April 26, 2020

Where Are You Going? And Who Is Going With You?

Where Are You Going? And Who Is Going With You?
Where are you going? And who is going with you?
A Sermon by Rebecca Ogus, Program Director
Episcopal Church at Yale
April 26, 2020
Each time I have read over our Gospel for this week, these two questions have come back to me. 
Where are you going? 
Who is going with you? 
They’re the questions I want to ask the disciples on the road, and they’re the questions that Luke’s Gospel keeps asking me. 
Maybe they’re questions that you’ve been asking in the last few weeks, too. 
Where are we going? And who is going with us? 
***
 Our gospel reading today is from Luke, the story of the road to Emmaus. 
And it would seem like my first question to the disciples has a very straightforward answer: Where are they going? To Emmaus. It’s in the first verse we read! 
They start out headed to Emmaus, and after an unexpected encounter with their very own risen Lord, they go back to Jerusalem.
But in addition to these two named places, they are also going out into the unknown. 
The disciples’ world had changed suddenly, dramatically – their friend and teacher and leader had been crucified, and strange events were taking place that filled them with astonishment – visions of angels, an empty tomb.  
Did they wonder if the world Jesus had been leading them into would still exist, after his death? Could they see what world would come, after his resurrection? 
And when they recognized Jesus over dinner, did that make the world around them any less unknown? 
Even with destinations in mind, the kind of assumptions the disciples could make about life, and where it would take them, were being called into question. 
For us, too, the unknown looms. 
It’s always present, for everyone, everywhere. 
We never really know what the future holds, no matter how hard we plan for it, and we have all been reminded how fragile and contingent our lives, and the lives of everyone around us, truly are. 
We may have had destinations in mind, and they may have changed in ways we were not anticipating. 
Even if they have remained the same, the kind of assumptions we can make about our lives, and where they will take us have been called into question. 
And with plans that are now dramatically and for many, painfully different, the unknown can seem a lot bigger and closer and scarier than it might otherwise. 
I think it is important to acknowledge that there is loss wrapped up in those changes, and with that loss, grief.
I will speak for myself: It is so hard, friends, 
not to be together, in Dwight Chapel this evening, 
with the peace stretching on as Paul and Matt say hi to everyone
hugging one another after the service, 
reshaping the dinner tables to make sure everyone fits,
polishing off the consecrated elements while chatting around the altar. 
I am grieving the loss of these moments, and of our time together. 
Any change or move comes with the loss of those little parts of life together that bring joy and stability. It’s what happens when we leave one community and move to another, even when we can hold onto the memories as treasures we carry with us. 
But with the addition of the pain and sorrow and uncertainty that the pandemic is causing all around the world, I find the sudden and unexpected loss of our shared life makes my entrance into this next unknown feel even harder.  
So when I ask myself the question, 
where are we going? 
the only response I have, now more than ever, is into the unknown. 
***
And who is going with us? 
Well – 
on their way to Emmaus, the disciples meet Jesus. He is a stranger at first; they are kept from recognizing him. 
But just as suddenly as they have realized Jesus is there with them, blessing and breaking bread at dinner, he disappears. 
It doesn’t really seem fair to me – they had just lost Jesus, and now he reappears and disappears, leaving them alone again? 
 Except, of course, that they are not alone. They were never alone. They just needed to be reminded. 
As I read our Gospel passage, the same answer to my second question keeps bubbling up:
Where are we going? Into the unknown. 
Who is going with us? Jesus. 
He is there with Cleopas and the other disciple on the road, as a stranger, as their friend. And after they return to Jerusalem, he appears to them and the rest of the disciples at dinner, leading them out to Bethany and blessing them before ascending into heaven. 
Jesus has been with us all along, since the foundation of the world: 
We say it in the Creed, through him all things were made. 
And Jesus, one member of our triune, incarnate, mysterious and moving God, will keep on moving with us, even as our unknowns change or grow. He is our companion, our guide, and the path we follow.
But it’s not only Jesus who goes with the disciples as they move out into the unknown world –
they have each other.
And we do, too.  
We travel with all who are a part of the Body of Christ, surrounded by the whole communion of saints, who have gone before us and will come after us.
We have each other: 
The members of our ECY community, friends from Yale, New Haven, and home, the families we have come from or have chosen. 
Even when we are not physically together – because of the pandemic or because graduation has come and our lives are taking us in different directions – we remain united in Christ, sharing kinship in God’s love, always. 
The disciples didn’t know what kind of world they were walking into – after Jesus’s death, resurrection, or ascension. And today, neither do we. 
But we know who we’re going with – one another and Jesus. We know because we travel, always, as members of the Body of Christ and the beloved of God. 
Amen. 

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