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?” -Luke 24: 32
I am coming down with a serious case of Mennonite heartburn. Unlike regular heartburn though, I’m not reaching for a cure or remedy. This is a different kind of heartburn. What I feel is more akin to adrenaline.
This feeling of heartburn is intensifying as we approach the biennial Mennonite Church USA convention June 30-July 5. I am eager to see cherished friends, family, and colleagues. I anticipate making new friends, learning new things, and hearing and singing great music. I am thrilled with the ways Rainbow Mennonite Church is participating in convention and I will be proud to tell people where I am serving as pastor. Yes, I have heartburn and I’m loving it. Of course adrenaline tends to run out eventually and I’m fairly certain that the heartburn I’m more accustomed to will cause me to reach for my readily available Tums supply, or perhaps something stronger. Any suggestions out there?
The heartburn that I currently feel and that I hope won’t wear off anytime soon is a feeling of being inspired. There is a lot going on in the Mennonite Church that is hardly inspiring and is down right disheartening and even heart breaking. Congregations and individuals are threatening to leave while others are eager to join, but aren’t welcome often as a result of their sexuality.
Yes, my heart breaks and aches a lot of the time. And yet, I also see and hear about people and Mennonite communities who give me the kind of heartburn that feels right, good, and important. In opening and wrestling with the pages of Scripture, and in prayerfully considering their lived experiences, these people have discovered Jesus as the One who exposes and transforms the powers and principalities of this world—those forces that would oppress, dominate, and destroy life. These people are teaching me that to open the pages of scripture is to be open to this One who challenges us to see those powers and principalities at work in our lives and in the world. To open scripture is to open ourselves to change the way we treat others, our bodies, money, and the environment.
This to me is a central message of Luke chapter 24, the selected scripture text for convention next week. This story features two heartbroken disciples as they walk the seven or so miles to the town of Emmaus. Their leader Jesus has just been tortured and executed. They are in a state of trauma as they process his violent death. Then suddenly a stranger starts walking and talking with them. With each step, and then later during the breaking of bread, their hearts start to burn. That is, they begin to see through the pain and violence toward a new horizon of peace. Eventually their grief is transformed and new insight and new vision found. They are once again able to narrate the good news that violence and oppression will not and does not have the last word. Step by step with Jesus they/we learn of a different way to live. The question is will we see/recognize and then follow this Jesus? Will we join with others in dismantling violent and oppressive forces in our world today, always looking toward and for the horizon of greater peace?
With this question in mind, I will be looking for and listening to the bright shining people who are leading the way in this hard and holy work of dismantling oppression. Fortunately I already know some of these people and feel privileged to work, learn, serve, cry, wrestle, and hope in the struggle alongside them.
I say bring on the heartburn! Perhaps Jesus is still among us opening the scriptures to us in new and surprising ways, leading us hopefully to take steps , even if baby steps, in transforming forces of oppression and hate in this world.
Click on the following two links if you are interested in seeing some of the seminars and learning experiences that will be offered during the week of June 30-July 5.
Finally, for those interested in learning more about the Mennonite Church USA denomination, here is a link to an article I recently submitted to The Kansas City Star. http://www.kansascity.com/living/religion/article25576564.html