The Cambridge English Dictionary defines the word yearn as: “to wish very strongly, especially for something that you cannot have or something that is very difficult to have.”
I find myself doing a lot of “yearning” during this time of sheltering in place.
I yearn for family and friends in the same room with me, meals at a restaurant, for shopping (something I never thought I would miss), for in-person meetings, and a haircut. Whatever your list is, that yearning is both eager and restless and sometimes even painful.
And then there’s Sunday mornings.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve always looked forward to Sunday mornings – the people, the beauty of the sanctuary, the Spirit moving among us, the music, the Word.
Now I yearn for Sunday mornings.
Yearning isn’t something new. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the disciples yearned with all their hearts to have their Rabbi and friend back with them; for life to resume as they remembered it.
The disciples’ pre-passion week life had rocked along to a certain rhythm: traveling from place to place, eating together and with saints and sinners, healing, and teaching, and learning from Jesus. Sure, there were the extraordinary days when they fed five thousand people, or storms were stilled, but life had settled into the “normal.”
And then, Jesus was crucified, buried, and was now rumored to be alive. The disciples were no longer traveling the countryside; they locked themselves in a room, afraid for their lives.
Our pre-pandemic life rocked along to the rhythm of jobs, school, clothes that need washing and meals that need preparing, trips to Branson, meals at our favorite restaurants with our friends, and church on Sunday. The extraordinary did occur in births and deaths, recovery from illness and new diagnoses of disease, cars breaking down, and the weather creating havoc. Still, all in all, our lives felt pretty settled.
And then the worldwide pandemic happened, and we are no longer traveling anywhere, except to the drugstore or grocery store, and most of us are in our homes because we are afraid for our lives.
In the time immediately following Jesus’ resurrection, Luke’s Gospel in chapter 24: 13-13, tells the story of two disciples traveling along a road to Emmaus. Were they leaving Jerusalem because they were afraid? Or were they simply going home? We don’t know. We can imagine, and in that imagining, we certainly can see how they were yearning for Jesus as they knew him and for life as it used to be.
As they travel, Jesus himself comes alongside them. They do not recognize him as they walk along together. Perhaps, they couldn’t see past their yearning for things to return to normal, but for whatever reason, they do not know him.
Even after conversing with this traveling partner, who enlightens them about the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah, Cleopas and the other disciple do not recognize Jesus as their companion along the way.
It is not until Jesus blessed the bread, broke it, and gave it to them around the supper table, that their “eyes were opened, and they recognized him.”
We now gather in a place called Zoom. It isn’t the beautiful sanctuary we are used to; everyone that we love and miss is not there; the music is not the same, and yet, there is such beauty in the faces and voices that we hear and in the music that our musicians put together. The Spirit still moves, and we open the Word, and now our hearts to each other every Sunday.
In our desire for things to “get back to normal,” I pray that we do not overlook the deep yearning to be together on Sunday mornings; and that we recognize that Jesus is traveling right beside us.
Jesus always did the unexpected, endlessly turning things upside down.
I don’t know about you, but my world feels very unexpected and upside down.
In this upside-down world, the Church universal and St. John’s Chapel is not only called to change but forced to let go of our Sunday morning rhythms; to expand and reach out in new ways to God’s beloved world.
It was in the yearning that the disciples traveling to Emmaus finally recognized the Risen Lord.
What will our deep yearnings help us to recognize?