Morning Worship: Be faithful, be fearless: God will make you free

“Irrationality will put you to sleep. If we look at the condition of our nation and the world, there are a lot of sleeping people,” said the Rev. Frank M. Reid III at the 9:15 a.m. Monday morning service in the Amphitheater. His sermon title was “When You Wake Up­ — Stop Worrying!” and the Scripture was Psalm 37:1-8. His text was Verse 1, “Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers.”

“The world is full of irrational people like you and me who forget that the ‘other’ is a human being,” Reid said.

He had recently watched “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” In a crucial scene, the leader, Caesar, and the general of the ape army, Koba, are fighting each other. As the general is about to die, he says to Caesar, “Ape not kill ape.” Caesar replies, “You are not an ape,” and lets him die.

We are all humans, Reid said, and the question is how we deal with the irrationality of wickedness. He recommended David Brooks’ book, The Road to Character. In it, Brooks seeks to redefine sin for the 21st-century, postmodern mind.

“Irrationality is sin gone mad. It is the root of sin itself,” Reid said.

Paul’s letter to the Romans, on which Reid preached at the Sunday worship service, raised the challenge of irrationality.

“ ‘The thing that I should not do, I do, and thing that I should do, I do not do,’ ” he said. “This is the battle of irrationality that goes on in all of us. When it wins out, like the Dark Side in ‘Star Wars,’ we do dark, unspeakable things.”

In a world drunk on irrationality, how do good people make it? Reid said that is the question David struggled with in Psalm 37.

“He was the ‘man after God’s own heart,’ and he struggled most of his life with irrationality,” he said. “When he should have been at war, he raped and impregnated Bathsheba. When his daughter was raped, he went into denial. He would not talk to his son, Absolom.

“Irrationality will destroy a family, and it will turn a functional nation into a dysfunctional one,” Reid continued. “Our nation was worried about ISIS over July Fourth. Worry will steal the joy. ‘Do not fret,’ wrote David.”

Reid said, “When you wake up, stop worrying; worry will depress you and take all the attention off your blessings. You got up today. You went to sleep with a roof over your head. You know where your next meal is coming from and your heart has not missed a beat. Just the fact that you could come here this morning, whether walking, by shuttle or golf cart, shows that God’s been good to you.”

Writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’ new book, Between the World and Me, is a letter to his teenage son. The work reflects Coates’ worry about the irrational violence that claims the lives of so many young African-American men. In the book, Coates reflects of the death of his college classmate, Prince Jones, at the hands of an African-American undercover policeman.

“Coates fears for his son and fears what he calls the war against the black body,” Reid said.

Coates visited the mother of Prince Jones, a woman who had brought herself out of poverty and racism in Louisiana to become a doctor. Coates said that, as she talked about the church, he realized his own distance from that institution, “the only support for our people” and he wondered if he had missed some notions of cosmic hope.

“He wondered about the something that drove Mabel Jones to an exceptional life,” Reid said. “No matter how irrational are the acts of the wicked, if you know God for yourself, you can bring something exceptional out of tragedy. Fret not, no matter what is in The New York Times, The Washington Post or USA Today, because God is still in charge.”

When you wake up, you have to be fearless.

“Jesus said, you believe in God, believe also in me. Put everything in God’s hands. Don’t worry about the wicked,” Reid said.

If you are fearless then you have to be faithful, he added.

“Faith in the things hoped for, the things not seen,” Reid said. “Dark times do not have the last word. As the old people said, ‘There is a bright side somehow.’ If you are fearless and faithful, the Lord will set you free. As the old hymn says, ‘I have seen the lightning flash and the wicked ride high then I heard the voice of Jesus who promised never to leave me alone.’ Jesus promised to make a way out of [the dark times].”

The Rev. Robert M. Franklin Jr. presided. The Rev. Carmen Perry, pastor of Hurlbut Memorial Church at Chautauqua, read the Scripture. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship coordinator, directed the Motet Choir. The choir sang “The Earth Adorned” by Waldemar Åhlen, translated by Carolyn and Kenneth Jennings. The Mrs. and Mrs. William Uhler Follansbee Memorial Chaplaincy provides support for this week’s services.