Hearts Burning Inside Us
Karen Van Fossan
May 3, 2014
I hate to have to say this –
but we are coming up on finals week
at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.
I welcome your encouragement and prayers!
As your grateful intern –
and one of the newest members of this parish –
I invite you all to visit me there some time.
I’d love to take you on a tour, a walk,
by the bee hives tucked among pine trees,
to the chapel with its winding wooden ceiling,
the art room where we could,
as Ian and Melia like to say, with bright excited eyes, “do an activity.”
I’d take you through the café where you can still pay by IOU.
I would also take you to the largest classroom on campus.
In this classroom, just last week,
for me, something happened.
It started maybe a month ago.
After Old Testament class one day,
one of my classmates stopped me.
“Would you like to be Job?” she asked.
Then she shared a little more information.
“For our final project, some of us are doing a rock opera
Would you like to be Job?” she asked.
Now that was a different question!
Our rock opera is set in modern-day North Dakota.
And, as excited as I am about the country line dance
in the opening scene,
my favorite part is getting to talk with God.
Admittedly, my classmate playing God isn’t really God.
And, thankfully, I’m not really Job.
But still, I feel a little like Job when we’re rehearsing,
and I can’t help relating to the person with the booming voice as God.
When God enters the stage, I want to run –
away from God
and toward God.
My responses, as Job, are extreme.
When I’m not supplicating and quivering,
or backing against the farthest wall,
I’m inching, inching, closer, closer,
seeing if I might reach toward my Creator.
No wonder, generations after Job, on the road to Emmaus,
the journey-mates were kept from recognizing Christ.
With hearts burning inside us –
meeting God can be kind of overwhelming.
But they do meet God.
On the road to Emmaus,
not only do they meet God,
but Christ shows them how to meet God ever after
whenever they have the courage:
Christ reminds them how to pray.
At the start of the trip, Christ listens.
Apparently, they’ve been needing someone to listen.
They look sad, our gospel says.
Then they spill out everything –
how Jesus had been crucified,
how the women had seen the angels,
how the body of Jesus had completely disappeared.
They talk for who even knows how long,
and Christ never asks them to hurry
or be more succinct
or tell a more interesting tale.
All along, they’ve been talking to Christ –
all along, they’ve been talking to God –
praying the prayers we pray when we’re in grief and overwhelmed;
then that happened,
and I don’t have a clue what’s coming next.
After they’ve emptied out,
after they’ve spilled their grief and pain,
Christ helps them enter another form of prayer.
They practice being silent now.
When they’re able to stop their speaking,
in the quiet,
In the quiet, Christ helps them
Yes, we still have grief and pain, even as we listen for God.
But, as we listen,
our presence conveys just what these two travelers convey:
“Stay with us.”
As our gospel says, “Jesus went in to stay with them.”
Silence, our times of silence,
are a way to be hospitable to God.
Then, with hearts burning inside them,
they break bread,
as we break bread today.
Christ sits down, takes the bread, and says the blessing.
We pray to God;
we pray next to God;
and when we pray,
God is praying with us.
We pray with God not only through our speaking and our listening,
but also through the stuff of the earth,
the bread at our open table,
the meal after a funeral,
the gathering after a tragedy,
the meeting at the capitol to keep the next tragedy away.
Our sacrament means that not only
is this bread and this wine sacred,
but the earth from which our God
created them is sacred,
the same earth from which our God
When we pray,
we touch God.
We can speak to God, listen for God,
break bread with God beside us.
God not only walks on the road to Emmaus.
God walks on the road to St. Paul,
and Kiev, Ukraine,
and Fargo, North Dakota.
At last week’s rehearsal of “Job,”
in one of the final scenes,
as God sang God’s big song,
I found the courage to approach.
God sang and sang and sang.
I came closer, closer, closer.
God sang with arm extended,
hand facing up,
As I found my courage,
I extended my hand, too.
I placed my hand in God’s.
And then, in real life,
I started to cry.
I was Job reaching for God,
Karen reaching for God,
and also Karen
simply reaching for a person of God’s creation.
In a world such as this,
no wonder our hearts are on fire.