Palm Sunday

by Matthew B. Harper

Psalm 22:1 – My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Throughout all of Jesus’ travels, through all of his earthly ministry, Jesus often went away to be alone to pray; but not so on this night. On this night, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus kept his friends close. I believe it was in this garden, on this night, when our salvation was truly forged. Jesus pleads with God, he begs to avoid the horror of the crucifixion, and then he follows God’s will.

When I was preparing to come to prison I too surrounded myself with friends. We are together and talked. They helped me pack up some of my belongings for long-term storage, and I gave much away to them. The morning before I went away a group of friends came over to my house and our rector celebrated communion with us. Before leaving, my Love and I held each other close, and then I left. I went to prison with my head up, but it was only by the strength of my faith and my friends that I was able to do so. And when I broke down in fear, pain, and regret many times in the next few years, it was those friends that have given me strength, and taught me how to be a better man.

We are not meant to walk this journey through the world on our own. God has given us a great gift in the presence of each other, and we should draw strength from that. Even in the depth of his pain our Lord turned to us, lowly mortals, for companionship and comfort. Can we do any less?

So if it is listening when someone is in distress, holding someone when they cry, or simply standing beside someone when tragedy strikes, be there when you are needed.

Almighty God and everlasting God, who sent thy Son our Savior to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross: mercifully grant that we may both follow in the example of His patience, and also be partakers of His resurrection, Amen” BCP168

Lectionary: Epiphany 4B

jail-bars-bent

Matthew B. Harper

A Sermon for Epiphany 4B

Deuteronomy 18:15-20
1st Corinthians 8:1-13
Mark 1:21-28

Sometimes I think that perhaps life is simply safer and easier in prison than out. Life in here can be difficult, painful, and violent, but there is a clarity and honesty to it. The outside world, one I’ve only seen on TV and in glossy magazines for 20 years now, seems to be consumed with acrimony and judgment. Rather than bringing us closer together, new technology is just documenting how we are splitting ourselves into tribes, and casting our anger at others. We are a world in need of a savior.

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Lectionary: Proper 23C / Ordinary 28C / Pentecost +21

by CM

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7

When a child is born into this world it is a result of actions commenced by a myriad of individuals, none of whom happen to be the child. Of course, there are the parents but we often overlook the fact that there are four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, and the number continues to increase as the generations go back. Each coupling is accompanied by a particular chain of events which brought these two people together. In some cases, continents were travelled and oceans were crossed. All of the countless events took place and have brought forth the present life which is recognized as the person you see looking back at you from the surface of a mirror. And just as you didn’t have control over the circumstances that brought forth that event, the circumstances we find ourselves in over the course of our lives are, for the vast majority of them, equally beyond our control. The one exception is the choices we make in the circumstances. Continue reading

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: “Tamar’s Tears”

In recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month, we offer the following contribution by CM. The author—a male prisoner incarcerated in a maximum-security prison—reflects on the theme of violence against women by engaging in a close reading of 2 Samuel 13, the horrific story of Amnon’s rape of his sister Tamar.

“Tamar’s Tears” by CM

I am a 40 year old man who has been in prison for 22 years.  I have met men who have committed some of the most horrific acts one could possibly imagine, and many others who were indeed falsely accused.  Yet, one thing that is true for everyone in a maximum security prison is the fact that our presence on this side of the wall represents a victim on the other side of the wall; another human being, victimized by his or her fellow man, even if not the man charged.

As one who finds solace in the words written in the Bible, I turn to the text of scripture to discover a way to make sense of this experience and grasp this dynamic relationship.  This interplay between perpetrator and victim.  The workings of the mind that grants one the proverbial green light to move forward and alter another’s peace.

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Lectionary: Proper 22C / Ordinary 27C / Pentecost +20

by AMN

Lamentations 3:19-26

One of the lowest experiences in my life is the day that I got found guilty in September of 2002. I had just went through an unjust legal process and just like Jeremiah, all my strength and hope was gone. I wanted to just crawl into a corner and die.

Who would’ve thought that I would still be here fourteen years later, let alone be productive for God’s sake? The verse that rings true the most in my heart is verse 22: “It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.” Verse 23 goes on to say,”they are new every morning.”

I have faced many more obstacles on this track we call life and there’s one thing for sure, God is always there. When I think about all my troubles and fears and how I thought I would not make it, I realize that God had my back all along.

There’s going to be pain and there’s going to be anguish during the course of your life; but you don’t have to go through it alone. Trusting, hoping, and faithfully waiting on the LORD will get you through those hard times. If God call allow me to flourish behind concrete walls and steel bars, he can do wonders for you.

Thank you, heavenly father, your everlasting mercy and compassions are upon me daily. Please allow me to use them to bring about the praise and glory that you deserve. Amen.  

Reflection: Isaiah 26:3

by Jessica McGee

You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You. (Isaiah 26:3 NKJV)

A lot of people think that being in prison is easy. You don’t have to worry about bills, or politics. They think our daily life consists of standing behind bars and watching television, but they are wrong. Continue reading

Essay: “Where there is no vision…” (Prov 29:18)

This scripture reminds me of faith and the works that follow. Vision is defined as “the ability to perceive something not actually visible.” Being incarcerated with no programs on reform or education, how can one perceive hope of a better life? This is a question that is in the forefront of my mind daily.

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