Written by Daniel Hazard
"Late that night Paul and Silas were praying and singing God's praises, while the other prisoners listened." - Acts 16:25
Some years ago I was with a group from our church on a mission trip in Nicaragua. We were welcomed for dinner at the home of a member of the church we were visiting. After dinner our hosts got up and sang hymns - without hymnals or accompaniment - beautifully.
I was really enjoying this gift until it suddenly occurred to me what was coming next. They would, of course, invite us to stand and sing too. And what would that be, "Jesus Loves Me?" "Kum Ba Yah?" We weren't very well prepared for such sharing because we had few hymns written on our hearts. We would look around and wonder if any of our group were choir members who could take over.
Here, in today's passage, Paul and Silas were singing and praying - worshipping - in, of all places, jail.
Sometimes I wonder if we're too dependent on the idea that worship only takes place in a church building. That we have to have organs or pianos to worship. Or that we have to have hymnals to sing praise to God. Or (worst of all) that you can't worship without a "bulletin."
Suppose you had to do "take-out" worship? That you worshipped the living God wherever you were - in a jail cell, around a campfire, in a home, a hospital, or on the city street? Would you be ready? What hymns do you know by heart? What Scriptures are written upon your heart? Are you ready to pray? And, in the words of Peter, to "give an account of the hope that is in you?"
In truth, worship doesn't happen because of a church building, instruments or bulletins (!). It happens because we trust God, because we want to seek God and need to praise God. It happens because our church has equipped us with the words and ways of worship to take with us wherever we go.
Write your word across our hearts, O loving God, so that when our hearts break, your word will fall into our hearts and heal us. Amen.
Anthony B. Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul's Letters to Timothy for a New Day, and he is also the author of Book of Exodus: A God is still speaking Bible Study. Read his weekly reflections on the current lectionary texts at www.anthonybrobinson.com by clicking on Weekly Reading.