On a normal Sunday, after a full day of worship, meetings, formation - after 7ish hours of good, loving, God-centered work - of laughing and crying with God's people, I roll into the car. And on the short ride home from the parish, I tend to roll down the windows (unless it's below 15 degrees or so), turn up the music, and listen to the same song. I know, why, right? Well, because I'm a priest. So, I love rituals. It's this song: That's What I Love About Sunday, by Craig Morgan. Yes, I'm a country music fan. Yes, this is an old song. Yes, it's a little quaint. No, I don't care.
Here's why: Somehow, this little country song reminds me of everything Sunday should be. At least half the song is about church, about the gathered body, about the personality of a particular place and particular people. And that's what the parish is; it's the gathered Body of Christ, made up of particular personalities and customs that feel like home to us when we've nestled into the warm embrace of a community of faith. The song celebrates faith, singing, and togetherness. It celebrates some other things I like, too - football, jeans, family time, even a good roast. But I listen to this song every week on my way home from the parish because it reminds me how lucky I am. It gives me three minutes and nineteen seconds of time to intentionally reflect on my day, to remember the people I talked to who are hurt - so that I can pray for them later, to give thanks for the blessings, and to remember the privilege that it is to be Priest. It reminds me of the brokenness of community - and how God knits that up into something miraculous and beautiful. It makes me smile as I remember specific people in our parish family. And it tends to make me tear up, too.
And today, in the middle of a working afternoon at home, in the middle of a pandemic, my computer thought it was a good idea to play this song (Spoiler: not a good idea!). A song I've not listened to while we've been worshipping virtually because - well, I'm not driving home. And we aren't together. So it didn't occur to me. And for the second time in our exile, I started to weep. Because we can't be together.
The first time was when I went to collect our Palm delivery at the parish last week. I took our Palms out of the box, stood them up in a bucket in the sacristy, and the sight of them caused everything within me to well up. And then there were tears. Because our rituals are important. Because I knew the tangible sign of the beginning of Holy Week would very likely not make it to God's people on time. And they won't, because there's no perfectly safe way to share them. All of a sudden, I could feel the loss of these weeks, the loss that it is to not be together, especially at this time of year, especially when we need each other so much.
So, today I'm feeling the loss. I've been intellectually aware of the loss the whole time. But today, I'm going to let myself feel the emotional loss of not being together. It's been lost in the midst of the heavy lift of moving our whole life online. But I feel it keenly today. And I need to feel it, because what we're missing is real. And it's so important to my understanding of life and of God.
What loss are you feeling keenly today because of this time? What safe spaces can you find to allow yourself to feel the loss? To see it, acknowledge it, and even hold it for a while. Tell me what losses you feel so that I can pray for you. And together, we'll make our way toward Easter.