By: Gunther Fiek
Posted by: Bob Chatelle
I wanted to share a short speech I gave on Saturday morning (April 29, 2017). A few weeks ago I was asked to be the inside speaker for the Kairos community here at Dooly S.P. I’m a member of Kairos which is a community of Christian inmates and is supposed to be nondenominational. We usually meet every Friday night for what we call prayer and share. Then, on the last Saturday of every month, we have what we call the Reunion where we meet as a much larger group and where we also have outside volunteers. The outside volunteers are Christian individuals who devote time to keep the Kairos ministry running from the outside. Popcorn, cookies and a variety of different types of sodas are served to us. We love popcorn! (We usually don’t have access to popcorn here). The highlight of the reunion is probably the two speakers who deliver a message to the community. An inside speaker is one of the inmates who is a member of Kairos and the outside speaker is one of the volunteers. Because we usually have time constraints, the speeches must be short. For that reason, I could not expand a bit more as I would have liked to on some of the points I mentioned. Here at Dooly we have close to 500 inmates who are Kairos members but only between 150 to 200 inmates consistently participate in the Friday night meetings and the Reunion at the end of the month. Just about every facility in Georgia has a Kairos ministry. If you would like to learn more about Kairos you can visit their online site at http://www.kairosprisonministry.org. I hope you enjoy the message I gave to the community which you will find below.
Good morning. I have been given the honor to stand here before you my brothers in Christ to speak to you about ‘Fellowship.’ But before I do that, and to understand the true meaning of Christian fellowship, we need to understand what it means to be a Christian. Just because we go to church that doesn’t make us a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes us a car. So, I will very briefly touch on that.
I’m here this morning as a Christian brother and a member of this Kairos community. No matter what Christian church one belongs to, whether we worship at one of the many Protestant churches or a Catholic Church, or we simply just prefer to be called a Christian, whatever doctrinal or theological differences some of us may have, when we come to Kairos that should stay at the door. Because Kairos is “God’s special time” and is a time to show agape love to Him just as He has shown it to us. When we come to Kairos we should come hungry, not for popcorn, but for the Word of God. Our focus should be to always remember, in the words of Billy Graham, this: “He wants your fellowship, and He has done everything possible to make it a reality. He has forgiven your sins, at a cost of His own dear Son. He has given you His Word, and the priceless privilege of prayer and worship.”
Being a Christian and living that life in prison is certainly challenging. But who said that the Christian life would be easy? Some of us were believers before we came to prison. Some of us came to know God here in prison. Some of us might have short sentences while others might be here for a while. Whatever the case may be, I believe that being a Christian in today’s world is probably just as difficult as the persecution that Christians of the first few centuries endured. Our beliefs and what we stand for as believers are under attack by a world that seems to turn more secular every day.
If we cannot use our time here to deepen our faith, to develop and grow our spiritual life which will lead us to a more secure relationship with God, what makes us think that we will be able to live the Christian life with all the distractions and responsibilities that there is out there?
When we made the commitment to follow Christ, we committed to change who we are. In the book of Matthew, Chapter 19, there’s the story of the Rich Young Man who asks Jesus what he needs to do to gain eternal life. Jesus replies and tells the rich young man to follow the commandments for which the young man says that he has observed all of them. He then asks Jesus what else is he missing? Jesus says, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell all your possessions, give to the poor and then you will have treasures in heaven. Then come follow me”. The rich man walks away sad because he had many possessions. One way to look at this story is that is just not a matter of following the commandments. Jesus was telling this man that in order to follow Him he needed to change who he was and leave everything behind. Jesus didn’t stop the man and said “wait, wait, I didn’t mean it like that. You can still follow me”.
You see, as long as we have anything that ties us to who we were before we decided to change our life we cannot enjoy full fellowship with God. 1 John 2:15-17 tells us, “Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world. Yet the world and its enticements are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever”. Those ties that some of us may still have need to be severed — cut! Thomas Merton, author of many books on Christian spirituality, said, “The things that we love tell us what we are.” Let me repeat that one more time. “The things that we love tell us what we are.” Just like the rich young man who couldn’t let go of his possessions, it showed where his true love stood.
This is where fellowship comes into play. We are a community, united with the love of Christ. But, … are we?
What does it mean to have fellowship with one another? More specifically, as a Christian community? And, most importantly, how can we have fellowship with God? Back to our original Scripture, in 1 John 1: 5-7 those verses tells us, and I’m going to read them again, “Now this is the message that we have heard from him and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.” There are two key words in these passages that I will focus on, ‘light and darkness’. 2 Corinthians 6: 14 says that there is no fellowship between light and darkness.
But, frist, to understand fellowship I think its best that we define it. Webster’s New World Dictionary defines fellowship as “companionship,” “a mutual sharing,” and “a group of people with the same interest.”
So what are factors that prevents us from experiencing true fellowship? Well, to start with, just like the story of the rich young man, we need to let go of anything that binds us to actions that will keep us in darkness. St. Paul tells us in his letter to the Galatians, 5:19-21, this: “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, envy, drinking bouts, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
The fellowship that we share in this community is about being there for one another because we are traveling through this road together. Is about ‘check and balances.’ In a true fellowship, we are all equal regardless of race, color, social class, demographics. We share and pray together like a family and we should hold each other accountable. Rick Warren, author of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ said, “Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes aren’t rubbed in but rubbed out.”
If we are to walk in the light, St. Paul further states to the Galatians, in verses 22-26, “In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ [Jesus] have crucified their flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also follow the Spirit. Let us not be conceited, provoking one another, envious of one another.” Brothers, if we are to walk in the light we must live by the Spirit.
At the beginning of the year we spoke about unity and then about love. Someone shared that unity and love are intertwined together. How true that statement is. Because if we don’t have love for one another then there is no unity. And if there is no unity then there is no love. The closer these bonds of unity, the more intimate the fellowship. So unity and love affect the fellowship that we should experience here and if we don’t have an intimate fellowship it dims the light that we should reflect.
Allow me to illustrate this by borrowing an analogy that a fellow brother shared, who, after serving a life sentence, is now in a TC program. He had this glow in the dark crucifix, a small cross with a stand, that when it was exposed to light it absorbed it. When his cell was dark or if he placed the crucifix inside his locker, it will glow. This is a dark world. Prison is a dark world. Just like that crucifix that will glow in the dark, we need to be a beacon that radiates a light so bright that who we are as a community in fellowship with one another will guide those lost souls or skeptics to this community of believers. John 1: 5 says that “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it”. Just like the Scriptures said, if we walk in the light as He is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another.
Let’s not give no one outside this community a reason to point a finger to any of us. Because pointing a finger to one of us is like pointing a finger to all of us. I want you to also remember this: St. Augustine said, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.”
Que Dios me los bendiga. God bless you all. Thank you