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Pastor's Monthly Newsletter Message

April 2012

“Our Burning Hearts”


“And they said to each other, ‘Were our hearts not burning within us

while he was talking to us on the road’?” ~Luke 24:32



Members and Friends,


            There comes a time in life when “burning hearts” are no laughing matter.  Our burning hearts can keep us awake at night.  We all know at least one person who—in their middle years or older—rushed off to the emergency room only to discover that what felt like a heart attack was nothing more than heartburn.  And yet, the gospel writer Luke uses the term “burning hearts” to describe an extraordinary tinge of recognition that two sad disciples felt when they encountered a stranger on the road to Emmaus.


            “Emmaus” is my favorite Easter story.  It reads like a parable.  Two unknown disciples—minor characters in the drama of Jesus’ life—are walking home after the crucifixion.  Some stranger sidles up to them and asks them why they’re so sad, and so they tell him the story of Jesus’ short ministry and tragic death.  When the two arrive home, the stranger keeps on walking as if he’s bound for some destination beyond Emmaus.  But they say, “Abide with us.  It’s almost night, and the day is far spent.”  And though this stranger is now their guest, he behaves like the host when they sit down to dinner.  He takes the bread, blesses it, breaks it, then gives the blessèd broken pieces back to them.  And in that memorable act, their eyes are opened.  They recognize the stranger as the one who broke the bread with trembling hands on the awful night of his arrest.  Then he’s gone.  Except that he’s not really gone, for the whole point of the story is that he is with us even when we don’t recognize him.  He is with us on the dusty road, in the byways of life.  Most especially, he is with us when we’re breaking bread with each other, sharing our lives, and offering hospitality to the stranger.


            Easter will come, in its pastel glory.  The mild winter will give up all pretense of being in control, yielding the gray stage of the world to birds, and buds, and blossoms.  On that morning, there will be trumpets and cellos.  The sanctuary will smell like lilies.  You’ll find strangers sitting in your pew, but you won’t even mind because the spirit of that day will be joy.  Joy!  Even more than Christmas, Easter is a season for joy.  On Easter we cannot forget the great truth that we spend most of our days ignoring: Death is strong, but life is stronger.  And all the things that tend toward death in our world—the illnesses, the violence, the fear, the broken relationships, the broken spirits, the powerful systems of devastation and greed—all these things will be swallowed up in the joy of new life...eventually.  We don’t have to understand it.  We don’t have to make ourselves believe it.  (Never try to make yourself believe anything!)  But at Easter, somehow, if only for a moment, we know it.  In the end, no human suffering is beyond healing.  No human wrong is beyond redeeming.   In the end, God tenderly gathers the broken pieces, blesses them, and makes of them new life.  And then…gives those broken pieces back to us, like so much bread, for the life of the world.


            When does that happen?  How does it happen?  Under what circumstances?  In whose company?  I don’t know.  Your burning heart will tell you.  Happy Easter.