Peace be with you. Do you recall the proverbial phrase “Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” In the last week, that has never felt more true. My heart aches for what I most miss, and yet, in that yearning I have discovered that maybe I have more love for community and communion in me than I ever realized.
In the last few days I have read a bit about the word diaspora. It literally means to “scatter about.” While there have been several human diasporas in history, the word itself is rooted in the Bible and describes the displacement of the Jews during the exile and then again after the second destruction of the Temple. While there is much that is lost in such times, as much as I can tell from my brief study, diasporas have been times when people discovered what really mattered and found new ways to hold onto their culture and their faith. Music was a powerful bond between slaves who were scattered across the world in the African diaspora. For the Jewish people who were dispersed from the Temple and the rituals associated with it, it meant creating new ways of worship in their homes and local communities.
It may be too soon to claim this time as a diaspora. But we have been scattered, separated and isolated. And this too has become an opportunity to re-boot the ways we stay connected, and specifically the way we worship. And we see that happening.
I invite you therefore, in the name of the church, to a season of holy creativity…to seek and find new ways to worship that hold onto what matters the most. To make a right start, decide what you want to try to do this Sunday. Join in with your own church; join in with another Episcopal church; open your prayer-book at home.
As you do, I want to remind you of a small detail from the Last Supper. This is Luke’s version, “when the hour came, Jesus and his friends gathered at the table. And he said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.' After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, 'Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.'”
Did you hear Jesus longing to be with his friends? I have eagerly desired to eat this meal. By now its clear what is before him. Jesus is going to leave them. And then he says something fascinating, “I will not eat this meal again until the kingdom comes.”
If you will allow me a moment of sanctified imagination. Jesus gave us this meal and it is something we Episcopalians treasure. But what if in heaven, Jesus himself has set the table, but is not yet sharing in the feast. Jesus is waiting for us. Might our Lord’s conviction to abstain give us a bit of courage and hope while we are unable to share in this feast. Might his holy longing let us know that our longing is holy. And to lean into what we might learn in this time of absence from the table and from each other. And to know that our hunger is known in the very heart of our Lord who hungers with us. So may our longing be our offering until we are together again.
For those who may be unable to participate with your congregation online on Sunday, tomorrow I will post a brief video homily about Sunday’s Gospel John 9:1-41 that you might use in your own devotion.
Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.