The year is around AD 60-62 and the apostle is under house arrest in Rome, the place where he would be martyred probably around the time of a great city fire (let’s blame Nero) in AD 64. He would not have been crucified as a Roman citizen so he was probably beheaded. Of course no one knows the details exactly but what we do have are 4 incredible prison letters, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Not just incredible, but beautifully crafted, heart-felt and moving letters. Let’s read the opening of his letter which we call ‘Ephesians’ and let us do so slowly.
Ephesians 1:1-3 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
YOU ARE IN THE RIGHT PLACE.
However you would describe your situation today. In your pain; with all your mixed emotions; perhaps distractions and even your failings.
Paul doesn’t start his letter about being locked down or contained or not free to travel. He begins with God.
Read it again. Nearly every word is Christ Jesus or God the Father. For Paul there is no separation. There is no Christ without God. God has made Himself known to us in Jesus.
How can we be in the right place when we are in prison?
I saw on social media a few days ago a posting of the America’s Got Talent show and a man called Archie Williams who came onto the stage to sing, “Don’t let the sun go down on me.” It is hard to watch without tears. The series begins this week. Archie went onto the stage and opened up with this sentence: “I was just incarcerated for 37 years for somebody else’s crime. DNA freed me.” He later explained, “On the morning of December 9 of 1982 a 30-year-old white woman was raped and stabbed in her home. I was arrested on January 4. I couldn’t believe it was really happening. I knew I was innocent. I didn’t commit a crime. But being a poor black kid, I didn’t have the economic ability to fight the state of Louisiana.”
He continued: “At the trial, none of the fingerprints at the scene matched mine. Three people testified that I was at home, but they wanted somebody to pay. I was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole or probation. Days turned into weeks and into months and into decades. It was like a nightmare.”
He concluded with these words, “Freedom is of the mind. I went to prison, but I never let my mind go to prison.”
How can we be in the right place when we are in prison? Only if we don’t allow prison to be the place we are in.
We have got to bring God back into the centre of our prison so that we don’t talk about the prison as much as we do of Him.
Paul would talk about being in prison later but none of his letters begin there. He begins with God.
Our vocabulary must reveal where we are with God not where we are in this world.
If God is with you then you are in the right place.