Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
This week we celebrate the remarkable life and works of Saint Paul. This was a man who hated and even persecuted Christians, only to be converted and then to become one of the greatest preachers ever known. Such a change!
Paul's life tells us that, whether saint or sinner, Jesus wants us all people to come to Him. Jesus said exactly this in Luke 15:7: “I tell you in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the 99 righteous people who don't need repentance.”
Sometimes, of course, we don't always see things that way. We know that Jesus faced a mob ready to execute a woman caught in adultery. He stopped them with a simple challenge: anyone who has no sin should step forward and throw the first stone. That sentence is often used as a reminder to avoid judging. We must look past the sin and see the soul.
That same challenge faces us today. I can't help but think of the 10,000 people in prison right here in Minnesota. Some of them have come to Christ. They have begun to change and it is truly a joy to see.
However, we have a choice when it comes to how we serve prisoners. We can judge them, or we can help them. Many of them have asked for help. The prison chapels are full, but prisoners still need mentors, teachers, and pastors to walk alongside them.
Of course, many pastors are typically with their congregation on Sunday morning and are unavailable to assist with Sunday prison chapels. But prisons also hold worship services on Saturday and Tuesday each week. The commitment to serve in this way is only once a month or so.
Lay people can help too. Prisons set aside time and space for Bible classes and for personal counseling. The time commitment is only three hours a week.
Perhaps you are still too busy to commit to this. But, you can ask your congregation to help in some way by praying for prisoners and inviting them to join us by running this announcement in your weekly bulletins:
Concordia University Saint Paul offers a free six-week course in prison ministry beginning Tuesday, February 3 from 7:00 to 9:00 PM in room 113 of the Poehler Administration Building (275 Syndicate Street North). Contact Jim Seemann, Ph.D. at firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Everyone is welcome; there are no prerequisites.
Thank you so much and may you be blessed!
Prison Ministry Coordinator