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Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglican Church [1], Ashfield, New South Wales. Illustrates Jesus' description of himself "I am the Good Shepherd"

A Burning Heart Is Ours for the Asking

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By Mark Azzara

Dear Friend,

The other day, while stirring oatmeal in the pot, I got to thinking about an early-morning conversation that I and four friends had about Jesus coming alongside two ordinary men (just like the five of us) who were on their way to Emmaus.

The Emmaus buddies were stymied by Jesus’ crucifixion, and when Jesus came near them they didn’t recognize him. That’s a good thing because, if they had known, they probably wouldn’t have heard a word he had to say. They would have been so overjoyed to see Jesus alive again that they would have ignored the important things he needed to teach them.

I sometimes wonder if we Christians have elevated Jesus to a place of celebrity – a place so high above us that we can’t hear him when he tries to teach us the truth about our confusion, anger, greed, priorities, rebellion, etc.

As soon as Jesus vanished from their sight those two ordinary guys had a burning desire to share their new-found knowledge with their friends. By doing so they became the very first human beings to teach others what Jesus had taught them about how he had fulfilled the Scriptures.

Think about this: If these two ordinary men hadn’t taught the apostles everything that Jesus had taught them we might not have the faith we have today. Our faith today might well hinge on the message that those two ordinary guys brought back to the first official leaders of Jesus’ church.

Then think about this: Every time we gather to worship, we are just like they were. We bring our confusion, frustrations, doubts and assorted other thoughts and emotions into church, where Jesus draws alongside us and addresses at least some of that stuff through the Scriptures and the sermon. And then, in the breaking of the bread, we see Jesus for who He really is, but then he vanishes – inside of us.

Lastly, think about this: Our hearts are supposed to be burning with the same appreciation for what Jesus has said to us and done for us, in church and out. That is the basis of our witness to the world.

But the only way to acquire a burning heart is to ask Jesus to do that for us. We must show up for worship expecting such a transformation and pleading for it.

All God’s blessings – Mark

Mark Azzara

About Mark Azzara

Mark Azzara spent 45 years in print journalism, most of them with the Waterbury Republican in Connecticut, where he was a features writer with a special focus on religion at the time of his retirement. He also worked for newspapers in New Haven and Danbury, Conn. At the latter paper, while sports editor, he won a national first-place writing award on college baseball. Azzara also has served as the only admissions recruiter for a small Catholic college in Connecticut and wrote a self-published book on spirituality, "And So Are You." He is active in his church and a non-denominational prayer community and facilitates two Christian study groups for men. Azzara grew up in southern California, graduating from Cal Sate Los Angeles. He holds a master's degree from the University of Connecticut.

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