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Communion 2009

In Prison, Lonely

Originally scheduled for October 4

Sherlock Holmes called them the “agony columns.” They are the personal ads which even yet appear in the newspapers, and increasingly on various web sites. A common one comes from someone who is an inmate, seeking someone to write and perhaps to visit. Prison is a surprisingly lonely life. You are surrounded by thousands of sinners, each looking out for number one. You are therefore alone in a crowd; you dare not seek help – for that betrays your weakness, and you will be crushed. Surrounded, yet completely alone.

In such a life the letter from outside is greatly prized; a visit is like a light in a dark tunnel. For most prisoners, these things are rare. There may be thousands of prisoners in the institution; a few dozen will get a visit. Letters are a little more common, but also rare.

Those of us outside may say, “It’s your own fault. Stew in your own juices.” That is usually true – but does nothing to comfort the lonely.


In a sense, we should understand this. We are all prisoners on Planet Earth. We too are surrounded by sinners, who are admittedly more polite about it. And, if you will, it’s our own fault, for we are sinners all. Our lives are no doubt more pleasant than that of the prisoner, but our chance of being lonely is still great. Consider that we trust our fellow sinners much more; when they fail us the rejection and loneliness is even greater. We are serving a life sentence; no hope but death.

But for the Christian there is hope. Do we prize a letter from home? Yes, we have a whole Bible full of them. We have not been left alone. Is not the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, indwelling us? We have not been left alone. But the great comfort comes at communion – it is a visit from our Lord. He tells us, “this is my body.”

There is greater hope than that. We celebrate this memorial until our Lord returns. It is then that the bars of death will be torn away. We shall see the end of tears and loneliness, and celebrate indeed.

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