Editor’s Note: With the Abrahamic Program for Young Adults concluding its 2012 Season activities this weekend, the Daily asked the four coordinators to write a reflection on their experiences at Chautauqua.
The Friday morning worship congregation participated firsthand in the sermon. The Rev. Buzz Thomas preached, then encouraged the congregation to divide among the pews and discuss its ideas for community improvement. Thomas’ conclusion of his Week Two sermon series called “Becoming that City on a Hill.” The Scripture reading was James 1:22.
Thomas began by sharing some successful examples of community improvement and reform. In Denver, Colo., the One Family One Church initiative pairs homeless families with a church congregation to provide support, mentorship and friendship.
“What the government can’t give them is a relationship,” Thomas said. “You can give them that. Love them. Guide them.”
“Some mornings when you’re a preacher … you want to stay in bed because of what God has laid on your heart. And you don’t want to tell it to people because it’s hard to hear,” said the Rev. Buzz Thomas Thursday. “That happened to me this morning.”
Thomas continued his week as chaplain with his sermon, “When a Nation Loses its Way,” drawing from Leviticus 25:8-12.
Thomas quoted a haunting passage from the book of Jeremiah: “An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land. The prophets prophesy falsely, and my people love it. But what will you do at the end of it all?”
If congregants decided to exit the service, Thomas said he would not be offended.
Rev. Buzz Thomas preached about the nature of “dual citizenship” — sharing loyalties between the United States and faith communities — on Wednesday.
Thomas’ sermon was titled “Called to Serve Two Kingdoms: the Challenge of Christian Citizenship.” The readings were Acts 5:27-29, Romans 13:1-4 and Revelation 13:1-9.
Thomas began by reminding the congregation that the U.S. is different from the kingdom of God.
“For most of us, we live on a fault line, right? We have divided loyalties. We’re citizens of two kingdoms,” Thomas said. “Of course we’re citizens of the good old U.S.A., but we are also citizens of the kingdom of God, and how we balance those competing loyalties is the stuff of serious citizenship.”
“I want to talk about how we bridge the chasms that divide us,” the Rev. Buzz Thomas said. “We must move beyond our tribes. Now, there’s nothing wrong with our tribes … (but) the Constitution of the United States does not begin with ‘We the tribe.’ That vision is too small for our republic. We are people, many tribes.”
Thomas continued his Week Two sermon series with “If God Be For Us…” The readings were John 8:2-11 and Romans 8:31.
“I want to convince you this morning that you have theological permission to do what America needs you to do, that God wants us to make common cause with our neighbor … that despite our theological and political differences, we can be one nation,” he said.
On Monday, the Rev. Buzz Thomas asked, “How do we become ‘exceptional’ in the biblical sense of that word?” and discussed barriers to national improvement, particularly a collective emphasis on belief over behavior.
Thomas continued his turn as Week Two’s chaplain with his sermon “Elevating Belief Over Behavior: How the Religion of Jesus Became the Religion about Jesus.” The Scripture reading was James 2:14-26.
“I want to make sure you understand I’m not talking about partisan politics. I’m not talking about churches endorsing candidates or taking up money for candidates,” Thomas said. “That’s not good for our churches and that’s not good for our government.”
“What kind of nation would we really like to be, and how do we get there on our own? I don’t think without God — we won’t get there without God. How can we get there and bring our politicians along with us?” Rev. Oliver “Buzz” Thomas asked at Sunday morning worship.
Thomas will serve Chautauqua as preacher for Week Two. His reading was Isaiah 65:17-25.
“It’s our first great glimpse of the Kingdom,” Thomas said. “Everybody has a house, and a vineyard and a job.”
For most of Week One, the Rev. Erik Kolbell presided over the morning worship services, but he served as chaplain Friday. Outside Chautauqua, Kolbell serves as the First Minister of Social Justice at Riverside Church in New York City. He is a clinical psychotherapist and the author of six books.
His sermon, “OK, So Now What?” reflected on the story of Lazarus’ miraculous return to life in John 11:32-41.
There is a multiplicity of approaches to the story of Lazarus, “each one as fraught and freighted as the next,” Kolbell said. Rather than examine the text of the scripture historically, Kolbell analyzed the story from Lazarus’ point of view.
“What did it mean to him, to get a second chance?” Kolbell said, as he encouraged the audience to imagine Lazarus’ re-entrance into life. “Lazarus might have used this opportunity to make some real changes.”
Last summer, during an open community dialogue, a man approached Ali Karjoo-Ravary and asked: “Why is Islam a religion of such hatred and evil?”
Though Karjoo-Ravary, the former Muslim coordinator for the Abrahamic Program for Young Adults, remembers the incident clearly, he carries with him a different moment from his summer at Chautauqua. The moment he holds onto occurred just five days later, when the same man approached again but with a different message.
Unions, fair trade, corporate charities and the welfare state might not sound like typical biblical parable fare. But Amy-Jill Levine insisted in her lecture at 2 p.m. Friday in the Hall of Philosophy that the afternoon’s parable examined these relevant modern economic aspects.
In “Management and Non-Union Workers,” Levine’s last lecture of Week Eight, she examined the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, found in Matthew 20:1-16. Levine is a professor of New Testament and Jewish studies at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School.