taking the words of Jesus seriously
We have a special sermon this Holy Week and Easter. Pastor Kevin Burns has recorded a sermon for all of us, from Unit 2 at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution… Tennessee’s death row.  I met Kevin “KB” Burns about 10 years ago, as I began visiting the men on Unit 2.  I’ll never forget one of the first times we met.  
I had just spoken at a conference, along with the Governor of Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam.  On the way out of the conference, I had a chance to talk with the Governor, and, among other things, I passionately pleaded with him not to execute people.  Then I headed to Riverbend to visit the guys.  I told them about the encounter with the Governor, and curiously, I asked them, “What would you have said?”  I wondered what they would say to the Governor, this fellow Christian who had the power of life and death.  Several of them had execution dates already set.  The first person to speak up was KB.  Without hesitation he said, “We’d invite the governor to come and pray with us.”  The room resonated with a resounding, “Amen.”  Eventually that turned into an official invitation.  Over half of the men on Tennessee’s death row have now signed onto this genuine, heartfelt request for the Governor, now Gov. Bill Lee, to come and pray with them. 
Over the years I’ve had the chance to get to know KB well.  He has a joy that is contagious and insists that death row be called “life row” because life is always more powerful than death and love more powerful than hatred.  One of the most moving experiences of my life was being there for his ordination, as Pastor Kevin Riggs officially ordained KB.  As you can imagine it was different from any other ordination.  Guards surrounded the small group of friends, family, and clergy who were there to celebrate the moment.  KB shared his testimony with that contagious joy and smile, with all the prison officials listening in.  We all prayed over him.  And his first act after ordination was to serve us all communion.  I will never forget it.  The Body of Christ, the Blood of Christ, shared together on death row… sorry, “life” row.  In the years, Pastor KB has been a holy presence on Unit 2 and beyond, a radiant light in the darkness, a steady force for love and mercy and redemption.  
It is an honor and a gift to have Pastor Kevin “KB” Burns bring us an Easter message this Sunday. -Shane Claiborne 
Below is an excerpt from Pastor Burns’ sermon, entitled “The Feasts of God’s Calendar”. (He drew from Exodus 12:1-13, Deuteronomy 16:9-12, and Leviticus 23:33):

I want to go back to the Feast of Weeks.  I start back at the beginning. I go back to unleavened bread–the Feast of Passover, back to Genesis. The Lord had told them that this month: the month Aviv on the Jewish calendar, is going to be for you the beginning of the year when I deliver you from the hand of bondage, from the hand of the Egyptians that have held you captive for all these years.

I’m planning a deliverance for you. And when I deliver you, this is going to be to you a new beginning. And I’m going to take you over into a land that I have promised unto your father, Abraham, and I’m going to establish you there. And when I establish you all these feasts and all these covenants that I made with you, you are going to keep them throughout your generations. And he told them on this night to prepare a lamb, take your lamb of the firstlings of the flock—a year-old lamb–and make sure that this lamb is without a blemish, that this is a perfect healthy lamb: a male lamb.

God says, keep it to the 14th day of the month. Make sure that there are no physical problems with it. And on the 14th day–on the same night–I want you to slay this lamb and I want you to offer it as a sacrifice upon the altar, and you’re going   to eat of its flesh.

All the significance of this was from the beginning of the creation God had a lamb-that he preserved-the end of days, until the end of time: the time that he sent his holy Son, Jesus. Jesus is the Lamb of God.

He was prepared before he was slain, before the foundation of the world. This is the Lamb of God, Jesus Himself. This Passover was a foreshadowing. It was a symbolism of Jesus Christ—the son of God to come and to offer himself as a sacrifice to us.

Everything God was doing with Israel, he said I’m doing in the natural for you where you can understand, but in the spirit, I’m doing a spiritual work.  I’m redeeming mankind and I’m seeking to right the wrong that took place in Adam and when I cursed the earth. I’m going to take away that burden from you, I’m going to take away that curse from you. I’m going to restore you and bring you back to myself: a gathering at the end of days….

*Refers to Exodus 12:7

We know through revelation of the scripture that blood that was on the doorpost was foreshadowing– was symbolic of the Blood of Jesus that was to deliver us from sin and from the depths of the wages of sin, which is death.

God said there needed to be a sacrifice for mankind and I need a man that is perfect because man, through Adam, failed, so man had to live perfectly to redeem fallen man.

God is a just God. He said with unleavened bread shall this feast be eaten.

Any time you see leavened bread in the bible–leavened bread is representative of sin. God is telling them, in this night, when you eat your bread—all year they will eat leavened bread, but he said, “these high holy feasts you are to eat unleavened bread, have no leavened, even in your houses for seven days”.

God is saying “this unleavened bread is symbolic of me washing sins away.” He said, “I’m going to remove from you the only problem that I have from you, and that is sin in your life”.

Unleavened bread–that bread was also representative of life. He said I am the true bread of heaven that came down from heaven. Moses didn’t give your fathers the true bread of heaven.

They ate manna and are dead. Any man that eats of my flesh, the true bread of heaven, shall live forever.



About The Author

Rev. Kevin Burns is an associate pastor of Franklin Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee, and has been on death row for 25 years at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution. There, he is known as Pastor KB, where he pastors The Church of Life, a church for the men on death row, led by the men on death row.

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