By: David H. May, Rector
I’ve been thinking about one of the traditional practices for Christians in the season of Lent is that we refrain, we fast from saying ‘alleluia’. We just hold onto all those ‘alleluias’ and store them up in our spirits so that when Easter morning comes we can just let all those stored up ‘alleluias’ burst out with special energy and joy, like a bird out of a cage flying off free into the bright blue sky.
And I’ve been thinking that we’ve now been given a different kind of fast this Lent – we’re fasting, abstaining from being together. I’m not sure anyone can say when we’ll be able to come back together – a few weeks, months? I don’t think there’s anyone who really knows. I thought with a start just the other day, will we back together for Holy Week? Easter? I don’t think anyone knows.
One of the things that the Spirit has shown people when we fast from food is what it feels like to actually be hungry and what a gift it is when you can finally dig in and have that hunger satisfied. That experience – like knowing else – shows us what a grace, what a miracle really the life God has given us really is.
And I think the same may be true about this unexpected and unchosen fast we are on right now – a fast from being gathered together as the Beloved Community of Jesus. But maybe there’s a gift in this too.
This past Wednesday night, some of us hung around to greet people who may not have gotten the information that the Lenten Supper and Speaker series had been cancelled. A parishioner who hadn’t gotten word pulled up and I walked over to their car to tell them. I explained that the decision had just been made to suspend public worship and other gatherings as a response to the coronavirus outbreak. This person just sat there in their car and you could see this sadness in her eyes. She said, ‘you know, I guess I forget what a privilege it is to come together, to all be together to worship. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing to be reminded of’.
It seems that God has made us to need one another, to feel that we are connected to one another, to know that we are connected to one another just as Paul said like the members of a Body. Perhaps this is a time to see that actually we really do need each other in the same way we need air and food.
I think this beautiful and long gospel reading is Jesus at work, doing his Father’s will, to remind us of just that. Jews and Samaritans in Jesus day assumed they didn’t have anything to do with each other. They didn’t need each other – it was just fine to live separately, not having anything to do with each other. Jesus – as he always does – is at work in this story to make us hungry for each other, knitting us back together, show us his face shining in the face of someone we assumed we didn’t need.
I don’t think any of us would have chosen to fast from being together. But maybe the Spirit is at work in this time and will use this time, this absence from one another, to make us hungry in a way that will change us in a way that won’t ever be unchanged.
So when will we be back here together. I don’t know. But we will. But til then our absence from one another has something precious to teach us about how much we need one another, which as far as I can tell is at the very heart of what our great Good Shepherd, Jesus, live and died and rose again to show us and to do for us.
I wonder how this fast will change us and how large it will make our hearts for God and for one another and for this beautiful world that God loves. I don’t know, but there will be alleluias again. Amen.