Daily Word of Grace #26: April 21, 2020
As a young youth minister in my early twenties I was asked by the chaplain of the Fairfax County Detention Center to lead a Sunday afternoon service for the inmates. I showed up in a shirt and tie, a neat outline of a brief message tucked in the Bible under my arm, and was escorted into a empty room with a large circle of brown folding metal chairs, each with a dilapidated Methodist hymnal on it. With sweaty palms I waited. One by one the inmates filed in and took their places around the circle. When the room was filled, before I could even speak, one of the inmates looked at me, “Okay preacher boy (yes, he called me that), before you start talking we’ll sing some hymns.” And we did just that as various inmates would shout out a hymn number and then lead us in singing. They sang from their hearts and you could feel the joy and presence of the Holy Spirit in that room. After several hymns the same inmate addressed me a second time, “Okay, preacher boy, you’re up.” Everyone sat down and looked at me. I stumbled through my teaching that frankly felt so tepid and lame compared to their singing. We then prayed and sang one last hymn. As they left the room, joy and laughter overflowed. Then the same inmate spoke one last time to me, “Do you know why we’re so happy?” I just smiled and shook my head. “Because we’re forgiven,” he chuckled and slapped me on the back, “Because we’re forgiven, preacher boy.” Scripture tells us, “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Psalm 32:1). Knowing you are forgiven by God (are forgiven-right now, present tense) indeed leads to joy, and a new song as well.
Love and Prayers,