During this extraordinary time of national and international crisis I find myself reflecting on the disciples in the upper room. Scared, isolated, frightened of what the future may hold, they were probably feeling many of the things which we are experiencing now during this Covid-19 outbreak.
Like people in the community, prisoners find themselves deprived of the ability to meet together, and the many who would draw great comfort from their faith are prevented from being able to share in worship, fellowship and prayer. Unlike many people in the community, they do not have the option of logging onto a website to watch a live-streamed service and often the best we can do is this week’s sermon, printed and posted under the door, for those who can read it!
Over the past few weeks the world has changed, many of the familiar aspects of life which we took for granted have been taken away and we don’t know when they might be restored.
For the disciples, they had assumed that Jesus would always be with them. His reassuring presence, even when the storm raged around them, gave them a sense of identity and purpose – nothing could touch them. And then they watched Him being taken away, mocked and beaten and put to a brutal death outside the city. As they fled they must have thought that nothing would ever be the same again.
And then, something amazing happened. Jesus was among them once again, risen from the dead and everything was… not the same as it had been. In fact it was totally transformed, filled with potential, filled with hope, filled with the power of God. And they realised that God had not left them during their time of crisis. They had taken their eyes off Him, forgotten what Jesus had told them and imagined that God was not strong enough to overcome the crisis they were experiencing.
Remembering that God has not left us and focussing our eyes once more upon Him and upon His promises is vital during this time of isolation. God’s promises hold true for us and for those in our prisons even at a time when life seems so challenging and we are often frightened.
The resurrection of Jesus is a sign that God is more powerful than death itself and He will overcome the trials and the challenges we face. Resurrection will come and this Easter as we celebrate the risen Jesus and long to be together again, we know that that time will come when the Church will be… not like it was before. God is using this time to transform us, to make us more like the people He needs to share His love with the world.
As we find different ways to be the Church during these troubled times, let us pray for the courage to let God change us so that we may better share His love with those in our prisons and in the community.
The Ven. James Ridge is Chaplain General and Head of Faith Services at HMPPS.
Download the April Prayer Diary, with a prompt each day for how we can pray for our prisons and our ministries through the current crisis.
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