Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Can't It Always Be This Way?

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

The two Emmaus disciples say this to each other, together, reflecting on the mysterious stranger who joins them on the road and for a meal. Luke’s gospel does not say that one said it to the other. “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?’” They spoke as one, in unison, as if from a liturgy, as if two had become one.

That is spirituality. All of our particularities, our differences, our edges, our boundaries, our isms—all melt in the presence of the eternal, the cosmic, God, love, justice, faith, truth—whatever word captures for us ultimate reality.

It is where we encounter the fragility of our own lives and yet where we encounter the ultimate and eternal meaning of our life together. Our hearts burn within us as we discover the truth, the meaning, the context of our own lives and of life itself. And to do so with another—a friend, a lover, a fellow person of faith, a spiritual community—is exquisite.

These two disciples who traveled to Emmaus have the dream of disciples throughout the ages; they have enjoyed a revelation that is the object of all spiritual quests. The eros of their hearts has been unleashed and ignited and they burn as one. It doesn’t matter who said what to whom, who said it first, whose idea it was, who gets the credit for the observation, insight, or conclusion, or who should get footnoted. Personal or private ownership no longer matters. They own it together, this most holy communion.

Why can’t it always be that way?

That’s my question every time I complete a retreat or a course in spiritual formation.

Last week I mentioned I was reading a lot of Evelyn Underhill. It was for a course in the spiritual formation program at Columbia Theological Seminary here in Atlanta this past weekend, expertly led by Underhill’s biographer, Dana Greene, with morning and evening prayers created by Linda Abel, using Underhill’s writings. These courses always include small groups and spiritual friendships, rare opportunities for spiritual intimacy.
No doubt you have had similar experiences. Soul friends. People with whom you’ve intimately and passionately connected in prayer-making, truth-seeking, justice-making, and possibly, love-making. Friends who can finish one another’s sentences. Shared spiritual searching makes us one with people with whom we may have little else in common. It opens doors to a communion hardly thought possible by our privilege or lack thereof.

I’ve learned that Evelyn Underhill’s spiritual development began as theocentric, with intellectual curiosity about Mysticism, the title of her first book on the spiritual life. Only gradually, under the guidance of a spiritual director and her initially reluctant embrace of spiritual community (the church), was her intellectualizing transformed to a more incarnational faith, realizing we are called to union with Christ’s “redemptive work always going on in the world.”

I recognize the experience, though my faith began more incarnationally and became more theocentric. Yet I find that when I need forgiveness, compassion, and encouragement, I turn to the more incarnational expressions of our faith, such as friends, family, Jesus, and spiritual community.

In their own need for consolation, the Emmaus disciples invite the stranger to dinner and suddenly, at table, their fellow pilgrim is revealed to them not as their guest but as their host, blessing and breaking and offering them their own bread as a sacrament, and their eyes are opened and they recognize their hope alive again, their passion resurrected.

Posts referencing the Emmaus disciples:

Progressive Christian Reflections is an unfunded Emerging Ministry of Metropolitan Community Churches, a denomination welcoming seekers as well as believers.

Copyright © 2014 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved. 


  1. As another "burning heart" privileged to share the course on Evelyn Underhill with such a learned instructor and inspiring spiritual community, I thank you for this entry. Why can't it always be that way?? But, as we return to "the mess," as Underhill would refer to daily life and its challenges, perhaps the time that we shared last weekend will better help us to "radiate God...the priestly work that wins and heals souls." (Underhill) It was a privilege to share this experience with you, Chris. Thank you for the thoughtful post.

    1. Thanks, Kathy, a pleasure to be with you also!

  2. There is not one single piece of historical evidence to prove that Jesus ever existed. Not one single scholar or historian from the first century AD mentioned even a single word about Jesus. That's pretty strange, considering that Jesus was supposed to have been some big public figure, going around raising the dead, performing miracles, with thousands of followers. Very odd indeed that not one single scholar or historian from that time period mentioned even a single word about Jesus.

    The truth is- JESUS NEVER EXISTED!

    1. As I've written in another post, if Jesus hadn't existed, we would have needed to invent him! The truth is, many important people existed who were never recognized in their time or by scholars or historians of their time. In fact, that may be evidence of their importance--that they were not "people of their time"! Think of people in the news today--how many will be worth remembering two thousand years from now? That's the miracle of Jesus--that his acts and words and story are still retold today. I hope to God my own existence or yours is not dependent on being footnoted by some academic.