by the Reverend Doctor Peter W. Allen
Hingham Congregational Church, United Church of Christ
April 30, 2017
I know that many of you have pets – dogs, cats, fish, horses, chinchillas, and other lovely living things — and that they play an important part in your lives. Pets sooth our hearts and open our eyes to the fact that caring for another creature brings meaning into our existence.
I am very happy to announce that Tracy and I are adopting a puppy tonight. We’ve wanted a dog for a long time, ever since our beloved (and very badly behaved) cat passed away last year. We miss her and no one could ever replace her, but it’s time for us to invite another little one into our home.
If any of you have ever bought or adopted a puppy, or if your dog has given birth to puppies, you know that a puppy’s eyes are closed for several days after it’s born. I’m not sure why that is, exactly, but I can imagine that it’s probably about development. The eyes need to mature and grow until they are ready to open and to see.
I think the same is true with us. Even though, as humans, our eyes are open at birth, we need to grow up a bit before we are ready to really see the world and to understand it.
In childhood, we see what our parents want us to see. In adolescence, we purposefully ignore what our parents want us to see in order to take in the world from our own perspective.
In young adulthood, we start to incorporate our parents’ viewpoints, finally realizing that they might have some important input for us as we try to make sense of our world.
What kinds of life events open our eyes?
Since I was born in the early 1960’s, I remember a series of assassinations. JFK was shot when I was one year and one day old. I, of course, don’t remember that day, but many of you do. And as I grew up, I heard so much about it.
Then, there were the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King. My grandfather died during that time as well. As I became aware of the reality of death, I also became aware of the reality of evil.
During that same time, I was attending Sunday School and learning about Jesus’ crucifixion. And I asked myself, What kind of world have I been born into? Why are the best ones among us being hunted down and killed?
Thankfully, my church also celebrated Easter. I was raised, as most of you have been raised, to know that, out of the very worst of circumstances, God makes something beautiful happen, sometimes, many beautiful things. God creates light out of darkness.
In the story we heard this morning, a man named Cleopas and his companion (it could have been his girlfriend or his wife or his boyfriend or his buddy; we don’t know), as they walk along the road, encounter the risen Jesus.
But they don’t recognize him.
They walk along together, and Jesus talks with them about the Bible and the predictions of the prophets, that a Messiah would come and suffer, and die, and be raised again.
But it’s not until they reach their destination, a village called Emmaus, that things get really interesting.
Cleopas and his companion ask the stranger to stay and eat with them, and he does. And when they break bread together, they recognize that he is Jesus.
What is it about sharing a meal that opens our eyes to one another, to our struggles, our gifts, our beauty, our importance?
Was it a Passover moment? Was it a communion moment? Or was it just a human moment? Eating is about survival, but it’s also about connection.
In the Jewish tradition, eating together means so much. When you eat with someone, you are saying to that person, You matter. You are one of the family. Maybe when Jesus eats with Cleopas and his companion, he is saying to them that they matter – and vice versa. After all, they were the ones who invited Jesus to dinner.
Maybe this story is not just about seeing, but also about perspective. There was nothing wrong with Cleopas’ eyesight. He just needed his perspective changed. When Jesus opens his eyes, he does it through acts of worship and of generosity.
He breaks the bread, symbolizing his sacrifice. He gives them the bread, showing his love. He teaches them on the road and then he feeds them in the village.
Luke is telling us: Both when we are on the move and when we are still, Jesus is constantly giving, sharing, feeding. We are hungry for companionship, wisdom, and compassion and the risen Christ gives us all three.
The Easter moment, which we just celebrated a couple of weeks ago, gives us an entirely new perspective. It’s like getting new glasses – or getting glasses for the very first time.
Suddenly, we can see with new clarity, with a newfound sense of hope.
When I was in 6th grade, one of my very best friends and I loved to throw a football when we were at recess, and over the course of that year, we got pretty good at it. When we moved on to junior high, we were really excited when our gym teacher told us that we were going to play football in gym class.
Unfortunately, my friend’s eyesight was deteriorating at that time and he really struggled to catch the ball. All the cool guys made fun of him. One day, he showed up with glasses and caught one of my passes one handed and scored a touchdown. The cool guys didn’t know what to think.
The new lenses made all the difference.
When we church people decide to be Easter people, when we decide to put on Easter glasses with resurrection lenses, our whole outlook changes, and so do our lives. We begin to see our neighbors differently, focusing on their inner beauty rather than superficial differences.
With a new vision and a new perspective, we can picture a world where every child goes to a warm, safe, dry bed with a full belly at night, where women are treated with respect and compensated equally, where war is no longer the way that we solve conflict.
With a resurrection glasses, with an Easter perspective, we can look at ourselves in a new way as well, as people of deep worth, as people who can live healthy lives, generous lives, lives that are focused on making the world a better place for all.