The Chain Gang

Sermon from June 2, 2019
Acts 16: 16-34
Christ Church, Temple, Texas

Alleluia! Christ is risen.
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

I know that this completely dates me to admit this:
But I grew up in the 1980s.
And I still think that 80s music is some of the greatest.

In 1982, a hit single came out and rose to the top of the charts.
This hit song from 1982 is called:
“Back on the Chain Gang.”

“Back on the Chain Gang” is from a rock group called the Pretenders.
And the song concludes like this:

{sung}
“I found a picture of you.
Oh, oh, oh, oh.
Those were the happiest days of my life…
Now we’re back on the train, yea.
Back on the chain gang.”

Now you might not know that this fun dance party song from the 80s by the Pretenders – was actually written and performed from a place of grief and pain.

You see, one month before “Back on the Chain Gang” was written, the guitarist with the Pretenders, had died from a drug overdose.
And then two days before that, the longtime bassist was fired from the group, because of his drug problem.
In response to this loss from drug addiction, the remaining two performers in the Pretenders had to add a few more musicians, in order for them to record the hit song “Back on the Chain Gang.”

The rock group performed “Back on the Chain Gang,”
While bound up in the chains of disappointment and loss,
While bound up in the chains of drug addiction.
While bound up in the chains of grief and death.

In the Bible, in all of the Scriptures, we meet people who are bound up in chains.
Especially in our scripture reading from the Book of Acts this morning, we meet women and men who are on the chain gang.

In the Book of Acts, a slave woman is bound up in chains – as a part of the chain gang.
This slave woman is forced by her owners to be fortune teller, for money.
This woman is bound up in the chains of forced labor.
Yet the Holy Spirit frees her from her chains.

In the Book of Acts, the apostles Paul and Silas are bound up in chains – as a part of the chain gang.
Paul and Silas are thrown into prison because they had prayed for the Holy Spirit to free that slave girl.
Yet the Holy Spirit frees Paul and Silas from prison and chains.

In the Book of Acts, the jailer is bound up in chains – as a part of the chain gang.
The jailer feels guilt and shame because Paul and Silas escape from prison.
The jailer almost commits suicide.
Yet the Holy Spirit frees the jailer from his shameful chains.

The slave girl who tells fortunes – is in the chain gang.
Paul and Silas – are in the chain gang.
The failed jailer – is in the chain gang.
Yet the Holy Spirit of Jesus frees all of them from their chains.

Even today, all of us are a part of the chain gang.
We are bound up and imprisoned by sin and loss and disappointment and addiction and failure.
Yet the Holy Spirit of Jesus frees us.

Last week, I was unfortunately reminded about the many chains that bind us.
As our country commemorated Memorial Day last Monday, I was reminded of the chains that bind us.
I was reminded of the many chains that bind us –
Because of a post and reply on Twitter.

You see, last week, the United States Army put out a tweet.
The U.S. Army tweeted out this question:
“How has serving impacted you?”

The Army then posted a short video of a young military man in uniform, testifying how his service has given him courage and made him a better man.

Yet the U.S. Army’s tweet actually had the opposite effect of their desired result.
Within hours, thousands and thousands of veterans responded on Twitter to the tweet:
“How has serving impacted you?”

As of yesterday, over 12,000 service women and women have replied to this tweet, testifying how their military service has impacted them:
They have tweeted – about debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.
They have tweeted – about illness from Agent Orange and rare diseases.
They have tweeted – about suicides and broken marriages.
They have tweeted – about sexual harassment and assault at the hands of superiors.

The twitter feed of the U.S. Army after Memorial Day – ended up not being a tribute to courage and service.
Instead, the twitter feed of the U.S. Army after Memorial Day – was a long, long list of ways that those in our military service have lived as part of the chain gang.
The twitter feed was the cry of wounded people, people who have been bound in chains.

You and I are bound up by the chains of sin and battle and disappointment and abuse and addiction and failure.
Yet the Holy Spirit of Jesus frees us.

The Holy Spirit of Jesus frees us – because in Jesus, we are forgiven, forever.
The Holy Spirit of Jesus frees us – because in Jesus we know that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.
The Holy Spirit of Jesus frees us – because in Jesus, we are no longer part of the chain gang.
In Jesus, we are a part of the unchained gang.

girl with raised hands and broken chains

And that is why we gather in church, Sunday after Sunday.
We gather in church – to remember Jesus, Jesus who is risen and ascended, breaking the bonds and chains of sin and death.
We gather in church – to celebrate our freedom, celebrating with a Passover meal of bread and wine.
We gather in church – to bust out of jail, to take metal cutters to our chains, and to live as escapees.

Therefore, we live each and every day as part of the unchained gang.
Because unchained, we are certain.
We are certain that we have been forgiven, forgiven for the worst thing we have ever done.
Unchained, we are certain.
We are certain that no sin, no war, no abuse, no addiction, no failure – has any power over us.
Unchained, we are certain –
That we are loved.

My dear sisters and brothers:
You are no longer a part of the chain gang.
You are unchained and released.

Because in Jesus,
You are free.

AMEN.

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One comment

  1. Paulette · · Reply

    One of your best. Gut wrenching and glirious at the same time.

    >

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