Emmaus and the Road to Holy Heartburn

Today's assigned lectionary Gospel reading is Luke 24:13-35. It's a post-resurrection story. I like to call it "The Mysterious Case of Heartburn." Risen-from-the-dead-Jesus ends up on a road walking with two fellows. They don't initially recognize him. Here's the text...

Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?” They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?” He asked them, “What things?” They replied, “The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”Then he said to them, “Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?” Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures. As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. 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?” That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!” Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Pretty interesting, eh?  

What I've realized lately is that in the past, my general vision of Jesus post-resurrection was pretty robotic. I didn't think of him as thinking and feeling in those stories. This week, as I worked on a sermon for the text above and worked on a sermon for next weekend, I've took some time to pay closer attention to resurrected Jesus. 

And he's fascinating!

He's very complex. Multi-dimensional. Not easy to generalize. 

In most of the interactions, it's almost like he's sincerely surprised that people didn't immediately catch-on to the whole resurrection thing. Like in today's reading: "You guys are so foolish! All this had to happen! Don't you remember?! Do you seriously not remember? I know I told you about this!"

Sometimes we're quick to try to put Jesus into categories...human or God....physical or spiritual...temporary or eternal.  

In the stories about Jesus after he returns to life from death, he doesn't fall neatly into any category and no one is quite sure what to make of him. We have 2000 years of interpretation now...and millennia of theologians who have sought to make sense of his death and what it means. 

Jesus' original followers and community didn't have that. They were trying to piece it together...and for weeks, Jesus kept appearing and vanishing (like in today's text). 

I love that in the post-resurrection narratives, Jesus meets people wherever they are...spiritually and physically. Thomas is full of questions...and Jesus shows up in a locked room to greet him. These fellows on the way to Emmaus are super confused and had totally lost hope that Jesus was their man, and Jesus shows up right on the road with them and goes for a nice long walk. 

I guess I always assumed that after Jesus was raised from the dead, he had a total and complete understanding of all things and all people...and what it all meant and would mean. 

But what if he didn't? 

What if he was in the process of making meaning out of all of it, too?

Or what if he'd had this experience of eternity for three days and then was immersed back into the realities and confusions of daily life? 

After Jesus, Cleopas and the other guy (who remained nameless) have a sandwich, Jesus vanishes (again). They go and tell everybody what happened. That's how the gospel ends. 

They say, "Were not our hearts burning within us?"

They had heartburn. 

Not the bad, indigestion kind. 

The holy kind. 

Holy heartburn. 

They hadn't recognized it in the moment, but upon looking back, they realized they'd felt something divine as Jesus helped them piece the story together (before they knew it was even Jesus). 

When have you recently felt holy heartburn? 

When have you felt a nudge from God/Spirit/Universe/Gaia leading you into a new awareness? Did you notice it in the moment? Or later upon reflection? 

Something I love about the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is that I never get tired of them. I never get bored of the stories because each time I encounter Jesus in the stories, my heart burns...a new layer of his complexity unfolding and a different angle from which to observe his interactions with the world and its inhabitants. 

I rejoice that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John each left their versions of the story not as rule books but as invitations. 

May your week include a peaceful dose or two of holy heartburn. 

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