Morning Worship: ‘Jesus knew we would get distracted’

The 10:45 a.m. Sunday morning worship with the sacrament of Communion is a special worship service in the life of Chautauquans. This was the ninth annual service of this kind, a tradition started by the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell in 2004.

“We started having a communion service because for the first time in several centuries we could have an ecumenical service,” she said.

Instead of being separated by what is supposed to the the common table, many denominations can come together because of agreements that came about through the Churches United in Christ, the successor to Consultation of Churches Uniting. With Campbell’s deep history in ecumenical endeavors, it felt natural for her to develop such a service at Chautauqua.

One of the rubrics for the service is that a Lutheran and an Episcopalian must consecrate the elements, along with any other Protestant clergyperson. Roman Catholics are allowed to participate by reading the Gospel lesson. The Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, ordained in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Rev. Barbara K. Lundblad, Lutheran, and the Rev. Terry W. Bull, Episcopalian, consecrated the elements. Deacon Ray Defendorf read the Gospel. Kevin Sixby served as special pastoral assistant.

It is a service that requires numerous volunteers to carry out gracefully; at least 64 people were recruited to serve the sacrament. The Rev. Robert Boell is the coordinator for the serving, as well as the procession of denominational house banners at the beginning of the service, also including the International Order of the King’s Daughters and Sons and the Ecumenical Community of Chautauqua.

Ruth Becker finds the bakers. This year, Gena Bedrosian, Pat Brown, Doreen Gould, Alison Marthinsen, Charles McChesney, Nancy Nelson, Anne Palomaki and Lucille Piper baked the bread.

The matched communion chalices were made in 2005 at the School of Art’s ceramics studio, under the direction of Jeff Greenham. Becker also finds the extra chalices from the denominational houses. The Chautauqua Catholic Community, Disciples of Christ, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Metropolitan Community Church Fellowship, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Church of Christ provided chalices. The United Methodist House provided Chautauqua co-founder John Heyl Vincent’s own chalice.

The grape juice used in the service comes from the Grower’s Cooperative Grape Juice Company in Westfield, N.Y.

Gold silk stoles and matching altar paraments were made by Jared Jacobsen for First Lutheran Church in San Diego.

“The theme for this week didn’t ring my bells, but I hope it will as the week goes on,” the Rev. Barbara Lundblad said as she began her sermon. Lundblad’s sermon title was “Happiness Sits Still.” The texts were Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Luke 10:38-42, the story of Mary and Martha. Her sermon series for the week is titled “The Pursuit of Happiness in the Gospel of Luke.”

She said that once she started thinking about the sermon, she saw the words from the Declaration of Independence everywhere.

“I read about a ‘Happiness Project’ in The New York Times,” she said. “On the plane coming up here, I got a napkin with a bottle of Coca-Cola printed on it, showing the lid popping open and the words ‘open happiness.’

“The Declaration [of Independence] says all men were created equal,” she said. “Some of them took it literally. Today we know that not all people are treated equally, even if they are created that way.”

Seventy-two years after the Declaration of Independence, Elizabeth Cady Stanton issued the Declaration of Sentiments at Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848. Friday, July 19, 2013, was the 165th anniversary of this declaration. It echoed the language of the Declaration of Independence.

Lundblad quoted from the declaration’s closing section.

“Because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States.”

“Frederick Douglass was one of the people who signed the declaration,” Lundblad said. “Stanton was never able to vote. I wonder what she would think of the Gospel text for today. She must not have loved it because it is not in The Woman’s Bible, which she edited. I wonder why she left it out?”

Lundblad engaged the congregation in imagining what Stanton might have thought about the Scripture. Stanton, Lundblad mused, might have been pleased that Jesus had honored Mary — but Mary is not recorded as saying anything while sitting at Jesus’ feet.

“I think Stanton would have been upset that this story seems to pit the sisters against each other,” she said. “I think Stanton would have scolded church people saying, ’You expect the women to be in the kitchen making the church suppers, and then you scold them for not spending more time reading the Bible.’ ”

Maybe, Lundblad said, Martha should be invited to sit down, too. Then after a while Jesus would get up and say, “You keep the conversation going and I will make dinner.”

Mary was distracted by all the serving she was doing. The Scriptures do not say what kind of serving she was doing.

“Maybe she was going to too many church meetings,” Lundblad said.

It might appear that Jesus is setting up Martha by praising Mary for choosing to pursue happiness, but for Jesus it was Martha’s distractedness that was the problem.

“We are often so distracted that we don’t have time to listen for the voice of God,” Lundblad said.

Lundblad said that when she first had access to the Internet, she spent at least two hours per day browsing.

“We have so many ways of being distracted,” she said.

One example of this distraction is the “Rain Room” exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. This exhibit has raindrops that are electronically controlled so they never touch the people in the room. Ten people at a time are allowed into the exhibit, and they all stand in the rain and never get wet.

“People stood in line last week for nine hours in the 97-degree heat to get in,” Lundblad said. “Why? FOMO — Fear of Missing Out. We can get run ragged going after FOMO.”

“We got to work early and stay late,” she said of modern life. “Our inventions to save time end up filling our time, and it is hard for God to get a word in edgewise.”

The 10th chapter of Luke was written with great care, she said. The lectionary reading for last Sunday was the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), about love of one’s neighbor.

“Immediately after, Luke tells a story about sitting still and listening for God.” she said. “Love your neighbor — love God.”

Lundblad talked about the meaning of the Communion table. The table is the place where Christians are supposed to come together, but it has come to symbolize the divisions of the church. She asked what the meaning of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist means.

“Jesus knew we would get distracted,” she said. “In the midst of all our distractions, Jesus invites us to come, drink, eat, look at one another.

“It is possible to get distracted at Chautauqua — to get caught up in the FOMO of activities,” she continued. “I beg you, in the name of Jesus, find five minutes every day and sit still. Happiness may be pursuing you.”

Joan Brown Campbell, director of the Chautauqua Department of Religion, presided. The Rev. Terry W. Bull, chaplain this week for the Episcopal House, read the Hebrew Scripture. Deacon Ray Defendorf, host at the Catholic House and coordinator of the weekday blessing and healing ministry, read the Gospel. Virginia Oram served as cantor. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship and sacred music coordinator, directed the music. 

The Chautauqua Choir sang “Ubi Caritas.” The tune is by Maurice Duruflé. The English text used on Sunday was translated by Chautauquan Mary Giegengack Jureller in 2002 from the traditional Latin text.

David Haas created the setting for responsorial Psalm 116, “The Name of God.”

The Offertory anthem was “My Eternal King” by Jean Marshall. The text was translated by the Rev. Edward Caswall.

“Le Banquet céleste” by Olivier Messiaen and “Communion Anthem” by David E. Kellermeyer were part of the music during communion. 

“The Communion Anthem” was developed from “A Study Song For Chautauqua” by Mary Artemisia Lathbury in 1877, often called “Break Thou the Bread of Life” in hymnals.

The Samuel M. and Mary E. Hazlett Memorial Fund provides support for this week’s services.