“From generation to generation, we intersect with faith and race and in different ways claim our identity and power and subvert terrible texts. In the Great Migration, people rearranged the old spirituals into concert forms. The Old Negro became the New Negro,” said the Rev. Dwight D. Andrews at the 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning worship service. His sermon title was “Do You Love Me?” and the Scripture texts were Psalm 104:24-34 and John 14:8-17, part of Jesus’ last discourse.
Andrews said the presentation on Wednesday on Motown and the Gospel had set people’s toes tapping to songs that are still remembered. “Dancing in the Streets,” a Motown anthem has many layers, he said, and Berry Gordy, Motown producer, managed the images of the Supremes, Temptations and Martha and the Vandellas in order not to scare white audiences.
At that presentation, an audience member asked how to get young people to sing songs with melodies. The lecturer was not sure.
“I am not sure, either. This is one of our [cultural] disconnects. There is not a lot of melody. It is about the beat and it shows how far away we have come from songs. When we stopped teaching music in schools, children stopped making melody. There is a direct connection with no music in our schools and less music in our music,” Andrews said. “There is rhyming with a good beat but the images and words are as insidious as the ones from minstrelsy in the 1920s. These are African-American vehicles for negative messages with no music. If you only have a beat with a machine, where does the music lie?”
He said singers like Cécile McLorin Salvant, the 10:45 a.m. Wednesday morning lecture speaker, respect the history enough to learn it.
“We have to charge people to bring song back into the experience,” he said.
He segued into his sermon topic with “Do You Love Me?” by The Contours. It began with the spoken word, “You broke my heart ’cause I couldn’t dance … And now I’m back to let you know I can really shake it down. Do you love me, (I can really move), Do you love me…”
He demonstrated the lyrics that referred to dancing “The Mashed Potato” and the “Twist” to the delight of the congregation.
Jesus asked his disciples, “Do you love me? If you love me, you will keep my commandment. If you love me, you will feed my sheep.”
“Do you love him?” Andrews said. “Are you willing to love God with all your heart and soul and your neighbor as yourself? What a challenging question.”
In the Scripture reading, Philip was showing his anxiety when he asked Jesus to show them the Father. He gets a rebuke from Jesus, Andrews said. He expects his disciples to know the Father through what Jesus has done.
“It is a challenge to love God when God is not physically in our midst. How do you love a person who is no longer in your midst? Do you hold them in memory or in a deeper way?” he said. “Jesus was preparing the disciples. He would bring the Advocate [the Holy Spirit] who would be with us for eternity. If we love God, we will be obedient to that commandment.”
Andrews described puppy love as love that keeps asking for confirmation and keeps putting the beloved to a test.
“Jesus wants a deeper, more mature love that loves not only God and self, but your neighbor. That is the hard part, to be open to people who are unlovable and unlikeable. Christian love means we can love even those we hate. I didn’t want to get into politics this week, but love trumps hate, love trumps hate, love trumps fear, love trumps anxiety. I don’t like those in the political sphere, but I love them because they are part of the human family.”
He said at Chautauqua he had turned off the news, and the congregation applauded.
“I am too busy loving and learning how to love. I have to look at how God loves me even when I’m unlikable,” Andrews said. “I have to look at my own brokenness and say if God loves me, I can find a way to love those I don’t like.”
To be part of the spiritual avant-garde, one has to decide if they love everybody.
“We have to love Muslims, Baha’is, Buddhists, Jews, Presbyterians, COGICs [Church of God in Christ], everybody. God’s love is that big and when I realize how big God is, it makes me walk taller,” Andrews said. “If he loves me, I can love all of you. Do you love me? Do you love me? If you love him, keep his commandments. Amen.”
The Rev. Scott Maxwell presided. The Rev. Bruce Archibald, who serves as president of the Presbyterian Association Board of Trustees and is a year-round Chautauquan, read the Scriptures. The Motet Consort, consisting of Joseph Musser and Willie La Favor, played “Sonata for Piano Four-Hands,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as the prelude. The Motet Choir, under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, sang “The House of Faith Has Many Rooms,” by Craig Phillips. The Harold F. Reed Sr. Memorial Chaplaincy and the Daney-Holden Chaplaincy Fund provide support for this week’s service.