Prisons and Lawn Chairs The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, "Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you." - 1 Kings 19 *Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. - Ephesians 4*
After officiating at one of the sweetest weddings of which I've ever been a part; after the lovingly prepared oven-fired pizzas that were the meal; after the heartfelt toasts, I sat in an Adirondack chair by the lake, taking in the view of the mountains after which my chair was named. Glass of wine in hand, and all well with the world, I feasted on the view of the sun and rainclouds dancing with the lake and mountains. It was perfect.
As dark came on, an eerie light came into view; the glaring lights that inhabit nearly every otherwise dark corner of the Dannemora prison. You know the one; two desperate, lost-in-evil men escaped from there a couple of months ago; they terrified the people of the area and, for a good length of time, eluded and stumped those who searched for them.
This week's passage from John's Gospel - not quoted above - continues Jesus' lengthy teachings about the "Bread of Life." We had plenty of such - both at the wedding and as part of the wondrous meal after the ceremony. But sitting in that cozy chair, I was thinking about the souls in that evil-looking prison, and wondering what kind of "Bread of Life" they partake of.
It's so easy to assign those souls to that place, both physically and spiritually. And the wider community may very well not be safe without such places; the recent escapees demonstrate this troubling truth - this inconvenient, thumbs-its-nose-at-the-Gospel truth. But I was singing to myself Phil Ochs's troubling song: "Show me the prison; show me the jail. Show me the prisoner, whose life has gone stale. And I'll show you a young man, with so many reasons why; there but for fortune go you or I."
Where would Jesus be on such an evening as this? By the lakeside or over at the prison? Astonishingly, he would, I think, be at both places. He'd be turning water into wine at lakeside, reveling with his beloveds as they celebrated their holy vows. And he would be across the lake, in the jail cell, touching the convict's hand, and telling us over his shoulder, "Inasmuch as you've ministered to one of the least of these my brethren, you have done so unto me."
One of the toasts at the wedding dinner included the oft-given advice, "Never go to bed angry at each other". Pretty much the same counsel that Paul's letter to the Ephesians offers. This old saw rolls off our tongues so easily, but I cannot claim to have heeded its essence well in my own life. So I am reluctant to peddle it to others. Leave that job to Jesus, or Paul (or whoever actually wrote the letter to the Ephesians).
How angry are we at those souls living in the glaring light and deep darkness of that prison over there? Pretty doggone angry. Often not without good reason. Does this anger do us - or them - any good? How can I - we - "Be angry, but do not sin", as Paul challenges us to be? What does that even mean? Is it truly only "fortune" that has me on this side of the lake, and not the other? Can I do anything to help deliver a truckload of "The Bread of Life" to that life-deadening place?
I ease out of my Adirondack chair to go and find another piece or two of that delicious pizza. Apparently, some angel is telling me, "Get up and eat; otherwise the journey will be too much for you."
Be with us - one of us - in worship on Sunday at 10 AM. We will offer up the bread of life in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. We need this bread; it's a long journey.
And the sunset is lovely over the mountains and water, beyond the prison that will, one day, no longer need to be there. Trust God about this.
Sabbath blessings- AFP