Monday, May 1

Sermon for the Third Sunday in Easter

Were not our hearts burning within us?

Sad to say I know a few people, myself included, that find it much easier to get into the darker emotions of Lent and Good Friday, than to be lifted up by joy in the Easter season. But perhaps that’s because we associate joy too much with the prevalent social pressure to strive to be happy. Burning hearts to me suggests a different tone of joy. More of an eagerness, a desire.

Which is a more intimate thing that exuberance. And despite the initial volley of words- “Are you the only one who doesn’t know?” “Oh you fools” –todays Gospel story is quite intimate. Not as intimate as last week’s fingers inside a wound intimate, but in a way more remarkable in that Jesus appears to disciples rather than apostles, here. Disciples who were not even in the inner circle enough for them to know Simon by the name Peter.

Their hearts burned as they came to understand that their expectations of the messiah were in error. That victory and glory were in identifying with the victim. That freeing Israel was neither a political or military matter. Then in the breaking of the bread, which we know to be his body, they recognize him.

Then, even though the day was nearly over they went back to Jerusalem to tell the 11 and companions what they saw. They had to share this experience with those who would understand. And it is that kind of sharing - talking to people about a wonderful encounter with God – that will be our overarching topic this Eastertide.

Evangelism is usually talked about more in the spirit of Peter’s rhetorical argument - and look how many numbers came to Christ that day! Remember, though, that Peter was saying something brand new at the time.  I swear every time I get handed a Christian pamphlet on the street I think, “Do you seriously believe I’ve never been exposed to these ideas before?” I really don’t think a primer in Christianity is needed anymore. Not in Chicago anyway. Some ideas about Christianity can and should be corrected, but most folks know the basics by now. And it’s sort of insulting to suggest they don’t.

In part because of the very offensive and in your face evangelism that many people have had to endure, to even talk about evangelism at all makes me bit uncomfortable. Yet, that makes me all too often fail to tell people about what Christ has done for me, or about my relationship with God; a relationship that defines so much of my life. It’s very personal to me.

Now by personal relationship with God, I don’t mean an individual relationship to God. My relationship to God is bound up in relation to others. I rather mean personal in an intimate sense. It’s profound and deep and unique, but not solitary. I have had visions and mystical experiences of God, but they happened in the context of scripture and ritual that have been cultivated for 2000 years. And it is only through sharing with others that I came to better understand these experiences.

As I’ve shared these experiences, I’ve discovered that people who are at very similar places in their spiritual journey that I am have gotten there in different ways. This reminds me of the Hindu concept that there are different paths to God for different people. And in reading about that I was reminded of the five love languages in personal relationships.

The five love languages was developed in marriage counseling (though I think it applies to other relationships) to describe how what one person sees as an expression of love, the other person may seem differently. “Why don’t you ever say you love me?” “I do! I give you presents all the time!” “But you never say the words!”

The five languages are: gift giving, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch. My love languages are physical touch and quality time. This is why mediation and the sacraments – which are physical – are so important to my connection to God. Some folks I know connect with God much more intellectually, which I equate with words of affirmation. For some of my social justice focused friends, acts of service is their Godly love language.

For God is love. Our relationship to God is a loving one, no matter how we express or cultivate it. And so I ask you, “Where and when do you speak of your earthly love relationships?” How do you talk to people about your partner, your children, your family, your beloved friends, you pets? Aren’t those conversations imitate, or an invitation to intimacy?

Would you tell those same people about your loving relationship with God? At the same times? Why or why not? These questions are what we’ll be exploring in the weeks to come.

Contemplate your love relationship to God, pay attention to your heart. What makes your heart burn? What would make you rush to others to share? What inspires you to have genuine mutual love, to love one another deeply from the heart?