Eighty years ago today, the island prison known as Alcatraz was opened and the first delivery of 137 prisoners arrived in San Fransisco from the federal prison at Fort Leavenworth. Alcatraz, because of its unique location in the middle of San Fransisco Bay, was used to house Civil War prisoners are early as 1861 and originally was discovered by the Spanish much earlier; they named it “The Island of the Pelicans”, a rough translation of the word “Alcatraz.”
The prison was reserved for the worst of the worst – those people who got into constant trouble at other prisons in the system. Many well known people were incarcerated there and there have been numerous specials on television about the history of this famous landmark. In fact, years ago, Janet, the kids and I all visited the prison and actually saw the cellblocks were many of the most notorious prisoners were kept. It was quite a place but to be sure, the saltwater had taken a toll on the concrete and the overall condition of the buildings on this remote island. Approximately 50 years ago, it was shut down after only about 29 years in operation.
I have always had a fascination with stories about this place – in fact, when I was a young boy I went to the prison with my mother and father on a visit to the west coast back in 1966 or so. And one time when I was there a woman who had grown up on Alcatraz was signing books that she had written on the subject. But almost everyone agrees that the combination of the remote location, the exposure to the salt air and the limited maintenance schedule on the island all contributed to its demise.
The verse for this evening is from the gospel of Luke. It has to do with the difference between the things of this world, that all wear out, and the things of heaven that never wear out. We are told, in Luke 12:33,”Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide yourselves purses that do not wear out—a treasure in heaven that never decreases, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.” My encouragement this evening is that God wants us to focus on the eternal, not the things here on earth. My prayer is that you will get your mind wrapped around the desires of God and know that those investments bear eternal rewards. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…