This weekend, we discussed ways of partnering with those who are in prison and bringing mercy and grace to a society ridden with an unjust system of mass incarceration. Below you will find some resources which may help to further understand this perspective:
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
- Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Brian Stevenson
- Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America by Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith
- Prophetic Lament: A Call for Justice in Troubled Times by Soong-Chan Rah
In addition to becoming more informed, here are some specific ways of connecting with this type of ministry and become the hands and feet of God:
- Pray for peace for brothers & sisters who are locked up, as well as for their spouses, parents, and children
- Pray that the Kingdom might come with healing and restoration
- Pray for the church to be good news
- Partner with Staying in Closer Touch (through Children’s Literacy Network)
- Partner with Prison Fellowship
ENGAGING THE PRACTICAL TIP
This past Sunday, we heard from three members of our congregation about their work in our local prisons. Through their inspiring stories, we were encouraged to see the humanity in a group of people who often experience isolation, judgment, and scorn. We were encouraged to consider how we might begin to act in keeping with the concerns and values that God has placed on our hearts. We may not all be called to this ministry specifically, but the book of James, which we have been focusing on throughout Lent, encourages us to be a people whose faith an actions are aligned. As Pastor Donnell says, “we are not called to do everything, but we are all called to do something.” It can be difficult to see places in our lives where we are being called beyond our comfort zones to enact the merciful and expansive love of God. This week, take some time to ask God to highlight an area of your life where you can step into loving and just action toward someone on the margins. Consider praying using the words of James 2:5, 12-13:
Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?
Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
Settle yourself somewhere comfortable, and take a few minutes to simply rest in the presence of God, asking for the Holy Spirit to instill in you a deep sense of God’s loving presence for you. When you feel ready, read slowly through the verses above. Ask for Jesus to guide you in discerning who you might be overlooking or standing in judgment against who might be considered “poor in the eyes of the world.” If someone (or a group of people) comes to mind, simply sit with them a moment. Imagine that they are sitting beside you, wrapped in the same loving presence of God that you have experienced. Now read slowly through the verses again, this time asking for the Holy Spirit to direct you in discerning how you might show mercy towards this person (or people). If you feel able, ask for a small and concrete action that you can take toward treating this person with the same love and mercy that God has shown towards them.
Feel free to share your experience with others who have also tried this prayer exercise by commenting below or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org.