Month: April 2019

Seeking the Living Among the Dead

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.

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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. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 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? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ”

And they remembered His words. 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.

 

 

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I Can’t Do This Alone

Because of changes in security policies I’ve switched from facilitating Bible studies in the maximum-security unit and now serve in the protective custody unit. I’ve been intentional about not writing blogs because the guys in protective custody are a more vulnerable population.

Unfortunately, that means I haven’t been updating my prayer support group for quite some time now. This past week exemplified what happens when I go in without prayer support. The study did not go well. But in retrospect things have been degrading for a while. Ironically, even as I was facilitating Bible studies on the importance of living in community I was failing to update and connect with my own extended support group.

I cannot do this alone.

I don’t mean to imply that I was leading the Bible study solo. One of the other chaplains is in there with me most weeks. But rather, I was, am, and will be, in need of the men and women who support me, and the men in jail, with their prayers.

Prayer support is critical preparation.

Imagine trying to:

  • do a craft project with no supplies
  • make a meal with no cooking utensils
  • do woodworking with no tools or machines
  • play in a symphony with no music

Trying to facilitate a Bible study in jail without adequate prayer support can be just as frustrating as the examples mentioned above. I need the prayer support of others. We are in this together.

I Cor 12:12-20,26-27

Unity and Diversity in the Body

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.