Feel The Burn    John 24:13-35

Amidst all of our Easter Hallelujahs and Resurrection Rejoicing, it’s easy to forget that those first Easter days for Jesus’ followers were far from celebratory.  We are reminded with our text today that they were filled with the worst kind of defeat, of devastation, of destroyed dreams.  And while it seems tempting to skip over that truth and just keep hanging out in the Good News of New Life, perhaps the power of Easter can only be grasped when we take seriously the flask of fear into which it is poured.  So, as we hear this well-known and well-worn story of the resurrected Jesus walking with his friends to Emmaus, let’s remember what it’s like to lose a dream.  Let’s remember the Emmaus Road in our midst: the relapse after a significant stretch of recovery, the prison sentence that turned out to be double the time, the housing situation that did not work out after a long wait, the terminal illness. And as we walk this Emmaus Road, this reality called life, my question is this – what do we learn about recognizing the resurrected Jesus?

The most read article in the New York Times in 2016 was not about the presidential campaign, it was not about Russian hacking, nor the rise of fake news. It was a relatively short piece tucked away in the Sunday Review entitled, “Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person” by philosopher Alain de Botton. The gist is that conflict within a marriage has less to do with the other person and more to do with our expectations, our too small, too narrow understanding of love. He argues that love includes so much more that we think.  The heartaches and hardships are also a part of the shape of love, not necessarily the signs of its absence.

Perhaps a title for our scripture today could be, “Why We Will Follow The Wrong Jesus”.  As we read the Gospels, it is clear that the followers of Jesus had a hard time understanding who Jesus was, what he was about, the kind of power he was wielding.  They expected a Savior who would win, who would defeat Rome and the Chief Priests.  We can’t blame them. Who doesn’t want to be on the winning side, to have their team, their group, their club, their party, their church, justified. However, the problem with being a winner is that it means somebody has to be a loser.  And while that may be okay on the soccer field or in political campaigns, God apparently rejects such distinctions when it comes to the Beloved Community.  In God’s realm, nobody is left behind, nobody is rejected, not even the people who choose to hang God on a cross.  And so, at Calvary, God became a loser with the hope that we all might become winners. God shattered our misguided expectations, our subtle and not so subtle ways that we try to manage our fears by making God small enough to be nothing more than the captain of our winning team.

They had hoped that Jesus would prove to the world that he and they were right.  Instead, Jesus loved, in large ways.  He loved with a love so big that it included everything and everyone and lifted the veil on the empty power of the so called winners. And friends, let’s face it, that kind of love is so big it is often hard for us to recognize.

In a minute, we will break and share the bread just as Jesus did with Cleopas and his companion, just as Jesus is doing with us.  I pray that our eyes are opened, that we recognize Christ in our midst, in each other, in ourselves.  And, maybe the real take home from this story is that their hearts had already been burning, but they did not notice.  Maybe the real point of this meal is to open our eyes to the thousands of ways that God comes along beside us every day, comforting us amidst our lost hopes and unfulfilled expectations, reminding us that we are a part of something so much bigger, that it all can help give shape to the Big Love of God. Wayne said it well at JourneyGroup yesterday. The resurrected Jesus is everywhere.  May we see this truth and notice the burning of our hearts.