Sermon: The Longest Night

prison-bars-with-candle(EDITOR’S NOTE: What follows is a sermon for December 21st, the longest night of the year. On this night many churches have a “Longest Night” service for those who are struggling to find joy this Christmas, often due to grief. This sermon was shared at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Richmond Virginia, in 2017.)

“The Longest Night”

A Sermon by Matthew B. Harper

The longest night of the year. A time when darkness comes early and stays late, when night feels unexpected and interminable. Tonight we gather to acknowledge that darkness, and to dwell in it quietly; we know it exists, and it’s okay that it does. “Merry Christmas” may not feel all that ‘Merry,’ but it is Christmas and we know the light of dawn is just over the horizon.
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Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118
Colossians 3:1-4
Matthew 28:1-10 jail-bars-bent

by Matthew B. Harper

Prison, with a sentence of any length, is a death. It is one of those experiences that changes you forever. Even if your sentence is short, whatever comes next will be touched by your time in prison. This death is more profound when you have a longer sentence, as I do. Coming to prison meant that my old life, and the plans and dreams I had, all died. Acknowledging that was a long and painful grieving process. It felt like the end of my world, and in a way it was.

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Lectionary: Baptism of Christ A

by Keith Wiglusz

Acts 10:34-43

Peter preached that “God shows no favoritism”. We certainly serve an inclusive God. “Come all those who are tired and heavy laden” seems to be what we all want to hear in this busy world.

I live in a very sheltered world and at times I feel insignificant. I also live in a world of loneliness and deep regret. Could God actually care or even use me still? His word assures me He does and it’s funny how the least of us can actually be used by God.

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Letter of EB to the Churches

St SilasApostolic Letters from Prison

In the book Ministry with Prisoners & Families: The Way Forward, Madeline McClenny-Sadler writes

“What would the apostle Paul do if he heard about the mistreatment of brothers and sisters who return to our congregations and communities after being released from prison? I think we know exactly what Paul would do. Paul would write a letter!” (140)

Thus, McClenny-Sadler offers a “Letter to African American Churches Concerning the Saints Coming Home from Prison.” It uses “the hybrid style of a Pauline epistle and a scholarly article” as a call to action (ibid.)

Inspired by her letter, several contributors take up the same task. The first comes to us from “EB .”

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Lectionary: Pentecost C

by Matthew B. Harper

PENTECOST, May 15, Acts 2

Pentecost is marked in the church with celebration and fire. Our clergy dress in red and our hangings use images of fire and wind. Pentecost is drama.

But to the observers of the first Christian Pentecost what was transpiring looked more like drunken excess. Was there ever a miracle of God so poorly misunderstood? Were there ever prophets more unlikely?

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Lectionary: Easter 7C

by Matthew B. Harper

Acts 16:16–34
Psalm 97
Revelation 22:12–14, 16–17, 20–21
John 17:20–26

We are in the seventh week of Easter, and our extra readings from the Acts of the Apostles are drawing to a close. But before they do, we read this wonderful account of God shaking the very walls of prison. It is a fitting place to read for this Prison Lectionary.

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Lectionary: Ascension

by LA

Ascension A

Acts 1:1-11

The Book of Acts begins with Messiah teaching his Apostles for forty days after his resurrection and commanding them not to leave Jerusalem until the promised Holy Spirit is sent to them. He then ascends up to heaven from the Mr. of Olives. Two men in white, who we are lead to believe are actually angels, tell the Apostles that the Messiah will come back to Earth in the same manner they saw him go up to heaven.

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Friday, Third Week in Lent

by Matthew B. Harper

Mark 6:51-52 – And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened

We like to look to the Apostles as men of faith. We remember how they taught, ministered, and remained faithful unto death. But when we look to the Gospels and the book of Acts, we see that they were much more human. They suffered from doubts and fears. They walked beside Jesus everyday, and they often missed the point. Often Christ is frustrated and angry with the disciples because of their inability to realize who he was, or what His true purpose was.

But they were willing to follow Christ, to trust Christ, and to become transformed. Christ did not choose them because they “got it” or because they were great men of faith or intellect when they started. He called them because of what they could become, and then he helped them become it.

“He [a Christian] does not think that God will love us because we are good, but rather that God will make us good because he loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but rather becomes bright because the sun shines upon us.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

God chose you, not because of what you were, but because of whose you were and what you will become. This Lent don’t just put something aside, or take something on; this Lent – be transformed.

That it may please thee to make wars to cease in all the world; to give to all nations unity, peace, and concord; and to bestow freedom upon all peoples, We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.” BCP 151