(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.
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.
by Matthew B. Harper
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Here, at the beginning of our Lenten journey, the lectionary gives us readings on sin, temptation, and the human inability to “get it right.” Later, when Paul will remind us how all have sinned and fallen short, we will look back to these readings. This is where it all begins.
What is it about the human condition that is so beautiful, and so flawed? To be able to walk and talk with God, to work the garden and take care of it, to rejoice in one another – this sounds idyllic. Life created never to end, but always to rejoice in one another.
by Terrance “Lil Bear” Plummer
NO ONE IS EXCLUDED FROM THE CALL, SEEING THE GLORY, AND LISTENING TO JESUS
We often feel marginalized by free society, those of us in prison. Many of us don’t believe that God would want to call us for anything. We often feel alienated from God, and disqualified from any service in The Kingdom, because of where we are. Continue reading
I have been incarcerated for 14 years and the more I read the Word of God, the more I realize that my former traditions of celebrating Christmas were in fact not Christlike at all. The corporations of the globe have seized and confiscated this day to exploit consumers and enslave them to worship this holiday solely based on materialism. Continue reading
by Matthew B. Harper
November 27, 2016
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.
by Michael Weems
When one considers oneself, he comes to realize he knows nothing,
Knowing that he lacks knowledge causes one of two things,
One a striving after knowledge to better oneself,
Two a self loathing pushing further from oneself. Continue reading
by Dean Faiello
As I lined up with other prisoners in a brick passageway, six Attica guards huddled in a group, wearing blue latex gloves and gripping wooden clubs. They stared at us as we waIked in pairs through the sepulchral corridor without speaking, like Franciscan monks on their way to vespers. Heading to a Quaker meeting in the school building, I looked forward to talking with the Quaker volunteers, witnessing their compassion, learning more about Quaker tenets.
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.
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.
Apostolic 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 .”