“Let your religion be less a theory, more a love affair”- G.K. Chesterton
“Did not our hearts burn within us as he spoke with us on the road?” “How our hearts glowed,” reads another translation, “How our hearts glowed while he was talking to us on the road.”
After his death, Jesus arrives again to his grief-stricken followers as they walk along the road to Emmaus. He appears as a stranger to them. His friends don’t recognize him. But they get to talking and walking along together with this fellow traveler and sharing their sadness with him. And at the end of the day they invite him to stay with them and share supper. He is a stranger to them until he takes the bread and breaks it and gives it to them. It is then that their eyes open and they see him for who he is, Jesus, as the Christ transformed, his being beyond the limits of death. The moment they recognize him, he vanishes.
But what is left within them is the love.
And they remark to each other how their hearts burned within them when they were with him. They didn’t seem to quite realize it in the moment in all that time with him before they realized who Jesus was. Their hearts were burning with the truth the whole time, but their minds were blind.
And that’s reasonable, if you ask me. The disciples are very human, thank God. It’s not rational that death didn’t do Jesus in. So these disciples couldn’t believe it at first. It was right in front of their eyes, but they couldn’t believe their eyes. So they didn’t didn’t believe their eyes and didn’t see what was before them. And yet their hearts were burning. Their hearts were burning with the truth that their beloved has drawn near.
The heart knows, even if the mind denies.
And what causes their minds to wake up to the truth they knew in their hearts? Jesus giving of himself to them, this act, so tender, almost excruciatingly tender, the act of giving himself to them in the blessing and breaking of the bread.
“Let your religion be less a theory and more a love affair.”
This is all about relationship, my friends. When it comes to religion, there is so much that is just distraction, but the beating heart is about relationship, between a people and their God. This relationship is at times passionate. At times even excruciating. A love affair. Love is about risk. With God we risk our whole selves.
When we don’t dare to risk that in love with God, when we forget that this is about a love affair and not a theory, then it can be easy to shut ourselves off from the burning in our hearts. And we no longer “believe.” But what I’m saying is that it’s a mistake to think this is about belief.
There is a story about a student who came to Martin Buber … Martin Buber was as a wonderful Jewish teacher, writer, thinker, sage you could say. Wise man of God. He’s best known for his book called “I and You.” For a time, Buber taught philosophy at a secular German University, until the Nazi’s drove him out. When he was teaching there a student came to him (picture a 20-year-old philosophy student): The student said, “Professor Buber, you are so intelligent. Surely you don’t actually believe in God.” Buber replied, “I don’t believe in God. I just talk with God – all the time.” “I don’t believe in God. I just talk with God – all the time.” All. The. Time.
The more I sit with this story the more I see that that student got schooled. This is a wonderful, masterful teaching on Buber’s part, expressing how religion is not a theory, it’s a love affair.
The heart knows, even if the mind denies. It’s not about belief in God. It’s about being with God.
True religion is about risking our whole selves in love with the Holy. Risk is at the heart of our being. When we take that risk, who we truly are at the core of ourselves becomes an unceasing conversation with God. This is about a burning in the heart as the beloved draws close and speaks and listens A burning in the heart as the beloved breaks as bread for us… This is about a communion between our being and the Source of All Being who is giving of that being every moment to us. In that communion there can be An unceasing stream of speaking and listening, hearing and being heard An unending rhythm of syllables and silences… An eternal hum of ancient songs, blending us together as communities in harmony with the God to whom we sing. This is about a relationship that at times is close and quiet, And at times is distant, with one calling out to the other, calling and calling, and waiting, listening …
This is about a love affair. Not a theory. This is about a relationship – A relationship that comes from our primal, animal attachment with our Creator A relationship that demands our full selves All our passion, all our pathos All our yearning at the root of our being The burning in our hearts from which we cry out to God After the cry, The calm that comes over us, as we are still and know … All the stable, primal wisdom we have within in us as we abide in silence and listen….
The Word of God has come in the flesh The Word of God has woven into the sinews of our animal condition.
This we know through Christ: God is beyond us. God is through us. God is with us.
God burns with our hearts. God breaks with our bodies. God speaks and sings and listens, as we speak and sing and listen.
God communes with us, in harmony with communities whose hearts burn when the beloved draws close and breaks as bread given to us.
Thanks be to God.