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.
Psalm 71 is one of my very favorite psalms. In fact, there was a time in my life when I recited this psalm three times each night before bed, from memory. To me, this psalm speaks to the plight of not only the prisoner, but anyone who finds themselves ensnared in our criminal justice system. The first five verses alone sum up the majority of my most common prayers as a prisoner.
What person who has ever been at the business end of criminal prosecution cannot relate to verses 9 through 11? I know that whenever I read these verses I cannot help but to visualize the three prosecutors assigned to my case, sitting around a long conference room table like the Bond villains of SPECTRE, saying things to each other like, “This God-forsaken dirtbag! Let’s do whatever we have to do to put him away for as long as we can. Who can stop us?”
Every person serving an extended sentence thinks about and worries about how old he will be when or even if he is ever released. For instance, if I am forced to serve all of my current sentence, I will be over 65 when I am paroled What sort of life will I have left? How will an old used up ex-con ever find gainful employment? Even if I am somehow able to keep myself up to date on the current technologies and the swiftly changing demands of contemporary employers, what sort of physical condition will I be in after so long a period of forced inactivity, eating sub-nutritious foods, under sub par healthcare? Most at that age would be unable to get out of bed and get around to go to work.
What of my other needs? What sort of family support can I expect to still have? Will anyone even still be living? These thoughts are constant stressors that plague the minds of those subjected to long-term incarceration. Countless times I have prayed that the Almighty will not forsake me in my old age when I am grey-headed. Every incarcerated believer knows that our Heavenly Father is our only means of support we can be sure of. Thankfully, He is also the only means of support anyone ever needs.
“Right Place, Right People, Right Time”
Psalm 80:1-3, 8-19
There is a particular location where one’s gift fits perfectly. There are particular people among whom your genius will be most appreciated. And there is a particular time when the stage is ready for your grand entrance. It is one’s true purpose to create the point at which these elements converge for the glory of God in the uniqueness of your life.
“Weeping may endure for the night,
but joy comes in the morning”
– Psalm 30:5 –
In the midst of our
of great sadness and sorrow.
Proper 13C / Ordinary 18C / Pentecost +11
What is the point of prison?
by Matthew B. Harper
Hosea 11:1-11 or Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14; 2:18-23
Psalm 107:1-9, 43
With over two million men and women incarcerated in America today, and millions more under custodial supervision, it is perhaps time to ask ourselves, what’s the point?
NOTE: The views expressed on Prison Lectionary are those of the individual author of each post and do not necessarily reflect the views of the administrators of Prison Lectionary.
by Kwame Toure Kagale
“There is an illusion of central position, justifying one’s own purposes as right and everybody else’s as wrong and providing a proper degree of paranoia. Righteous ends, thus approved, absolve of guilt the most violent means.” – Henri Amiel –
“Kill ’em With Kindness”
I am an inmate in a Virginia correctional facility and I have been in prison for the better part of a quarter of a century and I am shocked by the level of senseless violence that has been occurring in this country lately. Before I came to prison events like the one that took place at Pulse in Orlando, Florida the site of this nation’s worst mass shooting to date was almost unheard of. But now these incidents are so commonplace the main issue of them is often overlooked as we debate the reasons of how such crimes are committed in the first place. And it will not be until we do address what makes a person commit mass shootings will we ever hope to prevent tragedies such as this from ever happening again.
by Matthew B. Harper
Psalm 52 or 82
Amos is one of the most relevant books of the Minor Prophets, and one of the least known. Sequestered at the tail end of our Old Testament, these books sit seldom used. Called “minor” only because they pale in length compared to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel (doesn’t everything). These are not minor words from God. Some of our great treasures, like words to “do justice and love mercy,” or the timeless tale of Jonah and the fish, come from these books. It is from Amos that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King quoted when he cried for “justice to roll on like a river.”
“The Office of God”
In this Psalm of Asaph, the psalmist rightly talks about who is actually in control of everything and those who abuse God’s office of being a Judge and diviner of justice will one day have to answer for their doings; including those who sit as appointed officials in our government.
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
“The transformative ‘before’ and ‘after’ effect of the Gospel in the life of a believer”
Life has been described in many ways, too many to list here. But I’d be willing to stake odds that you’ll almost assuredly never hear this one: easy. Quite the opposite, life isn’t easy, and for more often than one would like to admit we get overwhelmed by circumstances we’re ill-prepared for. The feeling we experience in such moments is called stress. But why is life so hard?