“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything on this blog. Depending on whether or not you like anything I write, I can either say, “I’m sorry,” or “You’re welcome.”
So. It’s Friday and we’re in a pandemic. Ok, then. THAT’S not what I was planning to spend my spring doing, but there you are. Suddenly I am on Facebook, Instagram and email now more than I have ever been before; not because I particularly love it, but because, as this Corona virus flows further into the world, there are fewer places to go if you want to stay connected at all. So I am here at my computer, surfing and typing and blogging away.
Without wanting to get overly dramatic, it feels a little bit like being in prison.
I know that I am greatly blessed; I don’t have the fears and challenges of so many others right now. I’m middle aged but healthy, my work allows me to work from home, I am not caring for people who are ill. My parents, who would have been in their late 90s now, are beyond suffering or pain. I am blessed beyond measure, and certainly more than I deserve. I have resources to help others and am grateful to be able to use them. And yet, even the most blessed among us are being confined. And there’s a lot of fear whispering around the cells of all us prisoners.
So I look to the Good Book for advice, or counsel or example. And, as usual, it’s there.
In the book of Acts, we find Paul and Silas in prison, not for having preached the Gospel, but for having driven out a demon from a slave who through the power of the demon, was foretelling futures and making money for her owner. When the owner lost his golden goose, he turned Silas and Paul in. Yep, it was about money. He threw them in prison where people curse and wail and rage and bang their heads against the bars. And what was Paul and Silas’ reaction? They started singing.
And the prisoners were listening to them.
Because who does that? Only the very weird or the very strong.
It doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to see the parallels here and now. There are voices shouting dire words louder than those of the doctors and medical personnel who know better: “It’s a Chinese virus.” “Hoard those medical supplies.” “It’s a political hoax.” Fortune tellers making money for the few, power for the wicked, and influence for those who feed on our fear. Those doomsayers are slaves to dark masters, and calling out the falsehood of those voices puts the few, the wicked and the fear mongers at risk of loss. Make no mistake, they will not like it and they will turn on you. They will do everything they can to imprison you for spoiling their attempts at using this for their own gain.
I find myself sometimes wanting to just close the door to my room, watch TV, take a nap, or generally ignore it. It starts to feel like too much. The worry starts humming in the back of my mind as the news rolls on, the number of cases rises, the politicians argue and pontificate and it all seems so completely insane.
Yet like Paul and Silas, we don’t need to fear them. When we use our voices to call out what is right and true, when we refuse to trade our caring for fear or our reason for prejudice, we do the extraordinary – we stay free ourselves even as we set those slaves free. That is the power of Jesus – no chains are strong enough to hold up to his voice or the song he gives us to sing.
The right voice is all it takes to quiet the noise down for a while. It won’t melt iron bars or turn stone to dust, or sanitize a room. It’s not wishful thinking, or magic. It’s not foolish optimism. It’s deeper and more long lasting. It gives us another song to hear other than the one of despair. A song that lights up a dark space. A song that keeps hope going strong so it’s there to rely on. A song that keeps us going when we wash our hands yet again, wipe down the counters, pray for our family, call our neighbors, email our friends, and clean the windows until we can open them wide and leave this time to history.
Each one of us has a song. Each song has a message, and we get to choose which message we will give. Like the fortune teller, we can be enslaved parroting the words of those who would separate us in spirit. We can wail and rage, point fingers or shout in righteous indignation. Or we can sing the gospel of hope and resilience, like Paul and Silas, unifying each other even through the walls.
I have to remind myself of this, because sometimes my song seems too small to matter. But it does. And so does yours.
Your song matters. We do not know how close we are to a midnight of this pandemic. But the power of your voice does not diminish, especially if you are willing to give it to prayers of faith and songs of joy. Decide what you will do with your voice, and I’ll do it too. It’s dark out there.
There are prisoners listening.