“We are going to concentrate on spiritual food this week,” said the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook at the 9:15 a.m. Monday morning worship service in the Amphitheater. Her sermon title was “Keep Your Eyes Opened,” and the Scripture reading was Isaiah 6:1-8.
Cook taught the congregation the words to a song:
“I see the Lord, high and lifted up,/ Seated on the throne of my life./ For you are holy, you are holy, you are holy/ Seated on the throne of my life./ Seated on the throne of my life.”
Isaiah, the prophet, saw the Lord of hosts sitting on a throne. While Isaiah was called the “eagle-eyed prophet” because he could see into God’s heart, Cook said, before he could be the prophet who spoke about making the rough places smooth, he had to have an eye-opening encounter with God.
She cited other people who had eye-opening experiences of God: Saul became Paul the Apostle when God opened his eyes. John on the isle of Patmos saw a new heaven and new earth. Jesus asked Blind Bartimaeus what he wanted Jesus to do, and Bartimaeus said, “I want my eyes opened.”
Isaiah had his eye opening in the year that King Uzziah died.
But sometimes people wish that their eyes had not been opened, Cook said. She quoted poet and songwriter Carole Etzler, who wrote:
“Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened./ Sometimes I wish I could no longer see/ All of the pain and the hurt and the longing of my/ Sisters and me as we try to be free.
“Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened,/ Just for an hour, how sweet it would be/ Not to be struggling, not to be striving,/ But just sleep securely in our slavery.
“But now that I’ve seen with my eyes, I can’t close them,/ Because deep inside me somewhere I’d still know/ The road that my sisters and I have to travel:/ My heart would say, ‘Yes’ and my feet would say ‘Go!’
“Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened,/ But now that they have, I’m determined to see:/ That somehow my sisters and I will be one day/ The free people we were created to be.”
Cook asked the congregation if anyone had the experience of going to bed and waking up in the morning and their body not working.
“I hit the big 6-0 this year, and one day last summer I went to sleep and when I woke up one of my eyes was closed,” she said.
She was in Sag Harbor for Labor Day weekend with her younger son and her friend Mercedes. Her optometrist could see her but she had to drive herself since her companions could not drive.
The optometrist said, “Hmm, I am concerned,” and Cook said, “So am I.” The optometrist could not give her a prescription, so Cook had to go to urgent care to get a prescription for eye drops.
The doctor at urgent care said, “Hmm, I am concerned,” and Cook said, “So am I.” He gave her eye drops and asked her to call him the next morning.
“The next day my eyes were opened,” she said. “God understands that Chautauqua needs to go to urgent care and get a dose of the Holy Ghost so you can drive home with your eyes opened.”
Isaiah had been a cupbearer for King Uzziah, a member of the king’s inner circle. When the king died, Isaiah had an encounter with God.
“Isaiah was there when ‘Holy, Holy, Holy’ was being composed,” said Cook in reference to the hymn that begins Sunday worship at Chautauqua. “Worship is spiritual cataract surgery.”
An angel approached Isaiah with a hot coal to clean his lips. Isaiah had a timeout with God to get his priorities rearranged, Cook said. He was with a crowd of people with unclean lips, and he had to spend time with God to be able to rearrange his life.
The old hymn, “Spend a Little Time With Jesus in Prayer” is an admonition, Cook said.
“Spend a little time with Jesus in prayer/ He alone can lift your heavy load of care/ Tell him all about the things that try you/ Every little need he will supply you/ Spend a little time with Jesus in prayer.”
Cook said that God is calling our nation’s eyes to be opened.
“We have to move from me to we,” she said. “We have to take time out for self-examination and prayer. We have to be humble, turn and seek God’s face.”
Who is really in control? she asked.
“We have to focus on God, the Creator, Son and Spirit, the three in one,” she said. “If our eyes are opened and we keep them opened, we will see a difference in this land.”
Cook referred to Etzler’s song again, saying if our eyes are opened, “our hearts will say ‘yes’ and our feet will say ‘go.’ ”
“Keep open to the glory of God,” Cook concluded. “ ‘You are holy, seated on the throne of my life.’ Hallelujah!”
The Rev. Robert M. Franklin Jr. presided. The Rev. Scott Maxwell, pastor of St. Mark’s Lutheran church in Wilmington, Delaware, read the Scripture. Before becoming a pastor he worked as a manager for Hyatt Hotels and first came to Chautauqua as a dishwasher at the old St. Elmo Hotel. He has served congregations in Virginia and Pennsylvania. His wife, Candace Littell Maxwell, serves on the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees. The Motet Choir sang “The Lamb” by John Tavener with words based on a poem by William Blake. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred, directed the choir. The Mr. and Mrs. William Uhler Follansbee Memorial Chaplaincy and the Daney-Holden Chaplaincy Fund provide support for this week’s services.