Below is a DRAFT text of the homily. It may vary considerably from the recorded version. Please excuse typos and grammatical errors, and do not cite without permission.
Alleluia! Our Lenten fast has ended…Easter is here. But Easter is different this year, isn’t it? That’s probably a gross understatement. It is different than what we are used to—and yet we’re getting more and more used to this—and yet some things about this Easter are more resonate than ever before. Like the disciples that first Easter morning, we are also locked in our homes…afraid to go out…perhaps not believing that resurrection is even possible. And yet, it is Easter…resurrection happens…God acts…Easter comes…regardless of where we are, or what we are doing.
And so we say…Alleluia! Christ is risen…and our Lenten fast has ended…and yet it still continues. This Easter is different because we will continue to gather virtually several times a week for Morning Prayer or Compline on zoom. We will continue to gather virtually every Sunday with a livestreamed service, but we will be fasting from Communion at least through the end of May.
That’s hard, I know. It’s hard for you all. It’s hard for me…it’s pretty core to what I do…so fasting from that—from gathering together, and breaking bread and sharing the cup—so fasting from that…while it is absolutely necessary, is really hard. But, fasts, when done with intention and with the purpose of deepening faith often reveal graces that we would miss otherwise.
The Book of Common Prayer recognizes two great sacraments given by Christ to the Church, Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist. Right now, for the sake of everyone’s safety—especially those most vulnerable— it’s difficult, if not impossible, to participate in either one of them.
However, The Prayer Book also reminds us that sacraments are “outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.” Outward and visible signs…of inward and spiritual grace…and since we’re fasting from the Great Sacraments…I wonder where else we might see these?
Even without the great sacrament of Holy Communion, we receive strength and grace through: the Word read and preached; hymns and anthem sung; the sharing of our selves through zoom social hour and phone calls and texts just checking in on one another; and our pledges and donations mailed in or made online. Those aren’t specifically sacraments, but they can be sacramental acts…outward and visible signs of the grace of God continually at work in us.
This Easter season we will continue to fast from one of the great sacraments (Holy Communion), in order to keep our siblings at greatest risk safe from harm and the spread of this virus. This isn’t a fast we have chosen as individuals, but it is necessary that we do this as a community…and so, we will extend our Lenten fast from Holy Communion throughout Great 50 days of Easter. We are fasting from one of the great sacraments, but we will not be without sacraments.
As we join together in small groups online, as we share our joys and sorrows with one another, as we sing and laugh and weep together, as we give as generously as we are able to support God’s mission through this parish and the many outreach ministries we are involved with…as we do all that, God will be present with us. Whenever two or three are gathered in God’s name…God is in the midst of them…which means that every moment, every meeting, every interaction has the potential to become sacramental…an outward and visible sign…of God at work in us and in our lives and in our world…which is really what our Great Sacraments are trying to teach us always.
So in this time of crisis and turmoil…as we fast from one sacrament…may our eyes and ears and hearts be opened to all the other sacraments…all those other outward and visible signs of God’s grace at work in us and in those around us….
In this season of Easter, as we continue to isolate ourselves physically, let us remember that the Risen Christ comes to us wherever we are…locked rooms are no barrier to Him (as we’ll hear next week). Therefore, in celebration of the reality of the Risen Christ in the midst of this extended Lenten desert…this Good Friday world…During these Great Fifty days, let us pray that we may have eyes to see him, and ears to hear him…Let us act so that all of our gatherings online…all of our work (virtual or in person—from safe distances—), all of our giving and living…all of our lives may become sacramental…outward and visible signs of the inward and indwelling presence of Christ who is alive and is with us no matter where we are… this day and always. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.