "So, Where Is He?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 14, 2019 "A Wondrous Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

April 7, 2019 "For Love, or Money?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

March 2019


March 31 "Grace Forgotten" by Rev. Don Wahlig

March 17, 2019 "The Love that Won't Quit" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

February 2019


February 17, 2019 "The Kingdom Vision" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 10, 2019 "Fishing Tips for Amateur Anglers" by Rev. Don Wahlig

February 3, 2019 "Grace Unlimited" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

January 2019


January 13, 2019 "The Promise of Baptism" by Rev. Don Wahlig

January 6, 2019 "The Message of the Magi" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

December 2018


Christmas Eve, 2018 "Self-giving Love" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 23, 2018 "Sing Along" by Rev. Don Wahlig

December 2, 2018 “Living in Between" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

November 2018


November 18, 2018 “Persistent Witness" by Rev. Don Wahlig

November 11, 2018 “Everyday Foxhole Faith" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

October 2018


October 28, 2018 “True Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 21, 2018 “How the Truly Great Get that Way" by Rev. Don Wahlig

October 14, 2018 “The Cost of Discipleship" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

September 2018


September 30, 2018 “Holding It All Together" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 23, 2018 “Gentle Wisdom" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 16, 2018 “Finding the Right Words" by Rev. Don Wahlig

September 9, 2018 “Jesus: Savior...and Lord?" by Rev. Don Wahlig

 

Click here for previous sermons

 

 

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