Sunday, October 16, 2016:
2 Timothy 3:14 - 4:5
Light is sown for the righteous
and gladness for the upright in heart.
Life and Light of the world, from of old Thou hast been our Redeemer. Thou art the hope of the prisoner in the dungeon....
Free all Thy children from the fetters of tyranny and oppression...
Endow us with renewed courage to face our tasks unafraid, and strengthen us to do Thy will with perfect hearts.
[Prayer on the evening that begins Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement, which falls on Wednesday, October 12th, this year): Union Prayerbook for Jewish Worship, Part II, 1952 edition.]
Here at Bethel, we have announced a roundtable learning and sharing experience for Saturday, October 22nd that I’ve been calling “conversation: incarceration.” As of this Wednesday, the announcement will have been in the Valley Banner for three weeks. “Hebrews 13:3 says, Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them…. Among the voices present will be Kingsway Prison and Family Outreach and All God’s Children Camp. We want to hear your experiences with the people and the systems, what works and what is broken. Come, bring your experiences and your ears. Be a part of the conversation, for God’s sake.”
We will be providing a light soup-and-sandwich supper for those in attendance.
You may well be asking, “Why are we having THIS at our church ? What does this have to do with us?” Those are serious questions.
Please stick with me as I attempt to list the people who are involved in the incarceration system in our country. Are you on this list ? Maybe you will think of some folks I have missed: if so, please tell what you know.
a) law-abiding citizens who just want to be safe in
their persons and their property
b) lawbreakers of various types. Some are out of
their minds on alcohol or other drugs; some have
clinical mental illnesses. Some are currently
living in facilities; some are on the loose; some
are under supervision, such as probation
c) various types of police and security guards,
working for the public and in for-profit
companies, and their support personnel
d) prosecuting attorneys, working for the state or
e) people who work for jails, prisons, and
supervision at all levels: again, some are
working in public facilities, while others work in
privately-owned, for-profit ones
f) forensic scientists and other experts
g) taxpayers and voters, who have a stake in the
working of all types of criminal justice
institutions, public and private: in the case of
for-profit facilities, there are owners/
h) judges and court personnel at all levels
[It happens that our gospel lesson for this coming Sunday is Jesus’
parable of a judge who neither feared God
nor had respect for people ]
j) bail bond people and their enforcers and funders
k) people who are wrongly accused and sometimes
even convicted for things they didn’t do
l) families of the incarcerated, including children
of all ages
m) people who advocate for victims of crime
n) mental healthcare providers: a large fraction of
people in the incarceration system need their help
o) advocates for prisoners, including chaplains
Whew!! That was a list and a half. Thanks for bearing with me, through all of that.
So, do you know any of those people ?
Actually, if you were paying attention, you see that you definitely are in at least one of those groups— as a taxpayer and a voter.
And, if you are a follower of Jesus, you are under Jesus’ instruction to see him in “the least of these, [his] brothers and sisters” – which includes the guiltiest, ugliest, meanest, dumbest, craziest, poorest, ... etc.. “Remember those who are in prison. as though you were in prison with them.”
October 22nd, come out and consider the prisoner. Listen, and speak your piece, as the Spirit directs.
And the Lord said, “... Will not God grant justice to His chosen ones who cry to Him day and night? Will He delay long in helping them?
I tell you, He will quickly grant justice to them.” -Luke 18:6-8