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Morning Worship: To be great, stay connected to God, Chaplain Cook says

“David is now a young leader, and his star is rising in 2 Samuel. He was tried, tested and true and was led to this moment,” said the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook at the 9:15 a.m. Wednesday morning worship service in the Amphitheater.

Her sermon title was “Greatness is Within You,” and the Scripture reading was 2 Samuel 5:1-10. Cook started her sermon with the congregation singing, “I See the Lord, High and Lifted Up.”

“Winners never quit and quitters never win,” she said. “Life is a journey. My kids ask me, ‘Are you a trip?’ and I tell them no, I am the whole journey.”

David had been on a journey since the prophet Samuel came to his family to find the successor for King Saul. As told in 1 Samuel 16, David was out tending sheep and after his seven brothers were rejected, when David came in from the fields, Samuel confirmed that David was the one chosen to be king.

“No one likes to be the last pick,” Cook said.

She recalled schoolyard games, where the two best athletes would be the captains and pick their teams from the other children, who stood around waiting to be picked.

“If you are the last one picked, it does not feel great, but you have made your choice that you are not going to be a quitter,” she said.

David stayed in his lane and did what he was called to do. Cook asked the congregation to repeat after her, “Stay in your lane.”

“When you are afraid, the challenges seem larger, but David, tested by being a shepherd, took five smooth stones and took down Goliath,” she added.

After he was anointed by Samuel, he stayed in Hebron for seven years. Hebron was a small territory, but the elders had been impressed by his leadership and called him to lead all of Israel.

“David was given a job and a covenant,” Cook said. “He was elevated and celebrated, anointed and appointed.”

But David had to take “all spiritual precautions to focus on the spirit of the Lord.”

“The only reason you are where you are is because the Lord made a way,” Cook said.

There is greatness in each of us, she said, but “If you think you are ‘all that and a bag of chips,’ your ego has gotten in the way. You may be an individual Dorito or Cheeto, but you are not the whole bag.”

Cook said that anything worthwhile takes time. She described an oxtail soup that her family makes. It is not microwavable and has to simmer all day.

“Mr. Cook would find the crock pot, put in the oxtails and some onion, celery, herbs and a cup of water and turn it on to simmer,” she said. “It would simmer all day and at 5 p.m. the meat would fall off and you put it on rice with some gravy. Can’t you just taste it?”

She continued the analogy, saying that the congregation had been simmering on slow cook. She told them, “Turn to your neighbor and say, ‘I was on slow cook, but look at me now.’ ”

David went through seasons and cycles to walk, work and witness in the will of God so he could be at the right places at the right times.

She outlined five steps the congregation would need to do to follow in the footsteps of David.

First, the spirit of the Lord was with David; he was the “man after God’s own heart.”

“Let God be seated in your heart,” Cook said.

Second, David was faithful and God rewards daily faithfulness. Third, David “inquired of the Lord”; he asked God for direction before he made a move.

“We have to stay connected with God before we make any moves,” Cook added. “That is how we have the staying power to do what we need to do.”

The fourth step was to have selective memory. David remembered how God was with him when he was a shepherd fighting off lions or wolves, and was assured that God would be with him in the present.

The fifth step was that David respected the generations before him.

“Don’t forget your genealogy and your gerontology,” Cook said.

She said the elders have great stories, and she called on the congregation to sit at the feet of those “we call wise.” Cook recalled going from New York City back to her parents’ homes in the South for the summer when she was growing up.

“I am thankful that I was able to sit at my parents’ feet and learn the culture,” she said.

She would spend summers with her aunts and learn hymns at the Presbyterian church they attended and watch a black and white TV with five channels and a human remote control.

“They poured greatness in me; they had the spirit of God and greatness,” she said.

David responded to the call of the elders and made a covenant with God. His psalms, praises and prayers helped him stay in the presence of God, Cook said.

“If you want to be great, continue to stay connected with God,” she concluded. “Father, Son and Holy Spirit. ‘You are holy, seated on the throne of my life.’ Amen.”

The Rev. Scott Maxwell presided. Pat Mahoney Brown read the Scripture. She is no stranger to Chautauqua and hails from Avondale Estates, Georgia, by way of Buffalo and her hometown of Arlington, Massachusetts. She retired after 40 years of teaching as a library media specialist in the Kenmore/Town of Tonawanda School District and part-time professor of media studies at SUNY Buffalo. With her husband, Bud, the Browns served as managers and hosts of the Baptist House from 2007 through 2015. The Motet Choir, under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, sang “Thou Wilt Keep Him in Perfect Peace” by Samuel Sebastian Wesley. For the pre-services music, Bob Bonstein, recorder, and Ruth Becker, piano, played excerpts from “Water Music” by George Frideric Handel. The Mr. and Mrs. William Uhler Follansbee Memorial Chaplaincy and the Daney-Holden Chaplaincy Fund provide support for this week’s services.

Tags : AmphitheaterGreatness is Within YouRev. Suzan Johnson Cookweek nine
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The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the Morning Worship column. A Presbyterian minister, she preaches at the Seneca Reservation in Irving. She is the deputy managing director of People Helping People International. Her latest book is Chautauqua’s Heart, the first full history of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. She lives in Chautauqua with her dog, Max, and is beginning her second term as a member of the Board of Education of Chautauqua Lake Central School District.