Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name (Psalm 142,7 KJV)
Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. (2.Corinthians 3,17)
Throughout the ages saints and faithful believers landed up in prison: Joseph as slave in Egypt, Daniel in the lion’s den in Babylon, Jeremiah the prophet in that dreadful pit in Jerusalem, St. John the Baptist under Herod the fox, St. Peter also in Jerusalem, St. Paul and Silas in Philippi. It goes without saying that they were innocent. Incarcerated by the evil whims of the powers that were. St. John even lost his head and life – and not because he was eventually found guilty, but rather because that fox wanted to please his audience and not renegade on the promise made to that pretty dancer. In all these more or less dreadful situations, the prayer was like the one chosen as reading for today: Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name (Psalm 142,8) Release, liberate, free me – my body and soul, my whole being and person – so that I may praise your name o Lord and God.
God hears these prayers. Joseph attained greatest prestige in Egypt under Pharaoh as did Daniel in Babylon. Jeremiah was proved right and got out and on free footing – at least until they forced him to join them in Egyptian exile. St.Peter got out scott-free taken by the hand of a delivering angel and St. Paul even baptised his tormentor, the prison warden together with his entire family. Even today we still praise our God for these miraculous deliveries from terrible dungeons and to renewed freedom and life. Still St. John the Baptist was not freed, but unceremoniously decapitated – to be buried by his mourning followers. As last prophet pointing out the Messiah: “Behold, the lamb of God, who bears the sins of the world!”, he fulfilled his mission by finally also pointing to the death of the one, he was proclaiming. The servant follows his master and is there where his Lord is.
We believe that the Lord can set us free even in prison and lying in fetters moaning. St. Paul and Silas praising the Lord in the darkest night and deepest dungeon prove this. Countless prisoners afterwards have shown the same. Bonhoeffer’s letters from prison go a long way to praise the Lord, who grants liberty and freedom through his Holy Spirit even in fascist and nazi strongholds. “Unbroken” is the title of a recent film release. I’ve not seen it, but this title describes those many, many faithful, who retained their Christian liberty even though they succumbed to the pressures and sufferings of this time and age, dying here to be carried safe and sound into heavenly realms and godly company.
The Lord can give peace and confidence in the worst circumstances, freedom in prison, prosperity in poverty – and life even in and through death. He works through the very opposite, because he is God and creates all out of nothing. St. John the evangelist wrote his comforting Apocalypse on Patmos – Luther translated the New Testament in his Patmos , the Wartburg – and we too know, why the caged bird sings, because: Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. That’s why there is no need to despair or give up hope. The Lord is in control and he does all things well. He surely finishes perfectly, what he has begun and therefore we are hopeful that he will do the same with the good work, he has started in us. Praise be to him now and forever. Amen.