Column by Mary Lee Talbot.
“I am here today to encourage the faithful in the work we have to do. There is opposition to God in the world — not denial, but opposition. Satan is pressing his cause, and it is time for the faithful to line up for spiritual warfare. It is time, as St. Paul said, to put on the whole armor of God,” said the Rev. Calvin Butts at Wednesday’s 9:15 a.m. Devotional Hour. His topic was “For Such a Time as This,” and his text was I John 5:4-5.
“There are some supposed preachers who are doing things that are anathema to the Kingdom of God. There are people who confess Christ but don’t believe in their hearts. This is not non-belief, but opposition,” Butts said. “The faithful need to be encouraged. They need to be encouraged to do good works, to pray, to stand and not get weary.”
Butts said he did not watch TV because of the “filth” that is on it, but that every once in a while he has to “see what the Pagan culture is doing. There are times when we cover up serious things with humor. Bill Maher may be real in his belief that there is no God, but there is a great force that controls the media, and that force is in opposition to God. That force tells us to want war and not peace; that force tells us to ignore the masses and help the wealthy.”
That “Pagan culture” encourages material blessing and sensual pleasure, Butts said, and can actually lead people to forget about God.
“We are approaching the anniversary of 9/11, and we remember when the people rushed to the temples, and synagogues and churches wanting an answer. But not now; they have returned to life as usual. It will take another shocking experience to have them running back, but then they will forget about God until there is another shocking experience,” he said.
In the face of that opposition and forgetting, Butts called for the faithful to “lift up your voices. It is lonely when you tell the truth, but we have to try and do the right thing. Jesus was lonely except for his 12 wishy-washy disciples. But we believe that the wise men came to Bethlehem and kneeled at the manger. We believe that at age 12, he went to the temple, and we believe that at 30, he met the prophet John and was baptized. We believe that Satan tempted him, and when he would not give in, God called him ‘my beloved son.’ And we believe that Jesus went out and healed the sick and cast out demons, and Satan sought a way to destroy him. And we believe that we took him up on a hill and nailed him to a cross, and we believe that on the third day, God raised him from the dead.
“You can’t stop the power of God. The truth will rise again and move mountains. I have seen it in this country. I have seen segregated housing fall, and we have elected an African-American president. I know the power of God, but there are those who oppose that power and don’t want to see the Kingdom of God reign.”
He continued: “We cower in front of their power, but we don’t recognize our power. I encourage all of you — Jews, Christian and Muslims — to keep the faith. No one else’s faith scares me. Anyone who believes in the power of God is on our side. I have assurance that this is the only way we will be able to overcome the world.
“Don’t get weary. Membership might be down, but don’t get weary, don’t get discouraged. Keep the faith; be assured that God is with us. Try to light a candle and punch a hole in the darkness. I told you the other day to go out and spread some seeds of love, to smile at the people you meet. And it worked. I got more smiles.”
He quoted Charles Albert Tindley’s hymn “Beams of Heaven as I Go.” In part, the hymn says:
Beams of heaven as I go,
through the wilderness below,
guide my feet in peaceful ways,
turn my midnights into days.
When in the darkness I would grope,
faith always sees a star of hope,
and soon from all life’s grief and danger
I shall be free someday.
Harder yet may be the fight;
right may often yield to might;
wickedness a while may reign;
Satan’s cause may seem to gain.
There is a God that rules above,
with hand of power and heart of love;
if I am right, he’ll fight my battle,
I shall have peace someday.
“I am crazy enough to think that I am right. I think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was right; I think Pope John Paul II was right; I think Viola Davis was right; I think Joan Brown Campbell was right. I think my mother and father, now 90 years old, were right. I believe that God will fight my battles, and I believe that my spirit is going to live with God. Just being here this week, I know I am on the right path,” he said.”
Deacon Ed McCarthy presided. The Rev. Richard Neal, who read the scripture, is a transitional ministry specialist serving as pastor of the Williamsville, N.Y., United Methodist Church. Since 1999, he and his wife, Sheryl, have been visiting Chautauqua, where he enjoys the morning platform lectures, each day’s Devotional Hour and Interfaith Lecture, and a variety of Special Studies classes.
The Fifth Avenue Quartet played “Dona Nobis Pacem” during the service. The quartet is composed of Anna Gorski, first violin; Will Wachter, second violin; Jimmy Cunningham, third violin; and Alena Roberson, cello. They are high school-age young adults from Pittsburgh who are spending a week in residence at Chautauqua being coached by members of the Chautauqua Symphony. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, played the Massey Organ for the postlude and accompanied the hymns. The J. Everett Hall Memorial Chaplaincy and the Jackson-Carnahan Memorial Chaplaincy provide support for this week’s services.
The Motet Choir participated in the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle Recognition Day ceremonies at the Hall of Philosophy.