Chalker: ‘His spirit enables folks to rise up’

Column by Mary Desmond.

The Gospels were not written down until at least 40 to 50 years after the death of Jesus Christ. The words attributed to him are not exact quotes.

“What we have in the New Testament are the remembrances of the person, colored by tradition and lengths of time, except for two experiences, where I think we can safely say they are remembered word for word,” said the Rev. Kenneth Chalker at the Monday morning 9:15 a.m. Devotional Hour.

His text was Mark 5:21, and his title was “Word for Word.”

In that Scripture, one of the two instances where Jesus is believed to be quoted word for word, appears.

A synagogue leader, Jairus, asks Jesus to help his daughter who appears to be dying.

Before Jesus arrives at the home, the daughter dies. When Jesus and Jairus arrive, the many friends and mourners tell Jairus to send Jesus away. Jesus goes into the room where Jairus’ daughter is lying dead and says to her, “Talitha Koum,” which translates from Aramaic to mean “Little girl, get up.” The girl awakens.

“Why is this important? We live in a time now, just as folks did then, when there are so many religious voices that in their arrogance, in their sanctimoniousness, assure us that they are somehow God’s children representing the only possible way of thinking about love and coming into God’s presence,” Chalker said. “So to assert their righteousness in the name of God, they take the lives of little girls and little boys, and mothers and fathers, and aunts and uncles — within the spirit of God.”

“We live in a world that is so caught up in fighting over religion, where, in the name of God, people kill one another. It is now more important than ever that in the Bible one of the two most profound quotes of Jesus translates to mean ‘Little girl, wake up,’” Chalker said.

“It’s a whole different perspective, and it’s part of what it means, I believe, to follow in the steps of this great, great leader,” he said. “His spirit enables folks to rise up and not be in the mode of trying to destroy folks not like us.”

The other quote attributed to Jesus is “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me,” which Jesus said while nailed to the cross. That is beautiful, because it shows a human moment for Jesus, Chalker said. If Jesus, in all of his strong faith and holiness, could feel abandoned by God, “What does that mean for you and me?” Chalker asked.

“Even though we may feel times of abandonment,” Chalker said, “it is not that our faith is not good enough — because Jesus had those, too.

“You and I are encouraged and inspired to rise up even beyond our greatest feelings of abandonment and loss.  It’s a word-for-word memory that enables us to live a word-for-word life of joy and encouragement and strength in facing issues in our lives.”

The Rev. John Morgan presided. The Rev. Luke Lindon of the Sylvania United Church of Christ read scripture. It is Lindon’s first visit to Chautauqua during the summer season. The Motet Choir, led by organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music Jared Jacobsen, provided sacred music. The anthem was “How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place,” by Brahms.