“They said to each other, ‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’”
–Luke 24:32 (NRSV)
So, tell me, do you experience heartburn? I certainly hope that you do! No, of course, I’m not talking about the kind of heartburn that sends you rummaging in the medicine cabinet for Prilosec or Pepcid. I’m talking about the kind of heartburn that Cleopas and his companion experienced on the Emmaus Road when they met Jesus.
Yes, the kind of heartburn I wish for you is an awareness and awakening that coming into contact with God, that experiencing the sacred on your everyday journey, that bumping into the reality of the risen Christ brings. It’s the kind of heartburn that gets you going–after you realize what’s happened. It may not be immediate, but it’s every bit as real as the burning one would feel after eating a bhut jolokia pepper*. I hope and pray that your heart burns within you this way because if it does, your life will change and so will the lives of those with whom you interact.
Cleopas and his unnamed buddy were just two ordinary folks preoccupied with the rough blow life had dealt them–the death of Jesus of Nazareth, the one they had hoped would be Messiah. As Eugene Peterson describes them in The Message, “They just stood there, long-faced, like they had lost their best friend.”
This is not one of those two fellows’ finest moments! They’re so preoccupied with their own grief and disillusionment that they fail to recognize the holy right in front of them. Even as Jesus recounts the story to them in language they should be able to understand, they don’t recognize him. They interact, they extend hospitality, but they don’t recognize the Holy One’s presence until he blesses, breaks, and gives them bread. When they finally do make the connection, the moment is over, and they’re left to discuss that feeling of “heartburn” they both remember in retrospect.
I know that “heartburn” feeling. I’ve felt it during those times when God is actively at work in my life, moving me and cajoling me along paths I might not have chosen for myself. Perhaps you know the feeling, too. It’s a feeling that demands a response. For Cleopas and his companion, it meant going immediately to share their experience with others. From there the events continue to build as Jesus again appears and tells his followers to bear witness.
What’s the prescription for such heartburn in the 21st century? The remedy hasn’t changed much since Cleopas’ day: witness. We are commanded to be witnesses to God’s work in our lives and in our world. We are the stewards of the message for our generation. We must make room to meet Jesus on our own Emmaus Roads, cultivating awareness and openness to the Spirit’s movement that leads to mission and ministry. Then, as the embers of hope glow brightly, resist the urge to reach for an over-the-counter remedy to quell the feeling; instead, share the gift and fan the flame. Go and tell everyone the good news of what God is doing–yesterday, today, and for eternity!
*Haven’t heard of this pepper? Check this article–http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20058096/ –to understand the intensity of the feeling I’m trying to capture!
Copyright (c) 2008, The Rev. Sharron Lucas, all rights reserved. Used by permission.