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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Lectionary: Epiphany 2A

by Matthew B. Harper

Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-12
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-4

The words of the prophet Isaiah contain four “servant” songs, and today we read from the second one. Each of these songs assumes the guise of The Servant of God, and praise God for all that has been, is being, and will be done. But who is the servant? Continue reading

Christmas in Prison 8

“From Magic to Miracle”

by Marcos R

 

Silent night… Holy night… All is calm… All is bright is crooning out of my old school General Electric Superadio II (1970’s model boom box) while bright flashing images of holiday commercials, Christmas movies and Charlie Brown specials splash across the bed sheets and bland narrow cell walls through my 2008 model RCA digital bubble TV screen. I channel surf while sitting on my top bunk, lost in my thoughts, missing my sons… Continue reading

Christmas in Prison 5

by Terrance “Lil’ Bear” Plummer

Christmas In A Prison House

A house is not a home. I’ve been in prison now for 21 years, I was put in jail 6 days before Christmas December 19th 1995. Now, that was one of the toughest Christmas’s I had ever known! The pain that takes place within from missing family! It was primal. One can almost hear the silent screams inside at God and life. For the man or woman who never came to know Christ Jesus while in this prison experience, the silent screams never really go away at the Christmas season. It’s never easy doing time during the Holiday Day season while in prison, but when one has had an experience with Jesus, everything changes. Most men I’m doing time with never knew Jesus is the true and real reason why we celebrate. Most can’t see the new life Jesus really bring. Continue reading

Christmas in Prison 3

by Sheldon McDowell

As I approach spending my 25th Christmas in prison, the subject matter at hand has brought upon me some reflections that I’d like to share.

I can’t begin to tell you of the pain and misery I suffered during my early years of incarceration as the Christmas Season approached; the commercials on T.V., the music on the radio, the decorations adorning the prison walls and covering the security stations, the bright-colored clothing worn by the staff and visitors; all invoked memories of times recently passed spent at home with my family, that I’d rehearse over and over again in my mind until restrained tears would burst through from my eyes in want of re-living the experiences of joy and blessings I’d once known.
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Christmas in Prison 2

by Hugh Brown
Perhaps the most challenging Christmas in prison was the first one. I had only been incarcerated four months so my adjustment to this environment was far from being completed. The only gift I wanted for Christmas that year was to be home. Well, there was something else I wanted, but I couldn’t turn back the hands of time to undo the hurt I’d caused. As the years have passed, Christmas away from family and friends has a new meaning. Yes, I’m physically separated from my biological family; however, I’ve been blessed to enjoy the true spirit of Christmas with the men around me – my extended family.

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Lectionary: Advent 1A

by Matthew B. Harper

ADVENT 1

November 27, 2016
Isaiah 2:1-5
Psalm 122
Romans 13:11-14
Matthew 24:36-44

Happy New Year!
Here we are, on the first Sunday of Advent, beginning a new liturgical year as we prepare once again for our Christmas celebration. Christmas falls on a Sunday this year, giving us the longest possible Advent season. That doesn’t seem very remarkable, except that it has put our Sunday worship right on the tail-end of Thanksgiving. I believe it is significant, even important, that in our worship we are able to give thanks, and to let that be the prelude and celebration of our new year.
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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

Sermon: St. David’s Episcopal Church, August 14, 2016

St Silas

This sermon, by Matthew Harper, was read during a worship service at St. David’s Episcopal Church in Chesterfield, Virginia, on Sunday, August 14, 2016. 

Isaiah 61:1-3
Psalm 103:1-13
Matthew 25:31-45

Prison is a terrible place. The purpose of prison is for it to be a terrible place. Where there are problems in our world our justice system seeks out the offenders and send us here. We are sent here to protect society, to punish us, and perhaps to give us space to repent and grow.

Prison is full of people. Each prisoner is a person full of good and bad, carrying wounds and inflicting them. We too have our hopes and dreams, as well as sorrows and regrets. Some of us are redeemed, some not, and all struggle with addictions, pride, loneliness, and sorrow. We are beautiful and amazing, and also completely messed up. We are all too human.

Continue reading the full sermon on St. David’s website here.

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 PrisonLectionary.net contributors take up the same task. The first comes to us from “EB .”

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