We served Easter Communion on the Saturday morning before Easter. I appreciate this time because it is one of the few occasions where we can go into the high maximum-security units where normally there is no programming. These men are on lockdown as much as 23 hours a day.
Two of us enter the unit and either move cell-to-cell, or sometimes a man may exit his cell to receive communion at the cell block door. In a place where he is never called by his first name, we ask his name, and ask how we can pray for him. Usually the request is for their family members, as many have young children. They will ask for prayers regarding their upcoming court cases. Often as not they will also request prayer for the other men in the unit.
High-max also houses overflow from the mental health unit. The confluence of the message of hope meeting up with those who have experienced, and in some cases been the perpetrators of unspeakable violence and tragedy leads to some interesting experiences. In one of the units a man was loudly shouting out a string of profanities in his cell while we were serving communion through the small slot of other mens’ cell doors. Rage and anguish as the backdrop for the words “the body of Christ broken for you, the blood of Christ shed for the forgiveness of sins.”
This becomes another experience of seeking the living among the dead. There, among those steeped in despair and violence, comes a message of hope — new life in the most unlikely places.
Luke 24:1-12 (NKJV)
24 Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, 7 saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”
8 And they remembered His words. 9 Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. 11 And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. 12 But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened.