I get my Bible lessons in the most unusual places. As a church musician, I am often busy practicing at the time of adult Sunday School or Bible study sessions on Sunday morning. But I do not go without Bible study. My good friend and retired pastor Al Hoksbergen and I set aside an hour a week for a little libation and discussion, and this invariably turns into a meaningful lesson for me. This week, I got a bonus. Al and I were asked to do a funeral service. A 90-year-old charter member of our church had died.
I know of no one who does a memorial service better than Al. He doesn't have a "canned sermon" on file for funerals. He not only meets with the families, but then relies on his many years of ministry, preaching, teaching and counseling, to find a perfect match of scripture and the current situation.
The title of the message was "I Have a Secret," and the scripture passage was from Philippians. The Apostle Paul, writing from a prison where he was actually on death row, said "I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." But he didn't stop there. He said, "I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want."
And that sent my mind in another direction. I didn't listen very well for a few minutes. I was thinking of my prisoner friends. I have a few friends who, like Paul, have learned this secret, and I am astounded every time I hear them speak. I know of two men and a woman who know they don't belong behind bars, know they were treated wrongly, and yet they have the same testimony as St. Paul.
Then I thought about so many others who cannot find that contentment, and it reminded me that we must pray for many, many, many prisoners who are upset, sad, disturbed, angry, and distraught because the system hasn't been fair with them. Those prayers must also be extended to the family and friends of these prisoners...people who are equally angry and upset.
Their day will come. Perhaps not on this earth, but their day will come.
Until then, let's pray that they learn Paul's secret.