A White-Collar Minister At A Pharisee’s House: Luke 14:8-11. By, Jeff Grant
Reprinted from Prisonist.org.
8 “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9 If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10 But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. 11 For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Luke 14:8-11
I tell this tale to almost all my ministees who are heading for prison. It’s based on a portion of the scripture passage often referred to in Bibles as, “Jesus At A Pharisee’s House.” Luke 14:8-11. I tell them:
Once you get to prison and settle in for few days, you’ll inevitably wonder over to the rec (recreation area). There, you’ll see some guys playing a pick-up game of basketball. You won’t know anybody yet, so you’ll probably be standing around for a while with your hands in your pockets not knowing quite what to do. After a little while, you’ll notice that there are some bleachers, the kind with two or three rows like you remember from elementary school or middle school. You will nonchalantly walk over to the bleachers to sit down and watch the basketball game.
Question: Where on the bleachers should you sit? Answer: In the back row.
If you sit in the front row of the bleachers, you will likely be sitting in somebody else’s seat, even if they are not there. Remembering this simple rule at all times, in all situations, might be the difference between keeping safe and getting killed in prison
I am hurting.
If you are a close reader of prisonist.org, I suppose you wouldn’t really know it. Not with all the news and events we post, speaking engagements, sermons, and other positive stuff.
In many ways, it’s my job to project the sturdiness and resiliency needed to minister to, and advocate for, the sick and suffering outcasts accused or convicted of white-collar crimes, as well as their families. What choice do I really have?
But I also know it’s my job to tell the truth. To be open and vulnerable so as to give comfort and agency to these people at a time in their lives when they are deeply suffering. And right now, I’m hurt. So I’m telling the truth.
A few times in the past few months, I’ve left banquets to which I‘ve been invited with the grim reminder that the scarlet letter of having been convicted of a “white-collar” crime is really a tattoo – a tattoo that I wear, and that we all wear if we are poor, hungry, homeless, sick or suffering from incarceration issues.
What can I do about it when I am my computer at 4 in the morning? Well, I know I can change my attitude. I know I can pray.
Precious God, if suffering is the touchstone of spiritual growth – I pray that I have learned and will grow from this moment of reflection, and that this suffering has not been in vain.
Put not your trust in princes, Nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; In that very day his thoughts perish. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help. – Psalm 146:3-5
It’s time to stop relying so much on the approval of other people. It’s time for more trust and faith in God.
I have a few banquets coming up soon where I can put this to the test.
Rev. Jeff Grant, JD, M Div is the Minister/Director of the Progressive Prison Project/Innocent Spouse and Children Project in Greenwich, Connecticut. He is engaging in new forms of prison ministries providing religious and spiritual support to people affected by inner city, white-collar and nonviolent incarceration issues and their loved ones – before, during and upon reentry from prison. They are “the first ministries in the United States created to support people accused or convicted of white-collar and other nonviolent crimes and their families.” Website: prisonist.org. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: (203) 769-1096.