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A Song for Lent – Day 35 – Light for Dark Dungeons

To Read: Click on song title to watch a video

Close Every Door to Me

from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

Close every door to me, hide all the world from me
Bar all the windows and shut out the light
Do what you want with me, hate me and laugh at me
Darken my daytime and torture my night

If my life were important I would ask will I live or die
But I know the answers lie far from this world

Close every door to me, Keep those I love from me
Children of Israel are never alone
For I know I shall find my own peace of mind
For I have been promised a land of my own
 

Close every door to me, hide all the world from me
Bar all the windows and shut out the light

Just give me a number instead of my name
Forget all about me and let me decay
I do not matter I’m only one person
Destroy me completely then throw me away

If my life were important…

 

From the Scriptures:

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4.1-5

 

To Reflect:

‘Just give me a number instead of my name’… 

Why are prisoners given numbers instead of their names?  In prisons designed for punishment rather than rehabilitation it is more than just a way to keep the tally ofJoseph and TATDClost souls but a way of demeaning those souls.  Later this week we will visit ‘Les Miserables’ which begins with the work song about prisoner 24601 and see how the number chases Jean Valjean all the way through the story.

In my own life I have seen how ‘dehumanising by numbers’ works. My school friends still refer to each other by their locker numbers, numbers so ingrained on our memories that I am sure more than a few of them are used as passwords for internet accounts.  (And before any of that nutty loving bunch of reprobates, who may be reading these words, tries the combinations 59CWD or 30CWD to access anything of mine, they will be out of luck).

More challenging though was my South African ID number; a system that I hope has now changed.  That number told the whole world my date of birth, that I was the 152nd man in South Africa registered with that date of birth, that I was White, that I was a UK citizen, and that I had a Permanent Residence Permit.  If I were Black the number would have also revealed to which South African tribe I belonged!  Little wonder that for many Black people it was referred to as a ‘Dompas’[i] (dumb pass) after its predecessor wherein a Police Officer could read your life without asking you any questions at all.

People who are known by numbers alone may just as well be in a dungeon, even if they are ‘free’ to walk about their own business.  Closing every door, shutting out the light, and throwing away the key about describes the only things that can be done.

But this has not always been the case.

Returning to South Africa, prisoner number 46664 spent 27 years in his cell on Robben Island and used the time to forge a Rainbow Nation upon his release.  Having stood inside Nelson Mandela’s cell I know it to be a holy place, a place overflowing with hope instead of being shrouded with darkness.

The apostle Paul, having escaped one prison in Philippi, used his time in jail in Rome to continue to spread the Good News through his writings.  Some commentators even suggest that his description of ‘The Whole Armour of God’ in Ephesians comes from him studying closely the uniform of his prison guard.

And then there is our Beloved; the One who came to proclaim release to captives becoming a beaten and bloodied prisoner Himself.  Then, wonderfully winning for us healing by the wounds He carried (1 Peter 2.24).

Not all prisons are physical cells. Not all prisons are places of redemption. But whatever sort of prison in which we find ourselves can become a place of hope.  Charles Wesley’s words say it well; 

Long my imprisoned sprit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.

Sin, be it our own or another’s, keeps us ‘fast bound’ in all sorts of prisons. ‘Can it be?’ Wesley asks, that we have a Saviour who holds the key to our cell.  Yes there is!  This week we watch with awe as He uses His own life to wrest us from the dungeon of death and escort us to the dawn of the resurrection.

The cross, like a prison cell on Robben Island, is never a place of darkness but always the birthplace of hope.

To Pray: 

As we closed our doors each Sunday,
and walk freely through the church door,
other doors slammed behind other people,
and they do not know if or when they will open again:
doors in prison cells and torture chambers;
doors separating families,
doors in labour camps.
Let us ask Christ,
who came to set all free,
to enable us to experience his freedom
and to bring that freedom to others.

Pax Christi, international Roman Catholic peace organisation 

  

To Do: 

1)    Find out the name of your nearest Prison and the name of the Prison Chaplains and pray for them each day this week.
2)    Is there any particular sin you find yourself imprisoned by?

Offer those chains to our Beloved this week.  If it is a help to you perhaps even make your confession this week?

Encore: Click on song title to watch a video

Joseph’s brothers thought that when they got rid of him everything would be much better.  However things only seemed to get worse which they tell of as they sing Those Canaan Days

Acknowledgements:

Prayers are from ‘Prayers Encircling the World’ and are copyright © SPCK: 1998.
Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
These Reflections, ‘A Song for Lent – 40 Days in the West End’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2018

[i] A short description of the Pass Laws, which preceded the Identity Document may be found here

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