Monday Musings for 5.10.21
I first became aware of Kirbyjon Caldwell in the 1990’s. Our church bought a set of his videos. He is a gifted communicator. I learned that he founded Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston in 1982. They started with 25 members. He was their pastor for 38 years. He grew that church up to 18,000 members.
He would still be their pastor today except he is now an inmate in federal prison. He pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to commit wire fraud.” He had issued phony bonds. Essentially he stole millions of dollars from people in his church who trusted him. He was sentenced to six years. He is 68.
Every church I have served has had people convicted of crimes. We often forget these people. It’s like they no longer exist. We say they deserve what they got. When they get out, we say we want them to have a chance. But not living near us, working for us, or marrying into our family. Essentially we write these people off. Their life is over, or it should be.
What a contrast to the attitude of Jesus! Jesus never gave up on anyone. Jesus changed people others had given up on. He still does. He said one of the ways his disciples will be recognized is by our attitude to prisoners. “I was in prison, and you visited me” (Matthew 25:36).
It was a shock to learn what had happened to Kirbyjon Caldwell. One of the first things I thought of when I heard the news was his book, The Gospel of Good Success. One of the chapters is “Staging a Comeback.” Now it’s time for him to stage a comeback of his own, and I don’t doubt that he will. And you don’t have to be in prison to stage a comeback. His 8-point plan applies to us all:
1) Acknowledge where you are.
2) Set a simple initial goal.
3) Recognize your pain and proclaim your want!
4) Realize that God wants you to make a comeback, but you’ve got to act.
5) Forgive yourself and seek healing.
6) Accept help from others.
7) Make sure your way is God’s way.
8) Press for results.
There is a sixth grade girl in Rigby, Idaho who is locked up right now. We know nothing about her except that she is in very serious trouble. She has her whole life ahead of her. What will that life be like? There’s a lot we don’t know about this whole tragic situation, but there are two things we know for sure. 1) Jesus has not given up on her. 2) We won’t either.
The first thing I did after I sent you my weekly e-mail, was work on Sunday’s worship service. The theme is going to be grace. I stumbled upon this that fits so perfectly with what I just sent, that I’m sending it to you now. The author is Philip Yancey. The source is his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace.
Ron Nikkei has a standard talk that he delivers to prisoners around the world.
“We don’t know who will make it to heaven,” he says. “Jesus indicated a lot of people will face surprises: ‘Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven.’ But we do know that some thieves and murderers will be there. Jesus promised heaven to the thief on the cross, and the apostle Paul was an accomplice to murder.”
I have watched the expressions on the faces of prisoners in places like Chile, Peru, and Russia as Ron’s point sinks in. For them the scandal of grace sounds too good to be true.
When Bill Moyers filmed a television special on the hymn “Amazing Grace,” his camera followed Johnny Cash into the bowels of a maximum-security prison. “What does this song mean to you?” Cash asked the prisoners after singing the hymn. One man serving time for attempted murder replied, “I’d been a deacon, and churchman, but I never know what grace was until I ended up in a place like this.”