It had been nearly seven months. While this would not normally qualify as a long stretch of time in most cases, it has felt like an eternity. It is the amount of time that had passed between our celebrations of the Holy Eucharist at Church of the Epiphany. In seven months, I, as a priest in the church, had not touched a communion wafer, said the Eucharistic prayer, or gathered around Christ’s table with others in order to receive the body and blood of Christ. And while it would not normally be counted as an extremely long stretch of time in most scenarios, in this one, it was an eternity. It was an eternity of fasting from a rite that we are so accustomed to doing on Sunday morning that, when we don’t have it, we don’t feel like we have actually worshiped.
The fast of the past six months and change, though, have invited us into practices of praying together in new ways, and it has been a time for us to enrich our relationship with God – Father, Son, and Spirit – by spending more time in prayer with the God that we are meant to be communing with in our regular Sunday worship. It has been a time for us to be present with God and to listen for the ways that God speaks to us not simply through the rites and rituals of the church but also in those moments of exclamatory prayer that escape our lips in moments of panic. The fast from Holy Eucharist has been a time for us to actually commune with God. It has been a time for us to spend some portion of our days in prayer and in listening to hear how God is speaking into the center of our lives. It has been a time for communion with the Divine. It has been a time for building that relationship.
On Sunday, I found myself fumbling words at different parts of the service. One person asked for a blessing instead of receiving communion. It had been so long since I had to think about it that I stumbled over the words of blessing that would normally come rolling off my tongue. I found myself close to tears as I held the paten filled with bread and chalice with a splash of wine. I found myself in the position of, once again, sharing communion with a group of faithful disciples as they came forward – keeping socially distant one from the other – to receive Christ’s body.
The fast that we have now broken was an invitation to us to put Christ in the center of who we are. We are the ones that leave worship or prayer with God as the bearers of THE good news. We leave our spaces of prayer at home and our places of worship imbued with a certain grace that is meant to be shared and is meant to inform how we perceive the world. It is a grace that shapes us into believing a certain way because we pray a certain way. It is a grace that invites us into the grander mission of God: reconciliation with each other and with our God.
Our task is clear. We are called to go out into the world carrying out God’s mission, and we are called to do so in a way that reflects the deeper truth of God’s grace that is shared with us through the sacramental life of the church. The mission is not wishy-washy or generic. It is specific and focused, and God calls us to take up that mission with fervor. We are called to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth remembering that Christ is with us until the end of the age.
We have been gifted a grace that knows no bounds. How will we share it with this corner of God’s hundred acre woods?