Christmas in Prison 6

“My Most Memorable Christmas in Prison”  by CM

The holidays in general, and Christmas in particular, take on special meaning for those of us in prison for a variety of reasons. For the most part, guys are looking forward to receiving a decent mean of turkey and/or ham. Prison staff typically adopts a slightly less confrontational stance and well-meaning volunteers often come in for special events like concerts from church choirs. For some, this season will mark the one time of the year they’ll receive a visit, perhaps some mail; and for others, it’s a time that reminds them just how alone they are because these visits don’t come.

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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 15C / Ordinary 20C / Pentecost +13

“Right Place, Right People, Right Time”

by CM

Isaiah 5:1-7
Psalm 80:1-3, 8-19
Hebrews 11:29-12:2
Luke 12:49-56

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.

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Lectionary: Proper 6C / Ordinary 11C / Pentecost +4

1 Kings 21:1-21a

“Remember the Power”

by CM

It can be so easy to forget the simple fact that God is in charge. And by “in charge” I don’t simply mean the director of the course of events as they naturally unfold. I mean that God is the One with whom you check your opinions and actions and the One who is indeed the Sovereign Ruler.

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Lectionary: Proper 5C / Ordinary 10C / Pentecost +3

by CM

1 Kings 17:8-16 [17-24]

“Respond to Power”

Our prophet Elijah receives word to wait out a time of drought at the home of a widow and her son in Sidon. The nation suffered, while the widow prospered. We know there’s an abundance of blessings to be experienced when we seek the LORD. But are we ready to respond when the LORD seeks us?

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Lectionary: Trinity C

by CM

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31
Psalms 8
Romans 5:1-5
John 16:12-15

 “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?

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2nd Sunday of Christmas/Epiphany Sunday

by CM

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Our Savior entered the world as a solution to a problem that a significant portion of the people in power didn’t even realize existed. Those who has the scriptures, those in positions in the government, those with the resources and the means to solve the problem never deployed them because they were blind to it.

Here comes Jesus, born King yet He carried a mandate from on high to bring a solution to a problem that was so prevalent that the powers that be sought to slay Him even as a baby. Why? Because His life was meant to expose those in authority, those in power, as the source of the problem.

Our reading identifies a number of issues: lack of justice and disenfranchisement of the poor, oppression, hopelessness, cruelty. These conditions are all results of sin. However, they lack the abstract notions of what constitutes one’s individual nature and squarely categorize the issues involved in the way the powerful treat the common man. It was the state that took issue with the life of Jesus, the religious folk who pledged loyalty to the state, “We have no king but Caesar.” Why? Because they couldn’t see THEMSELVES as the problem.

Being that those same problems still exist and persist, what are we not seeing today in relation to their presence? Jesus exposed the systematic injustice, unrighteousness, corruption, cruelty and evil in the simplicity of the fact that they killed him! Sometimes people have a tendency to gloss over that fact.

What does it say—right where the rubber meets the road—about ANYONE, ANY SYSTEM, that kills a person? Let that word sink in for a moment. A PERSON such as Jesus. Not, “Son of God,” not “The Christ.” We have to ask the question, was Mary’s baby boy a bad PERSON? Because make no mistake about it, in a very NON-ABSTRACT way, that is who they—the powerful, the ruling class, the government—killed. And unless he was at the very least a bad person, they killed him wrongfully.

Are we “divorced” from seeing the same today? Have we forgotten that Jesus said something about how the way we treat “the least of these” equals how we treat Jesus? If we take issue with seeing Jesus as simply being a Person, it may indicate a lack of the ability to see the downtrodden as Jesus.

 

“Time-Released Details” (1st Sunday after Christmas)

1st Sunday after Christmas Day – December 27

1st Samuel 2:18-20, 26; Luke 2:41-52; Colossians 3:12-17

“Time-Released Details”

by CM

A parallel between the Old Testament reading and our Gospel reading is that we’re observing a moment of boyhood in the lives of two individuals who are intrinsically linked across the span of many generations: Samuel and Jesus. One eternally occupies the Throne of David as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, our Savior Jesus; while it was Samuel who became the man that inaugurated the line of Israel’s royalty and anointed its first two kings.

We also see the hearts of two mothers—Hannah and Mary—women who have prayed, dedicated their lives to faithfully carrying out the requirements of the law as a result of their devotion to God, and two women who have divine insight into the destiny of their special boys, even if they lacked the details. And it’s in the lack of details that the real value of the faith journey is revealed.

These mothers, looking at their boys, both of them products of God’s word to them in “time release” form. Who can say with certainty what the details of a boy’s manhood will look like? Yet, as is pointed out—in 1st Samuel 2:26, in relation to Samuel and Hannah; and in Luke 2:52, in relation to May and Jesus—both moms watched their boys grown in stature and in favor with God and men as they transitioned from boyhood to manhood.

So I ask you now, what has been produced in your life pursuant to your relationship with God which unites you in your experience of that production with Hannah and Mary? What has God brought into your life on a “time release” basis? Something that requires a period of maturation?

In what ways may you yourself be that time-released gift to humanity from on high? In what ways have you ever considered that the promise and purpose of your own life may be directly linked to the life of another across the span of generations?

It is this consideration that brings forth the sacred in your life. Embrace this truth and sanctify this reality by doing all things, be they in word or deed, in the name of the Lord Jesus, as is pointed out in our epistle reading, Colossians 3:17.

You can imagine, coming from the perspective of an incarcerated man, scriptures that highlight transitions across the passage of time—“time-release” workings of the hand of God—are particularly encouraging. May the areas in your life that require a period of maturation be seen in new light, and as our two mothers in these readings, keep these things in your heart and be encouraged too.