Open my eyes, Lord. Help me to see your face.
Open my ears Lord. Help me to hear.
Open my hear lord. Help me to love like you. I live within you, rest now in me.
I suggested this as our Anthem throughout the Easter season. And if it wasn’t clear last week why that is so – maybe you will catch on this week.
So today, I am going to tell one of my favorite stories – so forgive me if I have already used it with you. But since it is a good story - it won’t hurt to hear it again.
A man from the country - who was used to the quiet of the night often interrupted by the sounds of animals and insects –
Was visiting his brother in very noisy New York City.
As they walked along the busy sidewalk - the brother from the country suddenly stopped and said: “I hear a cricket.”
His brother said: “Oh, your crazy. How can you possibly hear a cricket?”
“NO,” his brother said: “I hear a cricket.”
The other brother said: “It’s noon. People are bustling around, cars are honking their horns, buses are whizzing by, jack hammers are at work – and yet you say you can hear a cricket??”
“Absolutely,” his brother said. He listened for just a second - then walked over to a large cement planter sitting in front of one of the tall buildings. He dug beneath the leaf – and found a cricket.
His brother was duly astounded. But the cricket-finder said: “don’t be so surprised. My ears are trained a little different than yours being from the country. It all depends on what you are listening for. Here, let me show you.”
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of change – a few quarters, some dimes, nickels and pennies – and he threw them up in the air.
As soon as they hit the sidewalk –every head within a block turned to look.
“You see what I mean,” said the country brother, as he began to pick up some of the coins. “It all depends on what you are listening for.”
“The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd as the shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. He walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. But they will not follow a stranger, they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.”
It all depends on what you are listening for.
So are our ears tuned to the voice of the good shepherd – or to the voice of strangers. . . It certainly a lot easier to listen the voice of strangers because there are a lot more of them. They come to us on television, over the radio, through social media - from friends and even family members who want to lead us in the wrong direction – away from God and the values of the Gospel - rather than toward them. . .
The sheep follow him - because they recognize his voice.
We attune our ears to the voice of shepherd - by taking the time to read the scriptures, coming to Mass on a regular basis, spending time in prayer – and hanging out with those who support our Gospel values and encourage us to live them.
They will not follow a stranger - they will run away from him, because they do not recognize his voice.
Whose voice do we recognize?
Once there was a man who dared God to speak:
Burn the bush like you did for Moses, God. And I will follow.
Collapse the walls like you did for Joshua, God. And I will fight.
Still the waves like you did in Galilee, God. And I will listen.
And so the man sat by a bush, near a wall, close to the sea and waited for God to speak.
And God heard the man, so God answered.
God sent fire - not for bush - but for a church.
Gd brought down a wall, not of brick, but of sin.
God stilled a storm not of the sea, but of a soul.
And God waited for the man to respond. And God waited, and waited – and waited.
But because the man was looking at bushes, not hearts; bricks and not lives; seas and not souls – he decided that God had done nothing.
Finally he raise his voice to God and asked: have you lost your power?
And God answered firmly, but with compassion: Have you lost your senses?
Open my eyes Lord. Help me to see your face.
Open my ears Lord. Help me to hear.
Open my heart Lord, help me to love like you. I live within you, rest now in me.
I have three points I wish to make about this Gospel of St. Luke’s:
FIRST. This is the Gospel I have chosen to have read at my funeral. The reason being that I will have soon spent 35 years of my life doing the two things mentioned in this Gospel: breaking open the Scriptures so that others may better understand them. And breaking the bread - so that others my recognize and receive Christ in the Eucharist.
And hopefully I have made a few hearts burn along the way.
I encourage all of you: to pre-plan your funeral– as I have– so that others don’t have to agonize over what you might want.
Choose Scripture readings that mean something to you. Choose songs that have spoken to you over the years.
Write them down, and give them to your children or others who will need to sit down some day and plan your funeral.
I have placed some materials in the Gathering Space if you need a form to write them down.
Give the gift of peace of heart to your loved ones by making your wishes known by pre-planning your funeral.
Since I did my planning years ago – they do need to be updated. For instance since the Bishop usually presides at a priest’s funeral - I think this can be dropped from my funeral plan:
“It is my desire that Bishop Robert Finn NOT be the celebrant of my funeral. If Bishop Raymond Boland is still living, I would like him to be the celebrant. My other choices would be Fr. Lloyd Opoka or Mike Roach.”
THE SECOND POINT: This reading from Luke gives us the two main parts of the Mass: the liturgy of the word: when we listen to the word of God proclaimed, hopefully explained in the homily, and we offer our prayers of petition to God — AND the liturgy of the Eucharist: when the gifts are brought forward and through the power of the Holy Spirit they are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ – and we consume these gifts –
hopefully becoming what we eat – the very image of Christ.
These two main parts of the Mass are framed by two smaller parts: the introductory rites - which transitions us into this sacred space and time —- and the closing prayers - which challenge us to go out and live the Gospel.
We celebrate the Mass to hopefully make us different – a little more Christ-like – as we leave than when we first arrived.
So basically we live the Emmaus story every week – we gather together on our journey through the introductory rites – we listen to the word of God in the liturgy of the word – we receive the Body of Christ in the liturgy of the Eucharist –
then we carry the good news of meeting Christ back to Jerusalem – or wherever it is we return home to.
THE THIRD POINT I WISH TO MAKE: If you were with us on Easter Sunday – then you heard me say that the work of Lent was to pray, fast, and give alms – and I think the work of Easter is to open our eyes, our ears, and mostly our hearts – to recognize all the ways the Risen Christ is trying to break into our lives and bring us the gift of new life.
So I love the line in this Gospel when it says that after Jesus broke bread with them: “with that their eyes were opened and they recognized him.”
For gosh sakes – they were walking and talking with Jesus for miles – yet failed to recognize him???
But before you and I get a little too judgy – how often has the same thing happened to us?
We spend time with Jesus - -but because of our blindness due to prejudice, judgment, disregard, lack of respect, failure to listen, or just plain stubbornness and narrow thinking –
We miss the presence of the risen Christ in our midst!!
So along with Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia – may this be our Easter Anthem:
Open my eyes, Lord, help me to see your face.
Open my ears Lord - help me to hear.
Open my heart lord, help me to love like you - I live within you, rest now in me.
Christ the lord is risen today – alleluia! And so a happy Easter to all. And thanks for being with us on this most holy of nights.
A special welcome to Jimmy and Dakota and those who are with you tonight to see you called forth to the new life Christ offers to you – and to all of us — through His death and resurrection.
When I was young and growing up in southern Indiana – at the foot of my parents bed was a large cedar chest – which once held sheets and towels and other things given to my parents on their wedding day.
But by the time I came along – those things were long gone – replaced by numerous photo albums, filled with black and white pictures.
From time to time, my parents would get in the mood to drag some of those albums out – and told stories to me and my siblings about my uncles in their military uniforms, my grandparents standing in front of their new model T,
one of my grandfathers working the farm with a team of horses – and our favorites – pictures of my mom and dad when they were kids.
I loved seeing those pictures and hearing those stories – it told us, my brothers and sisters and I – about our past. Our history. All giving us a better understanding of who we were as individuals – and who we were as a family.
Tonight, we have just opened the Church’s cedar chest of memories – and have heard stories of our ancestors in faith –
going back to the very beginning when God created the heavens and the earth.
We heard stories of Abraham our Father in Faith, and Moses the lawgiver, stories of mountains leaving their places and hills being shaken – before the presence of God.
Stories of seeking the Lord, walking in light, the removal of stony hearts, and of being Baptized into the death of Christ so we can rise with him to new life.
Stories told and remembered so we can have a better understanding of who we are as individuals called by God, and who we are as the family of God: formed into the image and likeness of God’s own Son.
Stories told and remembered so that we know we are not alone in our struggles and doubts, our fears and our failings. Knowing that we are caught up in the love, mercy, and forgiveness of a God who loves us so much –
that God’s own son, Jesus Christ, suffered and died to free us from all those things that keep us bound – tied up in ourselves and our somewhat small ways of thinking – keeping us from loving God with all our hearts and all our minds.
Tonight we listened to stories told and remembered so we know the words we have sung all throughout Lent are, indeed, true: We have set our eyes on the way, this journey is our destiny. Let no one walk alone. The journey makes us one.
And so Jimmy and Dakota - we welcome you tonight into our family – and invite you to join us on our shared journey: where day after day – week after week – year after year over a lifetime: we set our eyes and hearts and minds and souls on the way – to becoming more like Christ – so one day we will meet up with all those who have gone before us – our ancestors in faith whose stories we have heard tonight — and all of us together will give eternal praise to the Lord our God.
And so why should we not continue to rejoice by singing: Christ the Lord is risen today. Alleluia! Happy Easter!
Moments in time...