As Christians we know the forgiveness of sin and the gracious embrace of God; we hear and experience God’s promise of new beginnings. This week we are reminded that we are called to be agents of God’s forgiveness, embrace and gracious new beginnings for others, and in particular the men and women who are caught up in our contemporary system of retributive justice governed by fear and anger.
Did you know that Canada’s crime rate has hit a 45 year low this year, but this year also marks an all time high of people incarcerated in prison? I didn’t. Did you know that two thirds of provincial prisoners have not been convicted of anything: they are in prison only because they cannot come up with bail, exposing a link between poverty and incarceration. I didn’t. Did you know that a typical Canadian prison cell was built for one prisoner and now houses three, and they are allotted twenty minutes fresh air a day? I didn’t. Did you know that the annual average cost to incarcerate an individual is now estimated to be $117,000? My mind fills with thoughts about how such a sum could be spent more productively, respectfully, and indeed faithfully.
As we continue this autumn through the Acts of Apostles, we arrive at a scene in which Paul is in prison (Acts 16). The earth trembles, the doors open, and he is freed. When the jailer awakes, he prepares to kill himself, knowing well what the consequences were for those who allowed prisoners to escape. But Paul shouts that he has not left. He has remained, not out of passivity or fear but thinking of the jailer. This jailer embodied oppression and violence, but Paul did not respond to him with hate or even apathy. To this individual the apostle extended a new beginning. As the doors of the jail were opened for Paul, so did Paul open his oppressor to life. There is freedom, and there is freedom.
Lots to think about. Lots to prayer about.
Due to a glitch in the church office, there is no Order of Service appended online this week. You will just have to join us in person … and you would be welcome!