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“The one who calls you is faithful.” —1 Thess. 5:24

Sunday, January 25

The Lord’s Day

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

Minute for Mission: Criminal Justice

The doors inside the jail never close gently. Every time I walk through them, the heavy double set of steel doors leading to the housing unit slam shut. It’s disturbing. Maybe it’s supposed to be.

The psalmist cries: “For God alone my soul waits in silence, for my hope is from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken” (Ps. 62:5–6). That overwhelming sense of waiting in silence is one of the most common things that I hear from people in jail. It’s hard not to be shaken when your waiting is measured by the slamming of steel doors. But the hope we find in Christ can change everything.

A few months ago, while I was teaching, one of the inmates was called to be released. He got up, quickly gathered his belongings in a clear garbage bag, and made his way to those heavy double doors. He went through the first door. It slammed shut. As he waited for the second door to unlock, he looked back. Several of the other guys raised their hands in the air. They weren’t waving goodbye or congratulating him on going home. It was a gesture of solidarity, a way to say, “Stay strong. Don’t give up hope.” Hope goes a long way.

Leaving prison can be difficult. You may have been waiting for months or even years, but the world kept moving. For a lot of people, it’s hard to jump back in at full speed. Unfortunately, all it takes is a little mistake for people to end up right back behind bars. But people who are able to connect with a faith community—a church just like yours—are less than half as likely to ever return to jail. It takes hope to stay strong. And hope is what Jesus has given us in abundance.

The Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network is a grassroots network of the Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association. Visit pcusa.org/pcjn to find our how your congregation can get involved.

Rev. Steven W. Werth: pastor, Riverview United Presbyterian Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; member, Presbyterian Criminal Justice Network, Presbyterian Health, Education, and Welfare Association

Let us pray

Loving and merciful God, in Christ you welcome all your children with hope, grace, and forgiveness. Lord, let your Spirit move in us. Help us to open our hearts, our arms, and our doors to welcome your children home. Amen.

Sunday Lectionary and Hymns

Jonah 3:1–5, 10
“Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me”
GTG 438, HB 271

Ps. 62:5–12
“In Silence My Soul Thirsts”
GTG 790

1 Cor. 7:29–31
“God of Grace and God of Glory”
GTG 307, HB 358, PH 420

Mark 1:14–20
“Take My Life”
GTG 697, HB 310, PH 391

Daily Lectionary

Morning Psalms 67; 150
First Reading Isaiah 47:1-15
Second Reading Hebrews 10:19-31
Gospel Reading John 5:2-18
Evening Psalms 46; 93

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