Pastoral Pondering 4-1-2016

Good morning church!  I pray that as we begin another month you are not foolin’ (bad April fool’s reference) around but working seriously on your faith relationships. i had quite a different experience yesterday than I have ever had. I went to prison!  No, I was not arrested but rather the new clergy group I am working with went to the Allegheny County jail on Second Avenue in Pittsburgh. We met up with people in the clergy office and got some interesting information about the re-entry program for inmates to prepare them to enter back into the communities where they came from. We also learned about the HOPE rehabilitative pre-release program. As part of our day we went into POD 2C and met with a group of inmates who are part of the HOPE rehabilitative program. These men from the youngest to the oldest were interesting to talk to. They know why they are there and have hope that they will be able to turn their lives around, get some vital training that will help them integrate back into the world they came out of and have been incarcerated into, and return to the world. It was a great learning opportunity. I heard messages of hope from men who need to know they have just as much sacred worth as the victims of the crimes that they committed.

Jesus did not say that we should only love the people who are easy to love. He did not teach us that we should abandon those who have done us wrong. In fact, Jesus says, turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) and to go the second mile (Matthew 5:41) when approached by those who might try to take advantage of our faith. We are called to be people of peace and justice in a world that is going the wrong way in many ways. I see too many people feeding the fire of hatred and injustice.

Social media is the worse place I see examples of people being wronged. We think since we have this media outlet we can post whatever we want to say without any repercussion. We need to be looking for ways to love all people. Jesus said when we do something to someone we have done it to him. Remember the lesson of the sheep and the goats?

Matthew 25:32-40 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. ’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you? ’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

We need to be the people of peace and justice in a world that needs to help those who are living in brokenness find a way to hope and be a positive influence to others. We need to do what one inmate said to us, reach out with arms open wide to welcome them back into the world when they have made the effort to change who they were. We need to provide an opportunity for people to prove themselves instead of treating them like lepers. We need to work together to change the rhetoric and prove we are a people of Godly love.

Jesus said love those who hate you (Luke 6:27-28) and offer the hand of fellowship. I know this is not easy. I know it may not be popular. But then, we are not called to be popular but rather examples of God’s love.

Be blessed and a blessing to others today and continue the journey! If you have stopped on the journey it is not too late to get going again! If you need help let me know. We can work together to get you back on track!

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