Sermon
April 14, 2002
First Congregational Church, 36 Main Street, New Milford, Ct  06776
Rev. Michael Moran
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Scripture Readings

Luke 24:1-12 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they came to
the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone
rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the
body.

While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes
stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the
ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the
dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was
still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be
crucified, and on the third day rise again."

Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all
this to the eleven and to all the rest.

Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other
women with them who told this to the apostles.  But these words seemed to
them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.  But Peter got up and ran
to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves;
then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

Luke 24: 13 - 35
  Now on that same day two of them were going to a village
called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem,  and talking with each
other about all these things that had happened.  While they were talking and
discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them,  but their eyes were
kept from recognizing him.

And he said to them, "What are you discussing with each other while you walk
along?" They stood still, looking sad.  Then one of them, whose name was
Cleopas, answered him, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not
know the things that have taken place there in these days?"

 He asked them, "What things?" They replied, "The things about Jesus of
Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the
people,  and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be
condemned to death and crucified him.  But we had hoped that he was the one
to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since
these things took place.

Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early
this morning,  and when they did not find his body there, they came back and
told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was
alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as
the women had said; but they did not see him."

Then he said to them, "Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to
believe all that the prophets have declared!  Was it not necessary that the
Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?"  Then
beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things
about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as
if he were going on.  But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us,
because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in
to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and
gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and
he vanished from their sight.  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?"

That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the
eleven and their companions gathered together.  They were saying, "The Lord
has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!"  Then they told what had
happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking
of the bread.

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Sermon: Open My Eyes

Do you mind if I take your picture this morning?  I'm going to use my nice
little digital camera - it's so small and convenient.

The sermon this morning takes it theme from the story of Jesus and the
disciples on the road to Emmaus, especially the phrase - and their eyes were
opened.  Perhaps, as we expressed in our call to worship and will echo again
in our closing hymn, the prayer, hope, or even plea that our eyes might be
opened is a cry of the human spirit that lies at the heart of much religion,
science, philosophy, and art.

Open my eyes, that I may see.

The camera is an eye that blinks, sees, and records with great accuracy, but
rather than illustrating how simple it is to see, the camera is an
interesting case study in how complex and subjective opening the eye and
seeing really is.

This digital camera is small and simple to use, but I used to have a hobby
of collecting older cameras to get them working again and to make pictures
in the styles that were popular when these cameras were new.

This camera is an Auto Graflex, which was produced between 1906 and 1923 -
the kind of camera that might have taken pictures of the first airplanes
landing on the local cow pasture.

This one is a Crown Graphic, produced from 1947 to 1973.  The other night I
was tuned into ESPN Classic and watched the 1951 World Heavyweight Title
fight between Joe Louis and Rocky Marciano at Madison Square Garden.  Every
photographer in the first row had a camera just like this sitting on the
edge of the canvas waiting to get the winning shot of the knock out punch.

When you work with these cameras you really have to break the act of seeing
down into it's smallest parts and for every part you have some knob to
adjust or some lever to move to get the exact picture that have in your
mind.

There's the angle of vision, the frame, the focus, the depth of field, the
shutter speed, the opening of the lens, the precise moment of exposure.  So
much goes into an enduring image, a picture that truly is worth a thousand
words, so much that we do naturally with our minds but with a camera takes a
lot of planning and effort - or at least it used to, although that is no so
true with the latest technology.

Of course, modern technology makes a lot of decisions for you.  Sometimes
the digital camera has a mind of it's own and in that way it is a lot more
like the human brain.  When we look through our own eyes there are many
decisions that the mind is making about what we'll see and how we'll see
it - and often these decisions stay below the radar of our conscious mind.

Sometimes this is good - we wouldn't want to have to be constantly making
decisions about how much to dilate our pupils to adjust for the brightness
of the light as the sun and shadows shine through the stained glass windows.
But sometimes, and this is an area where religion and science would
certainly agree, sometimes this lack of awareness is not so good.  And it's
no good because our mind tends to see what it expects to see, it sees what
is has been taught to see, it deals as much with preconceptions as it does
with insight, as often with illusions as it does with reality.

This is especially true when the mind is being asked to see something new.

Robert Frost comments on this in his poem Mending Wall - the one where the
neighbors go out to replace the stones from the wall that marks the boundary
between their properties.  The narrator suggests that maybe this is no
longer necessary, since neither of them have animals that will stray onto
the other's land.  But the neighbor's father taught him: Good fences make
good neighbors, and that is all he can see.

Frost ends the poem:
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, "Good fences make good neighbors."

Jesus encountered this often in his ministry, and it was sometimes quite a
source of frustration for him.  At one point he even said to his disciples:
Mark 8:18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see?

Another time he said to the crowd:
Luke 12:54 "When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say,
'It is going to rain'; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind
blowing, you say, 'There will be scorching heat'; and it happens. You know
how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know
how to interpret the present time?

In an extended passage we read from John during Lent, Jesus heals a man born
blind, but then runs up against the blindness of the authorities who cannot
accept the significance of what they witness with their own eyes.  At the
end Jesus addresses the Pharisees and says:
John 9:39 "I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see
may see, and those who do see may become blind."  Some of the Pharisees near
him heard this and said to him, "Surely we are not blind, are we?"  Jesus
said to them, "If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you
say, 'We see,' your sin remains.

There is a kind of blindness that has no insight into new ideas, into God's
presence and purpose in the course of history and the important events of
life, but there is also a blindness that has no insight into the
significance of life itself, of the life being lived by the person who is
doing the seeing.  This is perhaps the more common and more difficult
blindness to overcome.

Just off the main road that runs through Warwick, New York, is an 18th
Century water mill that was abandoned for many years, but which found new
life as a center for seeing - seeing in the religious sense of being mindful
and aware of your own life and of life itself.  This place, called Pacem in
Terris, was established by Claske and Frederick Franck, who arrived in
Warwick after a long journey that found them in the company of some
extraordinary people.

A dentist by profession, in 1958 Franck left his practice for two years to
join Albert Schweitzer in Gabon, Africa, where he founded the dental clinic
of the Albert Schweitzer Hospital. From 1962 to 1965 he was in Italy
pursuing his second love, art.   In Rome he recorded the participants and
settings of all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council.  He was a great
admirer of Pope John XXIII and so named his center in Warwick after the Pope
's last encyclical, Peace on Earth.

Many years ago Franck was invited to give a weekend workshop on the subject
of creativity, and after carefully preparing lectures with slides and
exercises and discussions for the group, Franck set off to teach his eager
students.  He began with a discussion of drawing as a way of seeing, and
although this was supposed to be only point one on a busy weekend schedule,
he never really got past this point.  The insights of that weekend formed
the core of a book he wrote, and I'd like to read a little from the first
chapter for you:

We do a lot of looking: we look through lenses, telescopes, television
tubes. Our looking is perfected every day - but we see less and less.  Never
has it been more urgent to speak of SEEING.  Ever more gadgets, from cameras
to computers, from art books to videotapes, conspire to take over our
thinking, our feeling, our experiencing, our seeing.  Onlookers we are,
spectators. "Subjects" we are that look at "Objects"  Quickly we stick
labels on all that is, labels that stick once and for all.  By these labels
we recognize everything but no longer SEE anything.  We know the labels on
all the bottles, but never taste the wine.  Millions of people, unseeing,
joyless, bluster through life in heir halfsleep, hitting, kicking, and
killing what they have barely perceived.  They have never learned to SEE or
they have forgotten that man has eyes to See, to experience.

He goes on to talk a little about his ideas on drawing and seeing, and about
some of the religious teachers who understood that if only we could see
rightly, we would be overwhelmed by the presence of God in our world -

He quotes a poem by Angelus Silesius:
In good time we shall see
God and his light, you say.
Fool, you shall never see
What you do not see today!

Open my eyes that I may see - it is the cry of the soul that knows that God
is hidden in the world around us, in the revelation of sacred story, in the
questions, hopes, fears, joys and sorrows that possess it.  Open my eyes
that I may see - that I may clear the eye of the soul and the distractions
of the heart and be among the blessed who see God and find peace in the
overwhelming presence of the love we know in Christ.  Open my eyes, illumine
me, Spirit Divine.  Amen


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