Emily M.D. Scott, “If the Church Door Is Closed, Find the Sacred on the Road,” New York Times, 19 July 2020 https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/19/opinion/if-the-church-door-is-closed-find-the-sacred-on-the-road.html
Priests and pastors across the church have been grasping for metaphors to help us make sense of this time away from the table, and one another. Some have framed it as a fast from communion. Others have struck upon the metaphor of the wilderness: an arid, unforgiving desert traveled by the Israelites for forty years. We haven’t been quarantining for 40 years, but at least in the wilderness, the Israelites had one another.
I’ve been drawn to a different metaphor. Jesus gathered people (especially around tables), but he also scattered them. Early in the Gospels, Jesus sent his newly recruited disciples out to heal and cast out demons. They didn’t have much in the way of supplies, and in two accounts, they’re sent not in pairs, but entirely alone.
Start looking, and you’ll see roads all over the Bible. These solitary travelers journeyed in situations of great uncertainty, much like our own. Their destinations may have been clear, but their futures were less so. Somewhere along the way, however, they always encountered something unexpected: the astonishing presence of the sacred.
Instead of clamoring to go “back,” we can turn, and face into a future that is uncertain, but rife with possibilities to build a world that is more compassionate. There are others on the road ahead of us: the protesters who’ve flooded our streets, risking their health to call for a nation free of racist brutality. They can see a new world.
The church, too, can head out on the road. Our buildings may be locked tight, but the world beckons, aching with need for justice and restoration. What if we are not barred from the meal we long for, but simply turned toward the table’s counterbalance?
On the road, I eschewed church for a time, but communion found me anyway. …
Emily M.D. Scott (@Broken_Bread) is a Lutheran pastor at Dreams and Visions in Baltimore, and the author of “For All Who Hunger: Searching for Communion in a Shattered World.”