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Prison wedding

by davesandel on September 9th, 2021

Thursday, September 9, 2021                                    (today’s lectionary)

Memorial of Saint Peter Claver, Priest

Prison wedding

Occasionally a prison wedding I officiated at Danville Correctional Center in Illinois rose far above the others. I don’t remember her name, but a young English professor flew from Hawaii and invited her family, along with his, to their wedding, which was held as usual in the waiting room for inmates who had visitors. She brought a ring for him, which by rule could not be valued at over $50. She helped her family manage the red tape involved in visiting the prison. She wore simple wedding clothes. Her fiancée wore his best blues.

Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.

The wedding couple had known each other since they were teenagers. What can only be called a tragedy interrupted their courtship and sent the young man to prison for a very long time. Can you imagine?

During their ceremony I read Jeremiah 29:11 and Colossians 3:12-17, among other passages. I added the word “together” to Jeremiah’s hope-filled promises. As you now are not just two, but becoming one, God has “… plans to prosper and not to harm you TOGETHER, to give you hope and a future TOGETHER. When you come and pray to him TOGETHER, he will listen to you.”

It doesn’t matter whether a wedding is fancy or simple, or whether it’s held in a prison or a church. Some couples look each other in the eyes, some don’t. This man and woman looked each other in the eyes.

As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever complaints you may have against one another: forgive as the Lord forgave you. And above all these, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect harmony.

Of course, as this man and woman are so happy together, so are the rest of us. It’s contagious, and all of us fall in love again with love. God’s presence rings the room with joy.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

That night the bride’s father hosted a big party at Silver Creek, the nicest restaurant in Urbana. Margaret and I were invited. The bride opened her wedding gifts, and her husband’s, although he could not attend. He stayed behind the walls, wondering if all of today’s events had really happened. Unreal.

Of course, and still … I got a letter now and then from the bride during the next few years. Their marriage co-existed alongside the rest of reality, though at a great distance. Still, I have no doubt their faithfulness to each other and to God continues still.

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!

(Colossians 3, Psalm 150, 1 John 4, Luke 6)

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