Sermon
October 7, 2001
First Congregational Church, 36 Main Street, New Milford, Ct  06776
Rev. Michael Moran
Write to Rev. Moran

rule1.gif (2367 bytes)

Scripture Readings

Luke 22:7-27 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover
lamb had to be sacrificed.
8 So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover meal
for us that we may eat it."
9 They asked him, "Where do you want us to make preparations for it?"
10 "Listen," he said to them, "when you have entered the city, a man
carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters
11 and say to the owner of the house, 'The teacher asks you, "Where is the
guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?" '
12 He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make
preparations for us there."
13 So they went and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared
the Passover meal.
14 When the hour came, he took his place at the table, and the apostles with
him.
15 He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you
before I suffer;
16 for I tell you, I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of
God."
17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, "Take this and
divide it among yourselves;
18 for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine
until the kingdom of God comes."
19 Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it
and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do
this in remembrance of me."
20 And he did the same with the cup after supper, saying, "This cup that is
poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.
21 But see, the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table.
22 For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that
one by whom he is betrayed!"
23 Then they began to ask one another, which one of them it could be who
would do this.
24 A dispute also arose among them as to which one of them was to be
regarded as the greatest.
25 But he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and
those in authority over them are called benefactors.
26 But not so with you; rather the greatest among you must become like the
youngest, and the leader like one who serves.
27 For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is
it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.
(NRSV)

rule1.gif (2336 bytes)

Sermon

When the mayor of New York City, Rudi Gulliani, was asked about rebuilding
the World Trace Center after the September 11th attack, he said that
designing a suitable memorial to all who died was the first priority.

Last weekend the cover of New York Times magazine featured a computer
generated photograph which showed the area where the twin towers stood
illuminated by two great shafts of light streaming from the earth into the
heavens.  This concept has apparently gained considerable support as one
memorial suitable for this now sacred ground.

Memorials are things that help us remember.

Look around you'll see many names - stories sad and happy

In 1912, Mr. & Mrs. Edwin J. Emmons and Dr. and Mrs. Frederick E. King gave
the Baptismal Font in memory of their daughters, Mildred Wanzer Emmons and
Sarah Eugenie King.  Both girls had joined the church in 1908.  One died at
18, the other at 21.  The obituary for Mildred read: Mildred Wanzer Emmons,
only daughter of Edwin J. and Minnie F. Emmons, passed from this transient
world into the higher and enduring life beyond.  A pure, noble spirit was
released from great mortal suffering.  Always frail in body but courageous
in spirit, she overcame many illnesses and by her sweetness and cheerfulness
of disposition endeavored to brighten the lives of those about her.  She was
especially tender, unselfish and loving in her domestic circle and a
constant companion of a devoted mother.

In the back of the sanctuary you will see a clock given to me on the 25th
Anniversary of my ordination and placed there in memory of my parents.  I
put it there because my parents, and my father especially, thought that the
church service should end promptly an hour after it had begun, and he would
open the back doors of the church to let the Pastor know that the time had
arrived to wrap it up.

The window over the piano is dedicated to the memory of A.N. Johnson -
Artemas Nixon Johnson, born in Middlebury, VT in 1817, died in New Milford,
CT Jan 1, 1892.

Mr. Johnson's son Frank was the minister here at the time this building was
enlarged and remodeled to the present design.  You see it has references to
music, but we really didn't know much about the reasons why.

The, one Sunday after worship a visitor asked if she could take a picture of
this window, and told us that she had written the entry on A.M. Johnson in
the Grove Dictionary of Music and was working on a biography of him.  She
sent us some material which filled in our portrait of the man remembered in
the window.

It turns out he was one of the most important figures in American music in
his day.  He taught music in the Boston Schools and at the Academy of Music
there.  He was organist and director of music at Boston's Park Street Church
before the Civil War, and developed his own system of teaching music which
he published through his own publishing firm and taught at eight music
schools he established in New York, Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.  He
composed 279 hymn tunes, 67 anthems, 26 sabbath school and gospel songs, and
2 cantatas.  He published 11 collections of church music, 10 collections of
choral music, 6 theory books, and 3 volumes of works for keyboard.  Some of
his publications went to over 50 editions (see Johnson, A. N. by J. B.
Stopp, New Grove Dictionary of American Music, vol. 2)

How famous he was in his own day, yet how few are familiar with his work
today.  And without this memorial window, what would we remember of him?
But sometimes a person's work does survive.

This past week several papers feature the obituary of the famous American
sculptor, Frank Gasparro, who died at age 92.  Mr. Gasparro's is surely the
sculptor whose works have been most widely duplicated of any in history, yet
few are familiar with his name.  He was the most famous artist you've never
heard of.

I went out after his death to try and acquire some of his work.  You know
the work of any artist becomes more valuable after their death.  And luckily
I was able to find several quite easily and quite inexpensively.  In fact, I
have it here in my pocket.  Mr. Gasparro was an engraver for the United
States Mint, and designed the "tails" side of the Lincoln penny.  Over 100
billion copies of this work have been minted.  And if you look closely you
can see a small FG (for Frank Gasparro) on the lower right side of the image
of the memorial.

For a sculptor like Gasparro, the work is the great memorial.

Sometimes it is not works but words that become the great memorial to a
person.  Lincoln himself in dedicating a memorial cemetery to the fallen at
Gettysburg left a memorial to his own eloquence and insight:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this
continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the
proposition that all men are created equal.

Sometimes the only words that survive a person as their memorial are the
words on their gravestones - their epitaphs.

Even though I am among the living, I have a tombstone.  It shows up every
year in along the driveway of the Hackney's Halloween Pumpkin extravaganza.
And I'm proud to be in there, even though all the other residents are
vegetables - I'm the only non-pumpkin in the lot.  It says:
Here lies the body of Mike the Preacher
He got eaten by a creature

There are some well know epitaphs - like that of WC Fields.  When asked in
1925 by Vanity Fair Magazine what he wanted on his headstone he wrote back:
Here lies W.C. Fields. I would rather be living in Philadelphia.

President Ronald Reagan, you might remember, used this line to make a joke
to reporters from his hospital bed after he was shot in an assassination
attempt. "All in all," he said, "I'd rather be in Philadelphia."

Gracie Allen and George Burns have a beautiful gravestone which says simply:
Together Again

Mel Blanc who did the voices for all those Looney Tunes cartoons - you know,
Porky Pig and Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny - on his headstone it says  "That's
All Folks," and Jackie Gleason's stone says "Away We Go."

The tomb of the Unknown Soldier says: Here Rests in Honored Glory An
American Soldier Known But to God

Our Founding Father, Benjamin Franklin, has an epitaph that speaks not only
to death but to the hope of the resurrection:
The Body of
B. Franklin, Printer
Like the Cover of an old Book
Its Contents turn out
And Stript of its Lettering & Guilding
Lies here.  Food for Worms
For, it will as he believed
appear once more
In a new and more elegant Edition
corrected and improved
By the Author

It is an element of our faith that Jesus did not have an epitaph on a
tombstone - that the stone was rolled away and he did appear once more
before ascending into heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father
Almighty, from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

But Jesus did choose a memorial, a way to remember him and his words and his
works.

What Memorial did Jesus choose - a table, a family meal, a community of
friends.

Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he said, "Take this and divide
it among yourselves;  for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of
the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."
Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and
gave it to them, saying, "This is my body, which is given for you. Do this
in remembrance of me."

But he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those
in authority over them are called benefactors.  But not so with you; rather
the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like
one who serves.  For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one
who serves? Is it not the one at the table? But I am among you as one who
serves.

So we gather, young and old, friend and stranger, around this table, this
memorial to the one who came among us to serve.  And we serve one another
his symbolic meal of bread and cup as we recall the words - this is my body,
broken for you; This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant; the
greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like one
who serves.

We did not choose this memorial - Jesus instituted it and invited us to
continue it.  It is quite different in its humble simplicity from what might
be expected from the one they called King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  It
directs us to find the deepest mystery of life in the most common ritual,
the gathering around a table, the sharing of a meal.  It brings to mind all
those who have served us, all who have gone before us, all whom we are
privileged to serve in our generation.  It reminds us of the bounty of the
good earth and the love that nourishes and sustains us each day of our
lives.  It helps us envision a worldwide community of faith, joined by a
common dedication to service in the name of our Lord.

In fact, Jesus wants us to be his best memorial - he wants each of us to
live our lives as a testament to the Good News of God's love, and in our
life as a church to serve our neighbors and our world.

As we prepare to celebrate this sacrament, let us recall the words that
invite us into this fellowship of faith:

Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you
rest.  Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock,
and it shall be opened unto you: for everyone that asks, receives; and all
that seek, find; and to those that knock it shall be opened.  You shalt love
the Lord thy God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and will all
your mind.  Thou shalt love your neighbor as yourself.

We celebrate an open communion.  This sacrament is for all who wish to know
the presence of Christ and to share in the community of God's people.

rule1.gif (2336 bytes)

Let us join together in a prayer of thanksgiving

M :The Lord is with you.
P: And also with you.
M: Lift up your hearts.
P: We lift them up to the Lord.
M: Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.
P: It is right to give God thanks and praise.
M: It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give
thanks to you, Sovereign God, Creator of heaven and earth.  Therefore we
praise you, joining our voices with the whole church on earth and all the
company of heaven, singing:
P: Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of hosts, Heaven and earth are full of thy
glory:  Glory be to thee, O Lord most high.


 
Return to HomePage