Morning Worship: God turns fear and rage into peace

“Somewhere in our Scriptures, it says we should comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. ‘The 23rd Psalm’ by Bobby McFerrin, can afflict the comfortable,” said Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship coordinator, as he introduced the piece to the congregation at the 9:15 a.m. Tuesday morning worship service in the Amphitheater.

McFerrin changed the text to reflect its dedication to his mother.

“In every generation, we take a text and make it new all over again,” said the Rev. Dwight D. Andrews when he stood to preach. “Our congregation was working with a sister congregation to present a jazz concert, and I am afraid I afflicted the comfortable. I suggested we do this piece of music, and the people at our sister church were not comfortable to think of God as mother.

“We had to talk about an old text with new meanings. It was a painful conversation, and they were not ready to do the piece [in concert]. But in that engagement, we moved further down the road and we are still engaged in conversation.”

Andrews’ sermon title was “Wake Up, Everybody!” and his Scripture was Mark 4: 35-41. “Wake Up Everybody!” is a song by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes from 1975. He quoted these words:

Wake up everybody no more sleepin’ in bed

No more backward thinkin’, time for thinkin’ ahead

The world has changed so very much

From what it used to be

There is so much hatred, war an’ poverty

Wake up all the teachers, time to teach a new way

Maybe then they’ll listen to whatcha have to say

’Cause they’re the ones who’s coming up and the world is in their hands

When you teach the children, teach ‘em the very best you can

The world won’t get no better if we just let it be

The world won’t get no better we gotta change it yeah, just you and me.

“As we reconsider this storm story, who is this person, Jesus? Even the disciples did not fully understand,” he said. “They were frightened by the storm and that led them to doubt. They asked Jesus, ‘Don’t you care that we are perishing?’ ”

Jesus calmed the storm and asked the disciples why they were so afraid.

“Fear and panic overtake us, and we do strange things. The disciples were in the boat with Jesus and they were still scared,” Andrews said.

“Fear has many ways of speaking,” Andrews said. “We have the flight response, sometimes we run when we are afraid. Sometimes we are paralyzed and stop dead in our tracks. And sometimes we get angry. The disciples were angry. ‘Jesus — aren’t you concerned about our very lives?’ And he answered them, ‘Do you still have so little faith?’ This story is a reminder that we are all disciples; sometimes we will be fearful and run even after we have seen what God has done.”

Andrews continued, “I believe that fear and rage are behind the violence in our world today. How can someone take a gun into a school or a movie theater? Are they just mean? No, they are afraid, and that fear has turned to rage. The Charleston Nine were martyred by someone who was fearful that they were taking over his world. They were a threat to his privilege, and he had to act out. Fear, pain, and suffering turn in on themselves and become rage.”

Andrews told the congregation, “We have to deal with fear by faith. Faith can overcome whatever has paralyzed us. We can trust God and we can live through the fear. We don’t have full control of our bodies but we can trust God to move us through the fear.

“When we have family problems, faith will get us through the fear,” Andrews continued. “Wake up. Know that God can move you from fear to faith and trust. Whatever your storm, [God says], Peace, be still. We have personal storms, communal storms and world storms and God can move us through any storm. God can say and do, ‘Peace, be still. Peace, be still.’ ”

The Rev. Susan McKee presided. Ginny Oram, lifelong Chautauquan and a member of the Motet Choir, read the Scripture. Jared Jacobsen, organist and worship coordinator, directed the Motet Choir. The choir sang “The 23rd Psalm” by Bobby McFerrin. The Edmund E. Robb-Walter C. Shaw Chaplaincy provides support for this week’s services.