Two years ago, on the occasion of what would have been his 100th birthday, “The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela” was published. Mandela, the man who would become President and Healer-in-Chief of South Africa, wrote hundreds of letters — to prison officials, family and friends – during his 27 years of confinement, from Nov. 7, 1962 to Feb. 11, 1990. The New York Times characterized the volume in five words: “Hope is a powerful weapon.”
Some great literature has been written from prison. Notably, Martin Luther King Jr.’s, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which marked a turning point in the Civil Rights movement. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran German pastor imprisoned during World War II, wrote letters and notes from prison that were smuggled out of the prison, collected, and published after the war. They set the theological world on its head. John Bunyan wrote “Grace Abounding” from prison.
“Grace Abounding” sounds a lot like Paul, and it’s probably no accident, because Paul is the first of the great prison writers. And the Letter to the Philippians is the greatest. It’s a theological letter. That’s why it’s in the New Testament. But it’s also the testimony of a man who found in prison a new freedom. Like Mandela, he found hope. And, remarkably, the letter is filled joy. Paul would also discover peace in isolation. Philippians will be our text for the next few weeks as we walk through its four chapters.
For those interested in engaging the text in community I will be facilitating a Bible Study on Tuesdays at 11:00am and 6:30pm, starting September 15. Please RSVP to the Church Office for zoom information at firstname.lastname@example.org. Together let’s tap into the Source of hope, joy and peace that Paul found in confinement!
Grace and peace,