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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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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“Virgil Brigman is back on the air”

Our friend Matthew Harper reflects on a recent thirty-day stint in solitary confinement.

Grace and Peace to you all.

Sorry I’ve been incommunicado, I spent the last thirty days in segregation. Someone had been urging our band to do the Humble Pie song “Thirty Days in the Hole,” but we put it off. I guess I should have played the song. Instead I did the thirty days.
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Easter

Acts 10:34-43
Psalm 118
Colossians 3:1-4
Matthew 28:1-10 jail-bars-bent

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.

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Lent 1A

by Matthew B. Harper

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

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.
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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

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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NEW BOOK: Highways in the Desert

highwaysLast year, Prison Lectionary launched with daily Advent devotions by our friend Matthew Harper. Since last year, Matthew has revised or rewritten those reflections, added some new materials, and compiled it all into his latest book. You can purchase it in Kindle or print format here.

Here’s a sneak peek from the forward:

There are countless books available on Advent, but this one is different. The devotions and reflections were written by a man in his eighteenth year of incarceration. In prison, faith and time take on new meaning. During Advent – this season of expectation – open yourself to the unexpected as Matthew Harper shares a bit of his story with you. Although his perspective is unique, you might just find that you have a great deal in common.

Essay: Insights, 17 Years in Prison

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INSIGHTS, 17 YEARS IN PRISON
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by Matthew B. Harper Different Shoes

A month ago I met with two wonderful clergy, and our conversation meandered into fruitful territory. An important conversation, it was also the kind you can’t prepare for. So when our wandering words brought us to an important precipice, and I was invited to jump off, I quailed. Seventeen years of incarceration and over thinking about my crimes has led me to an untold number of insights and revelations so imagine my regret when, after being invited to share some, I failed at the task.

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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.