Acts 8:14-17 (NRSV)
Verse 14Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. Verse 15The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit Verse 16(for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus). Verse 17Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Last year I attended a colleague's installation as pastor of a congregation behind prison walls. As is often the practice in installation services, his congregation laid their hands on him in blessing and affirmation of his call to serve them. In this case, every member of the congregation wore a particularly bland shade of taupe — their contextual church clothes each plastered with the word "INMATE" on the back — and in some cases also the words "MAXIMUM SECURITY." The sight was, no pun intended, arresting — and beautiful.
These parishioners may be physically branded with words of condemnation, but through the promise of baptism they are eternally branded with words of love and forgiveness. In that installation scene, I witnessed the transforming power of God's love. I saw modern-day Peters and Johns in an unexpected Acts 8 setting.
Loving God, be present today with prisoners and all who have recently been released from prison. Make your love known to them and through them. Amen.