A good and blessed day to you! Some quick stuff from inside the prison for you:
Freedom in Christ is now offering three Bible Studies (one for High Side, Low Side, and Work Dorm) and two “Lutheran” worship services every week, one for High Side and one for Low side, every week!!! This is a magnificent change that has happened. Now each one of the guys has a chance to worship with communion once every two weeks rather than once a month! Attendance numbers are also up! There are staff changes that are in the works, but to our understanding visitation is up and running! So, if you have a person to visit, do the necessary paperwork and get out to prison to see your peeps!
A few weeks ago I was surprised by one of the guys during a Bible Study. For your info, normally when I go in for a Bible Study I have a plan, but I always ask the guys if there is anything they want to talk about, anything that they have read or heard or thought about that we should talk about in the context of faith. And normally I get told “no.” But not this day! Instead, the guy, we’ll call him Luke, said, “Yeah, I want to talk about Leviticus 13 and 14.” No dear friends I was not prepared for this, and often when I hear the word Leviticus my skin crawls and I know that I won’t enjoy the next bit of the meeting, because someone has an axe to grind…
So we started reading Leviticus 13:
“When anyone has a swelling or a rash… they must be brought to… a priest. 3 The priest is to examine the sore on the skin, and if the hair in the sore has turned white and the sore appears to be more than skin deep, it is a defiling skin disease. When the priest examines that person, he shall pronounce them ceremonially unclean.”
And then Luke closes his Bible and says: “I think that we have been pronounced ceremonially unclean.” And we talked… We talked about how society threw them away, locked away in a “special” place where their dirtiness won’t get on the “good folks.” Then we talked about release and how the leprosy of “felon” would
follow them, that they would be pronounced unclean by employers, landlords, police, churches, and even family. We talked about how they would be judged as unclean for the rest of their lives because of one bad day, and not one of these men with us in that study were serving time for a violent crime.
This last week I was asked at a Retreat with Prison Congregations of America: “Who are the modern lepers?” My answer was to quote Luke and Leviticus 13. Then a harder question was raised: “Well, then who are the priests who pronounce that someone is clean?”
Friends, I would offer to you that you are that priest. We in Freedom in Christ go into the prison and pronounce that the incarcerated are saved, they are free from their bonds, they are beloved and that they are always beloved, always amazing creations who are not defined by their worst day, but by the creator who calls them to be beloved children of God… And then they leave and worry if they are not beloved, but dirty, marked, and unclean.
By the time you read this Luke is back out there, in his hometown. He is working in construction and is back with his family, but he is worried he is marked, that his church will find him unclean. Instead let us pronounce him clean, saved, beloved!
Our work in Freedom in Christ currently ends when a guy heads back outside our walls, but our work as the Body of Christ never ends. You are beloved, you are made clean in the blood of the lamb, you are priests who claim freedom and justice and cleanliness for all. Remind folks that they are loved, by you and our God, and that they are always worthy, always amazing, always free.
Be blest my friends and siblings in Christ, because you are!