The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
Scripture: Luke 24:13-35
Through Jesus you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God. Amen.
I know you’ve heard me say this a few times, but I miss you. I miss being in our sweet sanctuary together. I miss hearing our voices rise as we pray and sing. I miss giving you hugs and shaking your hands at the peace. I miss holding a prayer shawl and seeing your outstretched arms when we bless it as a community. I miss breaking the bread and placing it in your hand at communion.
I just miss all of it.
Ours is such a physical faith. It is a faith made manifest in gathering and sharing. The way Jesus was made manifest in gathering and sharing in our gospel today.
In a way, today’s Gospel moves us through the journey of faith. Two disciples are on the road, not too far outside of Jerusalem. And they are heartbroken. A few days ago, they had just watched their leader and friend be brutally executed. All the momentum that their movement had been building—the healing, the joy, the new ways of being and believing—now felt pointless.
We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel, the two disciples say to the man they meet on the road. You can almost see them shaking their heads, lost in their sadness.
It makes me wonder about your faith. How did it come alive in you? When did it come alive in you? Because I’m willing to bet that, for a lot of us, our faith didn’t really come alive until something in our lives fell out from underneath us. Until something broke. Some loss. Some heartbreak that laid bare your utter helplessness in this world. Some devastation that left you grasping for something to hold onto. Something the cool logic of this rational world couldn’t explain, couldn’t offer.
Like those disciples on the road, you were bereft. Searching for meaning in the seeming senselessness of suffering. The faith of your childhood could no longer hold it. The cynicism of your adulthood could no longer hold it.
It was something only the mystery of faith could hold.
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
Did you notice in today’s gospel that it wasn’t words that opened the disciples' eyes to Jesus, even when it was Jesus himself saying them? Maybe they were so deep in their grief that words couldn’t get at it. Scripture couldn’t get at it. Stated beliefs couldn’t get at it.
In that moment of deep pain and loss, the only thing that could open the disciples’ eyes was breaking bread together. The only thing that could get at it was mystery—mystery that went beyond words. When they let themselves drop into that mystery, they recognized Jesus standing right next to them.
Rachel and I were talking the other day about poetry and how it’s words that go beyond words. Poetry is the movement of words in a particular way not to explain something but to evoke something sensuous, something that you can only experience with your whole being. Mind, body, and spirit all dancing together to create something that can’t be created by just one of those parts of us alone.
The sacraments are the poetry of our faith. There are words when we celebrate the sacraments, but not just words. There is water or bread and wine—and gluten-free wafers and juice—but not just those earthly things. There is gathering, but not just gathering.
When explanations or beliefs or even companionship weren’t enough to give the disciples peace in their distress, Jesus gave them something more. Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. Jesus gave them poetry, gave them communion, and suddenly they recognized his presence among them.
Right now, this pandemic is laying bare the brokenness of our world. We are learning how people value and care for our elders and others who are vulnerable to the virus. We are seeing who hurts most when the economy shuts down.
We are grieving. Just like those disciples on the road to Emmaus.
But God has a habit of sending us what we need.
When we needed to grow into our freedom, God gave us the wilderness.
When we needed direction, God gave us the prophets.
When we needed hope, God put on flesh and came among us as Jesus.
And when we needed to see Christ among us even after he died, Jesus gave us communion.
But we can’t have communion now. We can’t gather and share bread, and we certainly can’t drink from the common chalice. That, too, is something we grieve.
But God has a habit of sending us what we need. And as the poet June Jordan said, We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
What communion reminds us week after week—when we can have it—
is that Christ is already among us. We are Christ’s Body. We are his hands and feet in this world. We are the providers of hope and comfort as Christ moves in and through us.
Communion was never the end in itself. After breaking bread with Jesus, the disciples didn’t hang up their ministry and declare it fulfilled. Communion was always meant to be food for the journey.
God’s poetry doesn’t stop just because we can’t gather in the sanctuary.
We’ll miss the nourishment of that gathering and we’ll rejoice when we can come together again. But the sacrament must shift. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
Our Book of Common Prayer defines the sacraments as outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace. Right now, we are called to be the outward and visible signs for others to know their inward and spiritual grace. We are called to live sacramentally.
Even when we can’t be together, God’s poetry goes on. In you. In me. In the ways we choose to spend this time.
In this time when we must be away from our common table, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Let our lives be the sacrament. Amen.