I learned last month I can mingle with the Muslim service if I check into chapel a few minutes early so I took advantage of being in the right place at the wrong time. I shook a few hands and made my way to the back of the empty altar to unpack my saxophone and tune up. A few inmates gathered around out of curiosity and went I played a riff of Wade in the Water a young man spoke up to say he remembered that song. It wasn't long before an impromptu chorus was humming along and a couple of musically assisted smiles broke out in our corner of the room. The guards had difficulty confirming the head count which delayed dismissal of the group for a good twenty minutes and it seemed an appropriate use of the time to teach the singers the words to the tune. The distinctions we on the outside may draw between Muslim and Christian sort've took a back seat to the voices rising in the front row intoning, "God's going to trouble the water."
I played a short solo, in lieu of a sermon, and got a few shouts of, "Go on Pastor! Blow!" as the rest of the gathering acknowledged our commotion. Eventually the guards allowed dismissal and the chapel emptied leaving the fullness of Spirit full reign of the room. Something beyond the anecdotal incident had taken place, the horn seemed to have fulfilled something in our hearts. I played This is the Day that the Lord has Made, in each of the corners of the room to get the benefits of the concrete room's echo. I was indeed entering His court's with praise and soon the Christian inmates came in clapping to the music. I gave the new group a brief rundown of what went on before they came in and they told me the guards were prepared to cancel their service as they assumed I left with the Muslim crowd but when they heard the horn out in the yard gate to the chapel remained open.
God is faithful. It may not seem like much but keeping a continuous string of authorized visits going these last five years at Pelican Bay State Prison sets the table for our Heavenly Banquet as Christ's Bride. One inmate recognized me from a visit a few years back and came over to say hello. He had a release date coming up in a month after completing ten years of his sentence. He wasn't sure why he had come to chapel that day as he hadn't been in a while but while we joked and prayed in the back row his decision began to make sense. We prayed for guidance to his steps as he got back to his family and he mentioned his younger cousin was about to be transferred to PBSP and he hoped the kid would come to chapel and be safe. I promised to look out for him and gathered the saints to pray for his family's future.
Sometimes the new song He puts on our heart is a new perspective, sometimes a new audience. We are urged to become instruments of His peace, and the music He plays through us always connects, it never divides.