“I have shared some soul food with you this week,” said the Rev. Suzan Johnson Cook. She was preaching at the 9:15 a.m. Friday morning worship service in the Amphitheater.
Her sermon title was “A Benediction and a Blessing,” and the Scripture reading was Jude 1:20-25. As always, she led the congregation in “I See the Lord, High and Lifted Up.”
Cook had shared some of the story of her parents’ journeys from the South to New York City and “the precious summers in the South” with her maternal relatives. Food was always important in those visits.
“Growing, producing, picking, sharing and eating food was important,” Cook said. “What a morning we would have, sitting at the table eating grits with red-eye gravy and Virginia ham or eggs, bacon and biscuits.”
She said soil is very important so that food gets the nutrients it needs to grow. Good crops come from good soil. Good seeds are needed and seeds need to be tended — planting, plowing, sifting. Then comes hoeing the weeds.
“If you want to learn how to build someone up, plant seeds in the soil of faith so that you are blessed to give a blessing,” Cook said.
She recalled the story of Peter raising Tabitha from the dead in Acts 9:40-41. Tabitha was a deacon of the church in Joppa. Peter had been visiting nearby and had raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Friends of Tabitha called on him to come and heal her. He prayed over her, and she was raised from the dead.
“New life had come to Tabitha,” Cook said. “In this week of soul food, you have received food cooked by Christ, served by someone named Cook who stayed on Cookman, who is going back to cook for the Cook men.”
Cook said that some people had come to worship this week not knowing what to expect, but God did some work and opened their eyes and hearts.
“Like Peter, I have tried to extend a hand,” she said. “Some people arrived DOA and are alive in new ways. We have had wonderful worship, marvelous music, lovable readers and have been amazingly anointed.”
Because God is seated on the throne of your life, she said, “we are ready for the celebrators, and even haters.”
Cook said that her part was over, but she was leaving Chautauquans “blessed to be a blessing.” She had preached seven times in six days and said that seven is a number of completion.
“You were on slow cook, but now you are on stir fry, and you need to stir up the gifts within,” she said. “I am taking you out of the crock pot, you have simmered and you are salted and sweet. You have the bread of heaven that will feed you till you want no more, and the living water that will always quench your thirst. You are flavored like flamenco and bold like Botti.”
Listen and look for God as you travel, Cook said. Ask God to teach you how to pray, to ask for everything.
At one time, Cook had gained so much weight that “goodness and mercy followed me everywhere, and it was me.” She started a health initiative in her church. They switched from four-cheese macaroni and lard-laced greens to broccoli, carrots and hummus.
“I followed it because I was the pastor, and we lost hundreds of pounds and inches. Oh yes, please, give me another stalk of celery,” she said with a grin.
But after six months, she was hungry for meat. After a church meeting, in secret, she hurried over to Burger King and ordered a Double Whopper.
“Give me the works,” she told the drive-through attendant.
That is how she has learned to approach God.
“I am a Whopper woman, God, give me the bountiful, explosive blessings,” she said. “God, give me the works.”
Like the daughters of Zelophehad, speak up. Like David, open up and go up.
“Listen up and raise up,” she said. “Don’t leave here dry, leave here blessed to be a blessing.”
Listen up and pray up like Whopper men and women.
“Build people up, pray up the nation, never tire of doing what is right,” she said.
Cook closed by reading the last two verses of the Letter of Jude: “Now to him who is able to keep you from falling, and to make you stand without blemish in the presence of his glory with rejoicing, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, power, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.”
The Rev. Scott Maxwell presided. The Rev. Mary Lee Talbot read the Scripture. She is a lifelong Chautauquan and a Presbyterian minister. Talbot attended Children’s School and Girls’ Club, is a writer for The Chautauquan Daily, Alumni Association of the CLSC historian, archives diva, author of the history of the Bird, Tree & Garden Club’s 100 Years of Beauty and the first complete history of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, published this summer, called Chautauqua’s Heart. Her great-grandfather, Samuel M. Hazlett, headed the committee that saved Chautauqua from bankruptcy during the Great Depression. He served as its president from 1947 to 1956. Her family counts seven generations at Chautauqua. Talbot was re-elected to the Chautauqua Lake School District board of directors in May and serves as the board’s vice president. She and her dog, Max, live in Chautauqua year-round. The Motet Choir, under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, sang “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” arranged by Dan Forrest. The Mr. and Mrs. William Uhler Follansbee Memorial Chaplaincy and the Daney-Holden Chaplaincy Fund provided support for this week’s services.