Hunter: ‘We see ourselves in Christ, and we focus on him’

Mary Lee Talbot | Staff Writer

I am talking this week about God’s complementarity, about partners that complete one another, but should never be married lest they become confused. Today, I want to talk about piety and practicality, about soul-shaping and service,” said the Rev. Joel Hunter at the Thursday morning 9:15 a.m. Devotional Hour.

His topic was “Piety and Practicality,” and his text was James 2:14-18.

“People easily confuse or substitute the one for the other,” he said. “That is because they are not sure of their role on Earth. They become indistinct and lose their personal mission. They try to replace the personal love of a personal God with service.”

In the Great Commandment, Jesus taught the disciples to love God with their heart, soul and mind.

“When we love as Jesus loved, we find more of ourselves. It is not enough for me just to provide for my wife, Becky, or to care for my kids. They are persons who need specific personal love, as does God,” he said.

Hunter shared a parable about a young man who was born with one fault: He could not see himself in a mirror. That was fine when he was a child, but as he grew into adolescence, he became obsessed with seeing his own image. He became something of a recluse, but one day went to a party. He saw a girl who was not talking to anyone and began a conversation with her. For the first time, he was not thinking about himself. He was intrigued with her, Hunter said.

The young man stopped in mid-sentence and said to her, “Well, I’ll be. I can see myself in your eyes.” She answered, “Well, I’ll be.”

“We see ourselves in Christ, and we focus on him,” Hunter said. “Piety is conforming our life to God. Piety that is lonely and self-absorbed is an attempt at the approval of God without having the complement of service. God prizes every person, and when we give attention to who or what someone loves, then we live a life of holiness. We are being transformed by the Spirit of God when we love those God loves.”

Hunter continued: “We love our neighbor, because God loves them; we are a venue of God’s grace. Our feelings come and go, so loving our neighbor is not based on our goodwill, but by becoming a venue of God’s will and agape. Can faith alone save us? We are not talking about the Protestant Reformation kind of salvation. We are talking about a life of holiness.”

Hunter said churches that are trying to find their identity sadden him.

“They don’t have a secure and personal relationship with God. They are trying to find the world’s prosperity, and they end up being spiritually impoverished. They are self-occupied with branding. That doesn’t matter, because it is never about us. Without service and losing ourselves in love and self-sacrifice, we are lost to the world.”

Hunter shared the story of a Native American tribe that lived near a river. At least twice a year, the river was raging so much from the snows of the mountains that it could not be crossed. They tribe members were attacked by another tribe, and after battling all day, both tribes retired to their camps. It was clear that the first tribe was going to be slaughtered. They had few warriors and many children and old people.

They had two options. The first was to stick together and die together. The second was for the warriors who were left to try to ford the river and get away and re-form the tribe.

“That seemed logical, but as the warriors looked around, they knew they could not do that,” Hunter said. “They gathered the weak on their shoulders, and they all waded into the river. Not one was lost. The weight of the weak saved the strong. That is exactly where we are now. Believers are being swept away, and we have to decide that we won’t go without the weak. They will save us to be like Christ.”

Pastor Scott Maxwell served as liturgist. Carolyn Grohman read the Scripture. Grohman first came Chautauqua in 1955, when she was in college, and has been coming ever since. She is a third-generation Chautauquan and part of a six-generation Chautauqua family. She has been singing in the Motet Choir for 30 years.

Grohman is also active in the Women in Ministry group and the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle class of 2006 and currently serves on the board of trustees of the Presbyterian House.  She has served many times in the past as the liturgist for the weekday worship services, and she enjoys serving communion at Chautauqua’s ecumenical communion service each summer.  She is a recently retired Presbyterian minister and lives in Rochester, N.Y.

The Motet Choir sang “Lord, Whose Love in Humble Service,” with text by Albert E. Bayley and arranged by Randall Davidson. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, led the choir. The Daney-Holden Chaplaincy Fund provides support for this week’s services.