Saturday, October 19, 2013

Instructions To The Church # III

#3 "Remember Those Who Are In Prison."

Bishop Eric Menees
Over the past two weeks we looked at verses 1-2: "1 Let brotherly love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares".

Verse 3 continues giving us a concrete example of what "Brotherly Love" is: "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body."  
Hebrews speaks to a situation that we in the USA have a very difficult time identifying with. In the First Century, Christians who refused to utter the words "Caesar is Lord" and offer a pinch of incense before a statue of Caesar, were imprisoned, publicly flogged, and humiliated. This often meant economic disaster for the individual and, of course, the family, along with public embarrassment and loss of friendships.  

Jesus told the disciples, and us, that we are to pick up our cross and follow Him. (Matthew 14:24) When a brother or sister was imprisoned, the church came to their aid and the aid of the family. This was unique in the first century, and continues to be unique in the twenty first century - it is a mark of what it means to be the Church of God and the body of Christ.
But what about us in the Diocese of San Joaquin?  How do we fulfill this command of scripture to express brotherly love? By sharing the gospel with those in prison, and ministering to their families. KAIROS Prison Ministry is an up and coming ministry in the diocese, and a wing of the national prison ministry. KAIROS (Greek for God's time as opposed to CRONOS - earthly time) is a four day retreat for prisoners that seeks to introduce people who have done very bad things and known the depth of sin and despair, to the love, grace, and transforming power of Jesus Christ. As I write this Bishop's Note, Christine Miller of Trinity, Bakersfield, is serving on a KAIROS retreat at the Women's Prison in Chowchilla. The Women's Prison at Chowchilla is one of two prisons in the Valley that have a KAIROS retreat - the other being the Men's Federal Prison in Atwater.  Dcn. John LaMar, Chaplain Edwin Peraza, and I are working with KAIROS national to establish a KAIROS ministry at Pleasant Valley Men's Prison, which we pray will begin in 2014.
Over the years, I've had the great honor of serving on KAIROS retreat weekends, and have had the blessing of witnessing some of the very worst people come to Christ and have their lives transformed.While still serving their time in prison, they've become counselors, lay chaplains, and mentors to hundreds of other prisoners. These were not "jail house conversions,” but truly and utterly transformed lives of Grace and Love.  
This is not a ministry that all can participate in first hand, but it is a ministry that all can aid through prayer, writing letters, and through financial gifts. When we "Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them," we discover that not only do we bless our brothers and sisters, but we are blessed ourselves.

My wife and I are in Kenya for the GAFCON conference, just weeks after the terrorist attack at the Mall in Nairobi. Needless to say, a good deal of nervousness arose in us following the attack and we wondered to one another, "should we go?" Two weeks ago I participated in an international conference call hosted by Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia. Archbishop Jensen stressed the importance of standing with our Kenyan brothers and sisters in their hour of need - just as Hebrew's encourages the church to do - and thus made the decision all the more easy to make.

1 comment:

Dale Matson said...

You can follow GAFCON in general and the ACNA delegation in particular on the web at:
This website includes everything you need to follow the proceedings:
• The conference schedule
• A "Daily Digest" recapping the session highlights
• Real-time social media engagement via Twitter (no account needed)
• Access to the live video feed courtesy of AnglicanTV
Please feel free to pass along this link to your diocese, parish family, and Anglican friends.