“Were not our hearts burning within us?” Luke 24:32
Reading a theological book last Tuesday morning, a very dry and dull looking book, I was delighted to find the following letter under the exceedingly dry heading, “paradigm miscalculations”.
MURPHY’S LAW ARCHIVES
Case No. 48732; Ref: AB-5634297
Ms. S. Brown,
Allied Insurance Company
347 Worth Street
Akron, Ohio 43256
Dear Ms. Brown,
This is a response to your request for additional information in Block number 3 of the referenced accident reporting form where I put “Poor planning” as the cause of my accident.
You said in your letter that I should explain this more fully, and I trust that the following details will be sufficient.
I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-storey building. In the late afternoon, when I had completed my work, I discovered that I had about 500 pounds of bricks left over. Rather than carry them down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel using a pulley which, fortunately, was already attached to a beam protruding from the side of the building at roof level.
After securing the rope at ground level, I returned to the roof and loaded the 500 pounds of bricks into the barrel. Then I went back down to the ground and untied the rope and held onto it rather tightly to ensure a slow decent of the barrel of bricks.
You will note in Block number 11 of the accident form that I weigh 135 pounds. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Perhaps needless to say, I proceeded at a rather rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming down. This is when I broke my left arm and collar-bone. Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until I cracked my skull on the beam and ran the fingers of my right hand two knuckles into the pulley. I had regained my presence of mind by this time, however, and held tightly onto the rope in spite of my pain.
At approximately the same time, the barrel hit the ground and its bottom fell out depositing the bricks in a ragged pile. Devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel weighed something less than fifty pounds. (I refer you again to Box number 11.)
As you may have already guessed, I then began a rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the lacerations on my legs and lower body. The encounter with the barrel slowed me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell onto the pile of bricks and fortunately, only one ankle was broken.
The puncture wounds on my chest and stomach came as I lay on the bricks unable to move. Staring up at the barrel, I again lost my presence of mind and let go of the rope.
Following the advice of my doctor, I am planning to leave the bricklaying trade and pursue a less dangerous occupation.”
I was still laughing as I walked around Tesco at half past five on Tuesday afternoon. Laughter made the whole day seem different. It is a great morale booster.
Morale is at the heart of our Gospel story today. The morale of the disciples had hit rock-bottom in the hours after the awful events of that Friday in Jerusalem. Everything had been lost, every hope destroyed, every expectation smashed. They were left a battered, disheartened, directionless group, who had no idea what would now happen. Then in a moment all is changed. Those two disciples who had given up hope, and had gone back to Emmaus to continue their ordinary lives, suddenly have their eyes opened and the whole world is a different place.
It is almost impossible for us to imagine the depths of their gloom and despondency, and just as hard to imagine the power of the morale change that came into their lives. It was a morale change that was so profound that it changed them from a ragged and motley group of individuals into a world-changing movement. The disciples were a group entirely without resources or organisation in a world that was violently hostile. (If we think we live in a world that is not interested in what the church has to say, we should try First Century Palestine).
The morale change came not through laughter, though I think they would have laughed with joy at meeting with Jesus, but with a sense of the power of Christ in their hearts. “Were not our hearts burning within us?” say the pair who would have run from Emmaus back to Jerusalem. The disciples had the presence of the risen Christ and the faith to live as he commanded, and that was how they not only met the outside world, but changed it beyond recognition.
The first Christian churches grew at a phenomenal rate because they were open to that constant morale boost Christ’s presence and they were open to what the Scriptures said. Those are the two basics need to be recovered to maintain the morale of the Church: the reading of Scripture and the openness to Christ’s presence through prayer.
“Were not our hearts burning within us?” asked the two disciples at Emmaus. What a morale boost, they had met with the risen Lord and their lives were changed.
Can we put our hands on our hearts and honestly say that we have been changed? How often can we say that the Church has made us so much as even smile? The disciples had walked seven miles to Jerusalem, heading towards the setting sun. They reach Emmaus and it is dark and yet when they realise Jesus has been with them they travel back that seven miles, running through the darkness. Have we ever felt so changed by what we have read or heard have we ever felt strongly about our faith that we have dropped what we were doing and said, what is it that God wants me to do? How often does our faith send us around Tesco’s smiling?
‘It is true!’ the disciples exclaim. Can we say with them, ‘It is true!’?
Do we know in our hearts that the Lord is risen or are we gripped by the world around us that says these things don’t happen?
The disciples believed, their morale was changed, and remarkable things happened. Morale changing encounters can happen to us—but we have to be open to the possibility that the Risen Christ might walk along and talk even with us!