Some of us are physically back in church this week, in a familiar yet now quite unfamiliar setting. Some of us have chosen to continue in the Emmanuel community by virtual means for the time being. All of us, though, are grounded in the same things: the truth of the Gospel, the reality of God, the gift of belonging to Jesus Christ. We are not grounded in the experience of being together in the church building or the experience of waiting to be together. We are not actually grounded in our own experience at all. Our experience comes and goes. Grounding in God is what’s given us the strength to get through these past months and will give us the strength to get through the months to come.
I was struck recently by a remark by Fr. Andrew McGowan from the Yale Divinity School, that made the same point about this time when we’ve not been inside the church as we’re used to. He said “While our celebration of the Eucharist is the center of our worship, the eucharistic givenness of Jesus is not created by our [gathering] or limited to it. We are created a community by him and our participation in him, not the reverse. We come and go, as our recent experience during the pandemic has underlined so sharply, but he does not; we may not have been in Church, but he has.”
Grace to you and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It has been a long time, my friends, since I have spoken to you in a homily and the first ever that I have spoken in this format. Please know how grateful I am to be with you today sharing my thoughts on the Epistle of the week, the beginning of the fifth Chapter of Romans. I have been told that attention spans are shorter on line so I will ask you to hold onto four words from this passage. The first three are Grace, Peace and Hope. I will save the fourth for a bit later. Grace, Peace and Hope.
At the time this letter was written to the church in Rome, Paul was at the height of his ministry. He had traveled throughout Asia and Greece, spreading the gospel and founding many churches. His reputation was well established as a strong believer in Christ and a mature theological thinker. While the Roman church had been started by others, Paul knew of their struggles and successes through communication with their leaders. The main purpose of this letter was to communicate Paul’s understanding of the meaning of Christ’s life and resurrection, and its application.