Luke 24: 32
The great theologian of ancient days, St. Augustine, once wrote “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you O. Lord” Augustine’s theology of grace and only grace served the Church as an important foundation for the Protestant Reformation, led my Martin Luther, and still resonates with people of God today. Our hearts burn with restlessness until we burn out. We march along the daily grind, trying to get ahead for ourselves and for our families. We compete constantly and we vie for things that should not be treasured. And even when we get ahead, or we get what we think we so desperately need and want, we soon realize that none of this is and will ever be enough. Our hearts never seem to find rest. I’ve heard it said that you can win the Rat Race, but you are still a rat!”
That is why grace and only grace is so important. Grace is something we cannot earn. Grace can only be given by someone for someone else. It’s only grace and not “the next great thing” that ultimately drowns our restless burning hearts and teaches us to love, to serve, to follow and to forgive. Grace is restoring and transforming – even for contestants in the Rat Race!
The two disciples who walked those 7 miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus that day were not part of the Rat Race, at least not how we understand it in 2016, but they did have their own set of troubles and challenges, especially after the events of the previous days that took their Master from them. They were on the road, heading back to their daily lives, making a living, raising families, and staying as invisible as possible from the Roman authorities. Their hearts were burning when this stranger suddenly walked within their midst, unaware that it was the risen Christ walking alongside. Once they realized who this stranger was, suddenly their restless hearts were calmed.
That calm is the grace that we can only experience in our devotion to Jesus Christ. Jesus is what our hearts burn for, and where we find our rest. The Jesus who is God with us. The Jesus who is our Master and Teacher. Jesus who humiliated himself to be executed as an innocent man. The Jesus who God raised victorious over death. The Jesus who promised to remain present alongside us each and every day. The Jesus who will welcome us home when our days on earth are done.
With all that done and promised, why would we look anywhere else to cool down our burning hearts?
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Gustavus Adolphus Lutheran Church (GA) in New York City has been chosen as one of eight internship congregations to participate this year in a church-wide initiative designed to increase our understanding of Holy Scripture and most importantly, to cultivate our engagement with it. In partnership with The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Vicar John Heidgerd will be working to develop innovative ways to deepen our faith formation and sense of discipleship for the sake of ourselves and our communities.