Posts Tagged Chautauqua

You Have a Transforming Story to Tell – Morning Worship – July 24, 2015 Mary Lee Talbot


Chautauqua Daily

All week long, at the beginning of his sermon, the Rev. Frank M. Reid III has said, “Let the congregation say amen.” Each day, he repeated it three more times, always ending with, “Now let the church say amen like you mean it.” And he always asked the congregation to hold hands with the people across the aisle as he prayed for the Holy Spirit to anoint the assembly. Friday was no different as he brought his week of preaching to close with a sermon titled “I Have a Transforming Testimony” at 9:15 a.m. in the Amphitheater. His text was Psalm 37:23-28. “The [recent] shootings show us that we are living in an irrational world where even a Bible study is not safe,” he said. “We are in need of a great awakening, and if I had time I would share how the founders of Chautauqua started this place because they knew that people needed a wake-up call throughout their lives.” Reid reviewed the sermon series that he presented this week.

“Every one of you has a story,” he said. “Every one of you has a God-given destiny. As you live and walk the road of life, character is built. Your life has a story and if you listen to it, it will give you strength.” He quoted the dedication page of Marina Keegan’s book, The Opposite of Loneliness: “I will live for love and the rest will take care of itself.” This is what David in Psalm 37 was trying to tell us, he said. David looked at the irrationality of his life, his dysfunctional family, his power as king. “I encourage you to embrace the irrationality of life,” Reid said. “When you embrace it, like Jacob wrestling with the theophany, or as the old people said the angel, remember that the steps of a good person are ordered by the Lord. After all the hell of life, you are still standing. You are still alive even though you are aging. “You can strive for perfection as we Methodists do,” he continued. “Though you fail, the Lord will uphold you. We can look back at our lowest points and know that we are empowered because God held us in his hands.” When we engage irrationality, we are empowered. “I have been young, and now I am old, but I know that the righteous are not forsaken,” Reid said. “Keep on pushing; there is power in your story. ‘Blessed assurance Jesus is mine. Oh what a foretaste of glory divine.’ This is our story, praising our savior all the day long.”

“You have a testimony, and if you hold on, God will uphold you at the most difficult moment,” he continued. “We weep for a night, but joy comes in the morning. We are praising our savior all day long. ‘I will live for love and the rest will take care of itself.’ You have got a transforming testimony.”

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You Are Graced for Greatness – Mary Lee Talbot -Chautauqua Daily

When Nelson Mandela walked out of prison after 27 years, he knew that he had

to leave the bitterness behind or he would still be in prison,” said the Rev. Cynthia

Hale. “The Father of the Nation [of South Africa] had to resist the urge of revenge. He needed to provide an example

of forgiveness.”

Hale preached at the morning worship service at 9:15 a.m. Friday. Her sermon title was “Work Your Grace” and the

scripture text was Romans 12:3-12. “When Mtibaa transitioned, President Barack Obama said, ‘Now he belongs to the ages.’ David Cameron, prime

minister of Great Britain, said, ‘A great light has gone out of the world.’ Mandela is remembered for being the embodiment

of grace, of operating with uncommon grace. That image led people to believe he fell from the sky,” she said.

“But everyone of us is graced by God. You may say, ‘Not me; I could never measure up,’ but you don’t know who you

are. God created you by design; just as Mandela was unique, so are you. All of us on earth are different, as our fingerprints

attest, but that is not what makes each of us different — it is God’s workmanship in you.”

Hale said that God graces each person with giftedness. No two people have the same gifts.

“Your gifts were tailor-made for you and you are graced for greatness,” she said.

In Romans, Paul spoke with authority about gifts, she said. He had written to the Corinthians five years earlier to

tell them that each person’s gifts are needed for the community to be whole.

“Paul wanted to make sure that the Romans did not have an inflated idea of the self, that they were not over intoxicated

with their own gifts,” Hale said. “Through faith comes the power of discernment to determine the nature and

extent of individual power and grace. “Paul also speaks to those who think less of themselves,”

she continued. “All are gifted; there is no big ‘I’ or little ‘you’ in the faith community. Don’t think that the community is

doing just fine without you.” Hale used the word “grace” to talk about gifts because

Christians are saved by grace and gifted by grace. “We don’t deserve what God has done in Christ. We are

gifted in a way that we could not imagine, we could not earn, buy, borrow or steal,” she said. “God is the giver of

every good gift and distributes gifts to us for a purpose.” Paul used the analogy of the body to describe how the

gifts of one work with the gifts of all. Each member of the body of Christ belongs to all the others and they work together

for the common good, “whether they like one another or not,” Hale said. When people are baptized into one body

they are connected by God’s spirit. “People come together from individual places and become

part of the community to serve one another and to serve the world,” she said. “We need one another and we are

essential to the success of every individual and the whole. That is God’s purpose in making us different and distinct so

we are equipped to carry out God’s mission and service.” Spiritual gifts are similar to natural gifts but the Holy

Spirit supersizes them, Hale said. “You may be a good speaker or fine singer, or you minister

to people in a way that changes their lives, you may have the tech skills or work among the least, but you are

set to change the world when the Holy Spirit energizes and empowers graces and turns them from ordinary to extraordinary,”

she said. She told the congregation that “we equip each other, we build each other up, because when we first came to Christ

we needed help. Pastors are not the only ones to whip — I mean equip — people into shape. Each person has the responsibility

to pick up another. “We are given different gifts to provide balance, to help the body mature. No one should have too many posts in the

community. Look at your neighbor and say, ‘I hope she is not talking about you.’ It is the nature of any community that

not everyone is using their gifts. Then people start to say ‘let the young people do it; I am retired and tired.’ My grandfather,

at 90, used to say, ‘Don’t rust out, wear yourself out.’ ” Hale said that church communities would never be all

that God would have them be unless everyone was working. “There is no unemployment among God’s servants. That

would be wasted opportunity. If you are graced, just do it,” Hale said. “Do it with enthusiasm, do it with joy. Work your

grace. Serve the needs of others. Be the ministers of God’s “Your gifting looks good on you, but it is not an ornament

to be worn — it is an instrument to be used for God’s glory.”

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“The Signposts on the Road to Freedom” – Mary Lee Talbot

“As some of you pointed out to me, I have run out of the Ten Commandments,” the Rev. M.

Craig Barnes said. “Today, we will look at Jesus’ summary of the law, an interpretation of

what was always at the heart of the law — to love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength and your

neighbor as yourself.” The pastor concluded his sermon series on “Ten Signposts on the Way to Freedom” at the

9:15 a.m. morning worship service Friday in the Amphitheater. Barnes’ title was

“Getting Close to the Kingdom” and the Scripture text was Mark 12:28-34.“We are commanded to love God,” he

said. “That is at the heart of the commandments. We don’t need to know about

God. We don’t need to know God’s opinions on social issues. We don’t have to go to seminary or be a professional

theologian. We have looked at both tablets of the law. The first is about how to love God — no other gods. Don’t

make idols. Don’t worship other gods. Don’t use the Lord’s name for things the Lord did not intend. Keep the

Sabbath. The second is how to love your neighbor. Then honor your

father and mother. Don’t murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal.

Don’t bear false witness. Don’t covet what your neighbor has.” Barnes then continued, “The order is important —

in order to love your neighbor you better be loving God. You must attend to the first before the second [tablet].

Everyone is talking about burnout, especially compassion burnout.

People say that they are doing all they can. They can’t give any more, and it does not seem to make any difference

anyway. They are not doing too much — they have not loved God first. The only way to give to your neighbor is to

love  God first; God’s love will pass through you to your neighbor. And for those of us with low self-esteem, to

love our neighbor as ourself is no blessing.”

Author Bruce Larson has written that people hear voices from the basement and voices from heaven, Barnes said.

The voices from the basement are those that say “you are not good enough.” “We can be haunted by those voices

all our lives if we choose,” the pastor said. “The voice from heaven is the voice

that people heard the day Jesus was baptized: ‘This is my beloved child, with whom I am pleased.’ This is what

God is saying about you; these words will guide you the rest of your life. You have to choose how you will

respond to God who says ‘I love you.’ ”Barnes used the example of people who have been dating

and “someone takes the risk to say ‘I love you’ first. Some people plan for this — tonight is the night — while

others stumble around but it is finally on the table. Now what occurs? The relationship has hit a crossroad, and

the future depends on what the other person says. “If the other person says, ‘Well, thanks for sharing,’ you

are done,” he continued. “It is over because you can’t just be friends with someone who is in love with you. If the

person says ‘I love you, too,’ then you can move ahead.” God, Barnes said, already took the risk in baptism, and is

holding holy breath waiting for a response. “You can’t just hang out with God or just be friends,” he

said. “The only way to say ‘I love you’ to God is to love your neighbor as yourself.”

He added that, in Luke’s Gospel, the clergy come back with a question for Jesus — who is my neighbor? — and

Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. “To love the neighbor as yourself only works when it is an

expression of the love that flows down from heaven,” he said. Barnes said that he had two spectacular

grandmothers — a city grandmother and a country grandma. From his city grandmother he learned how to be a

gentleman. He learned etiquette. “We had linen on the table and china — even if it was chipped — and silver

candlesticks and more forks than I knew what to do with. [She taught me] to stand for women, and not

to eat before everyone was served. It was not much fun, but I learned about how to be careful [of things and

people].” With the country grandma, the family ate in the kitchen on a red and white checkered vinyl tablecloth

“which could absorb spilled milk,” he said. “There was one fork, and if you dropped it you had to pick it up fast

because there was always a dog around. People spoke loudly and you never knew who was going to be at the table

and there was a lot of laughter. My grandma used to tell a joke and then laugh and slap the table three times — a

Trinitarian laugh.” In most Protestant churches, when Communion is served, “it would make my city

grandmother proud,” he said. “We set the table with linen. The clergy are careful not

to spill the juice. It is orderly and decent. My theology is more closely aligned with my country grandma — a

joyful feast where anyone who confesses ‘Jesus is Lord’ is welcome and he is happy to have us.”

Barnes said he had grown to appreciate his city grandmother because he has been part of too many church

debates that had no civility. “We were not careful with each other,” he said. “We have not loved our neighbor in

church well. We have to train ourselves in civility — it is not just an emotion; it is a committedness

to receive the love of God and pass it on. “To be civil is to know what is right and to do what is

right,” Barnes added to conclude. “To take care of the person beside you. Choose to be a lover. Choose to care for

your neighbor. It is the way to say to God, “I love you too.”

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Singing Is the Only Sufficient Outlet for Praise and Worship – Chautauqua Daily

Morning Worship

Mary Lee Talbot

“When we decide that we are creatures of the lord, we allocate some of our words for praise. Worship is the practical name for this mouth-loosening activity.  Sometimes, the words come out in song as we discover god beyond the debates, thinking and discussion; singing is the only sufficient outlet for praise,” said the Rev. Peter Marty at Thurs- day’s 9:15 a.m. morning worship service. His sermon title “Singing With our last Breath,” and the Scripture text was Jeremiah 1: 4-10.  Marty told a story of a young couple, Ben and renee, who were in Haiti at the time of the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. They were staying in a home for boys on the third floor with a cousin of Ben’s. After the earthquake hit, renee and the cousin were able to get out of the building. Ben was trapped on the third floor. Renee let him know she was safe and then she heard Ben singing, “god’s peace to us we pray,” a new composition he had written.  “Ben,” Marty said, “spent his last breath singing. “everyone who takes Jesus seriously must take words seriously,” he continued. “Jesus is the word made flesh. This is not a trivial claim; it is a tipoff for all of us as we navigate relationships that require words. We have non-verbal clues to attitudes, feelings and moods but words are critical to full relationships; they are the currency of living.” Marty said that words possess the power to do things. in a courtroom, the judge breaks the silence with the words “ ‘the jury has found the defendant guilty,’ and it changes lives. A lover looks at her mate and blurts out ‘i love you’ and sets off a ripple through the nervous system to the brain.” Words can soothe, inform, judge, encourage and love, he said. They can express ideas and experiences, yet words can express more than ideas. “god said ‘let there be light’ and there was light,” he said. “god spoke creation into existence. Words can func- tion like deeds, as the prophet isaiah said, ‘My words did not return empty to me’ but fulfilled their purpose. The Church defeated the roman empire by blanketing it with words, with the retelling of Scripture.” He continued, “They did not use guns or swords or cannons. The church opened its mouth and spoke. roman society was organized around classifications — race, class, family name. The Church formed a people based on words.” Words shape lives. “our paths are cut by swaths of words from the people who raised, encouraged and challenged us. But we are all capable of cheap words that treat life and people gracelessly. Words are the substructure of trustwor- thiness in relationships and once they are spoken they can never be unspoken,” Marty said. “Words,” he said, “are all i brought with me this week. They formed in my heart and mind and eventually are ex- pelled. They formed in my head and moved to your ears. As the Psalmist said, ‘May the words of my mouth and medita- tions of my heart be acceptable in your sight.’ ” Speech is a physiological event and every word has a physical substance, a puff of air through the lungs, esopha- gus, larynx, tongue, teeth and lips. He repeated his warning that words once spoken can never be pulled back. “We can apologize sometimes but the words are officially gone.” There are times when words will not come. The prophet isaiah could not speak the words of the lord until a seraph touched his lips with a coal and made his lips clean. Jeremiah was not capable of speaking for the lord until god touched his lips. “The beautiful dimension of the Christian life is that in life and death we sing. in living and dying, song is our strength. As the Psalmist says, ‘open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise,’ ” Marty said. The Rev. Scott Maxwell presided. Pat Brown, hostess at the Baptist House, read the Scripture.  The prelude was “Trio in G Major” by Marcel Gennaro, played by Barbara Hois, flute, Rebecca Scarnati, oboe, and Debbie Grohman, clarinet. The Motet Choir sang “Love” based on I Corinthians 13:1-13, with text by Chris- topher Wordsworth and music by Gerald Near. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship coordinator, directed the choir. The Harold F. Reed Sr. Chaplaincy supports this week’s services. Singing is the only sufficient outlet for praise and worship

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