4/18/99, E3A

“Holy Heart Burn”
Luke 24: 13-35

e who follow the Methodist Way have been called, “The People of the Religion of the Heart Strangely Warmed.” In our glory we have warmed up the globe, but sometimes it seems that we have wandered far from the heart set on fire at Aldersgate, and from the burning heart experience of Emmaus. Can we rediscover our way?

Today’s text has retold the pre-Pentecost story of the fulfillment of the Prophet Joel’s promise that in a new day God would change our stony cold hearts into receptive hearts of flesh that could blaze up with flames of fire. Perhaps in this story we can find our way again.

We have heard again this precious story of two dejected, despondent, disciples who had already given up on the dream they had grabbed hold of through the words of Jesus. All hope was gone as they saw him dead and buried. Three days after His death, on that first Easter afternoon, they were on the road back home to try and pick up their shattered lives. What would they do next? They had forsaken all to follow Him.

Many of us have been on that familiar road to nowhere: No future, no way to turn. But, just about then Jesus joined us on our journey. He talked and we listened and hope began to find revival; but, we were so downcast that we did not even recognize who He was. Could we not share our own stories of how he stepped in just when we needed him most?

Walking this side of Pentecost the Living Lord sometimes joins us in the journey and walks along with us, and talks with us for many, many miles before we are aware of His presence--- and feel the Holy Heart Burn.

At about this point in my sermon preparation my Waffle House waiter, Derek, asked, “Pastor, What are you preaching on this Sunday?” “Heartburn,” I responded. “You mean the bad kind, or the good kind in here?” as he pointed with one hand toward his heart, and with the other hand toward heaven. “The good kind of heartburn!” Was my reply.

“Where is your church?” Derek asked. I said, “Downtown at Peachtree Street and Ralph McGill Boulevard... You know across from the old Imperial Hotel.” “You mean where the Midtown Assistance Center is located?” Yes, How do you know about that? I asked. “O, I know Dorothy Chandler, she helped me with my rent and got me back on my feet when I was in need.” He answered.

About then we both felt the presence of the Christ enter into our breaking of bread. {At least, I was breaking the bread that he had served me--- The truth is that it was a Pork Chop Dinner}. My how our hearts did burn as we talked about deeper issues and things of the soul.

Isn’t that just like Jesus? Or, at least, that’s the way we really want it to be.

Telling you about Derek has reminded me of an encounter years ago with a waitress {not The Waffle House} who overheard that I was a Pastor and when a break came she asked me. “Sir, my heart is broken in two, and I don’t know which way to turn, can you talk to me just a minute?” “Sure, what dreams have been dashed? I asked. “Its my husband, he says he’s tired of me and he’s leaving.” “You two need to hear just one word... ‘Forgiveness!'” I responded. “Can you and I talk with him together?” I asked. “I’ll try to get him to.” She meekly said. And he did, somewhat to my surprise. And they heard that one word and discovered their love for each other again. “You know I was feeling like I wanted to talk to her and all.” He said to me. “What was that feeling nudging you to talk to her?” I asked. “I reckon it was God.” He humbly admitted--- and he was correct.

Isn’t that just like Jesus? He just joins up with us as we’re walking down life’s bumpy road, and most of the time we don’t even know Him right away--- but in looking back on the experience we do.

There is another part of the story of these two fellows on the Road to Emmaus, that I almost missed: Jesus was not going to stop with them at their town, “...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.” (v. 28-29, NRSV). Do you suppose that you and I have unknowingly dismissed him? Have we let the opportunity to recognize him pass us by?

Is this not exactly how our Methodist Movement began in the seeking heart of one small man who opened himself to a fresh breath from above, and felt his heart strangely warmed? He was searching for the Living Christ under every basket and in every corner. And finally Mr. Wesley was surprised by him at a prayer meeting where one was reading the rather dull Preface to Romans that Martin Luther had written. Suddenly John Wesley felt God’s presence and he later wrote in his Journal, “I felt my heart strangely warmed...” and you know the rest of the story.

Each one of us has a very different account of our initial recognition of the Christ. C.S. Lewis came to recognize the presence of Christ on the roof of an English Double Decker bus on a trip to the zoo. “When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached to zoo I did.” Additionally, his spiritual case of heartburn was initiated somewhat less emotionally than that of John Wesley. “It was more like when a man, after a long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.” (Surprised by Joy, Chap. 15, p.237).

The point is that we each have a tale to tell in our own words. We may have not been on a long walk, or at a prayer meeting, or on top of a Double Decker bus, or in a restaurant, but I hope we each have some story to share. How did it happen for you? What was it like for you? Has it set your heart on fire?

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor

4/18/99, E3A