Friday, March 16, 2012

No Words


When I was a freshman in college, I found myself in the cafeteria of one of the largest jails in the United States. Staring at me were about 150 fairly rough looking incarcerated women in matching orange scrubs. As I had entered this room, I saw the dejected eyes of those who had just been admitted and stripped of their dignity and individuality. When it came my time to speak, I felt their eyes fixed upon me as my heart pounded loudly.
Before we went to this jail, I was told to prepare a short sermonette to share with the inmates. Although I considered myself to have fairly adequate knowledge of the scriptures, I had a hard time mustering a relevant message for these people. I am not sure if there exists another group of people in the world to which I shared less experience. At some point during my preparation, God must have led me to the first chapter of Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth.
In this chapter, Paul encourages the Corinthians that God has chosen the weak to shame the strong, the despised to displace the heralded, and the foolish to outwit the wise. According to what I have read, this message would have been particularly pertinent to the inhabitants of Corinth. Only seven years before Paul’s first visit, the Romans had re-established Corinth as a Roman city. Upon re-establishment, Corinth was re-populated largely with disparate freed slaves from all over the lands that had been conquered by the powerful Romans. The church in Corinth was likely made up of peoples who knew what it was like to be on the bottom rung of the social ladder.
As the words of Paul coming from my lips echoed through the linoleum of that Californian jail, I felt a sudden surge of confidence. Although this bony eighteen year-old white kid had no words for these people, God did have something to say. I think I was seeing firsthand what Paul was describing in the verse I was reading. 
In the end, the only person I know who was changed that day was me. I learned that the truth of God is larger than both my strengths and my weaknesses. It permeates through the deepest and darkest regions of all creation, seeping through the cracks of the most impenetrable barriers.

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