April 13, 2005
Third Sunday of Easter
"Easter Heart Burn"
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
I'm dating myself here, but how many of you remember Speedy AlkaSeltzer or the Alka Seltzer commercials. Now we have all kinds of antacid commercials and products. It seems, Americans are consumed with heartburn. It might be the huge portions we eat. But whatever the case We probably have more acid indigestion than any other country in the world. As a reslut we have Tums, Rolaids, Maalox, Pepcid, Tagamet, Zantac, Prilosec and my favorite Nexium. And those are only the ones I've seen, For years, all I ever knew about was AlkaSeltzer, Tums or Rolaids. But now there are so many more choices.
It wasn't until a little over a year and a half ago that I discovered I had an ulcer. I just thought it was normal to eat Tums. My Dad did it. So when I started eating Tums it wasn't anything unusual for me. As I got older, what was unusual were those days when I DIDN'T have indigestion. As a result of all of that indigestion, I now have GERD Gastro Esophageal Reflux Disease. And I personally give thanks for the effects of Nexium. I went 4 days without it once during a change over between insurance companies and mail in prescriptions, I don't ever want to do that again. I'd forgotten what acid indigestion and heartburn were like.
But one thing I haven't forgotten or lost is the kind of Heart Burn that Cleopas and his companion experienced on the Road to Emmaus. It was that Easter Heart Burn that came, not from an encounter with a fiery hot bowl of Tex Mex chili but with an encounter with the Risen Christ. Let's look at Luke's description of that event: Luke 24:13-35 (NRSV)
 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.
This story of Cleopas and his companions encounter with Jesus on the road to Emmaus is, in my mind, why every meal we share is sacred. It reminds us that no matter who we are or with whom we are sharing the meal; no matter what our situation in life or where we are, Christ can show up and reveal Himself in the midst of that relationships and in the simple act of breaking bread. And when He does He reveals Himself and He reveals His presence with us in the everyday ordinary aspects of daily living. He reveals Himself in something as simple as a meal.
It also means that we could meet Jesus around any corner, on the other side of any door, at any table, or in conversation with any one. I don't think it's accident that Cleopas' companion is not named. It would have been easy to name him or her. But I think the name was left out intentionally so we could put ourselves in that place. So, we can experience Easter Heart Burn. So, we can be reminded that we never know when we'll meet the Risen Christ or when He will make Himself known to us.
We may not know when, but we do know that when we meet Jesus face to face, we too will experience that Easter Heart Burn. Like Cleopas and his companion we'll say, "did not our hearts burn within us."
A. This Easter Heart Burn isn't really something for which you can prepare. Oh, you can spend time in prayer. You can spend time studying the Scripture. You can spend time meditating on how the Scripture applies to you life and your situation. You can give of yourself through your time, your gifts, your offering, your service. All of those things help. They mold and shape the heart. They mold and shape the spirit so the Holy Spirit can recognize the Risen Christ when you meet Him. But can't ever really prepare for the event itself because you never know when the Risen Christ will appear. Or through whom.
B. A Brazilian priest tells how he was studying and meditating on this very passage of Scripture dealing with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. It seemed incredible to him that after living with Jesus for three years these two men failed to recognize Him as He walked down the road and talked with them.
While the priest was meditating on this, there was a knock on his door. When he opened the door, he found a poor man who was looking for a priest to tell his troubles to. The priest was so caught up in his meditations that he told the man he was too busy right then.
Instead of inviting him in, the priest gave the man some money, it was quite a bit more than he normally gave, because he felt guilty, but then went back to his Bible study.
He said, it wasn't long afterwards, that he priest realized that he had been just like the disciples the Road to Emmaus. He said, "Christ knocked at my door. I saw Him, I heard Him, I talked to Him, and I failed to recognize Him." (1)
You see, we can encounter the Risen Christ wherever we find ourselves and in whatever situation we find ourselves.
C. I saw the Risen Christ in the profound faith and depth of commitment in the lives of three couples in Ireland. All three of those couples came originally from South Africa. Their jobs brought them to Ireland. And God brought them together through the common experience of their faith, the Bray Methodist Church and the Walk to Emmaus. These three couples each had a sense that God was calling them to something bigger. They also had a sense that God wanted the Walk to Emmaus to be a part of the Irish Methodist Church experience in Ireland.
They each had experienced the life changing and faith building possibilities for themselves in South Africa when the Walk to Emmaus had been introduced there by the Upper Room with an International team that included about 20 Texans.
Because of their experience, they saw the potential the Walk to Emmaus has for change and revival in Ireland. And so they began praying together. they began writing and calling Nashville, where the headquarters for the Upper Room, who oversees the Emmaus movement around the world, is located. They began talking to their pastor and denominational leaders and anyone else who would listen. They weren't obnoxious about, that's not kind of people they are.
But Will & Irene Branford, Marc & Mariann Havengha and Gordon & Michelle Irons, prayed for four years. For four years they prayed that God help them plant the seeds for the Walk to Emmaus in Ireland. And God answered their faithfulness to that prayer. Marianne, didn't even get to participate, she had to return to South Africa about a month and a half before the Walks. And Marc left the day after the Walk ended. So, they won't even get to see the fruit of their labor. Will and Irene are returning to South Africa in June.
And I've got to tell you, that's commitment. But it wasn't born of them. It was because, like Cleopas, they had met the Risen Christ and they knew He was with them every step of the journey. They experienced this Easter Heart Burn I'm talking about. And just as it gave Cleopas, his companion and the rest of the Disciples courage and encouragement and the impetus to carry out God's call in their lives, it did the same for them as well.
A. But you don't need to have been on a Walk to Emmaus or go on a Walk to Emmaus to experience this Easter Heart Burn. Emmaus isn't the key. It's just one of the side paths on this journey of faith we're all on. It's just one more experience which some people find meaningful and others don't. That's why Jesus chose to reveal Himself to the Disciples in so many different ways and places.
He appeared to Mary at the tomb she mistook him for the gardener. He met the ten gathered in the Upper Room and ate with them proving that he wasn't a ghost because ghost's don't need to eat, nor can they. A week later he appeared to them again. Only this time Thomas was there and Jesus tells Thomas to reach out and touch His wounds. He did that so Thomas could truly see and believe.
So, you see, you can witness and experience the Risen Christ in your own home, surrounded by family and friends. You can experience the Risen Christ and this Easter Heart Burn across the family table or in fellowship with friends.
B. The Risen Christ meets us wherever we are on our faith journey. There is a story of a British soldier in the First World War who lost heart for the battle and deserted. Trying to reach the coast for a boat to England that night, he ended up wandering in the pitch black night, hopelessly lost. In the darkness, he came across what he thought was a signpost. It was so dark that he began to climb the post so that he could read it. As he reached the top of the pole, he struck a match to see and found himself looking squarely into the face of Jesus Christ. He realized that, rather than running into a signpost, he had climbed a roadside crucifix. Then he remembered the One who had died for him. The one who had endured so much for his sake. The one who didn't give up and had never turned back.
In that moment of despair, in the darkest night of his life, he experienced that Easter Heart Burn. And the next morning that soldier was back in the trenches. (2)
In WINNIE-THE-POOH, Pooh and Piglet take an evening walk. For a long time they walk in silence. Silence like only best friends can share.
Finally Piglet breaks the silence and asks, "When you wake up in the morning, Pooh, what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" answers Pooh and then asks. "And what do you say, Piglet?"
Piglet says, "I say, I wonder what exciting thing is going to happen today?" (3)
You and I can't really plan to meet the Risen Christ because we never really know when or where He's going to show up. But you can be sure of this, He will show up. If you believe, He will show up. And the attitude you need to meet him is the attitude of Piglet, "I wonder what exciting thing is going to happen today?" Or better yet, "I wonder where I'll feel the Easter Heart Burn and I wonder where I'll meet Jesus today?"
We never know when or where or how Jesus will show up. But we do know this: He is alive, and He wants to live in the hearts of His disciples. He wants you to feel the Easter Heart Burn.
Is your heart burning today? Does it burn with grief, with sadness, with loneliness, with hopelessness, with restlessness, with the feeling that something is missing in your life? Then open your eyes and see the Risen Christ alive with us. Respond to Him.
And let your Heart Burn with the joy of Easter. Let your Heart Burn with gratitude for what Jesus has done. Let your Heart Burn with joy because of His victory over death. Let your Heart Burn with joy for the forgiveness of your sins. Let your Heart Burn with excitement for serving him. Let your Easter Heart Burn for Him.
1. Salt of the Earth, Jul/Aug 1996. Page 35.
2. "To Illustrate," PREACHING MAGAZINE, Jan-Feb 1989
3. Robert D. Dale, TO DREAM AGAIN, (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1981).
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