Morning Worship Column: Jesus Brings Everyone In


“One question I have as I my life draws to an end is when I meet God, will I measure up? I shared this question with Bishop [Desmond] Tutu and he said, ‘Don’t worry, Tony, God’s standards are very, very low,’ ” said the Rev. Tony Campolo at the 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning worship service. His sermon title was “Doubting Your Doubts,” and the Scripture reading was Mark 9:14-24.

Campolo speaks mostly to young people and he said they don’t realize that older people are facing crises of faith.

“Our salvation does not depend on whether we measure up, it depends on what Jesus did on the cross 2,000 years ago,” Campolo said. “He is the one who gives us hope for eternal life.”

He told a story about Peter, who checks everyone into Heaven, and Paul, who administers the place. They found that the census of heaven was more than they had officially let in. One day Peter ran to Paul and said, “I’ve figured it out. It’s Jesus — he keeps sneaking people in over the wall.”

“Even when religious leaders try to keep people out, Jesus brings them in,” Campolo said.

In another story, Bart Campolo, his son, was on a retreat with a group of students and the camp director came to tell him that the mother of one his campers had been stabbed by her john and had died. Someone needed to tell the boy his mother was dead and since there was no family who could, the camp director asked Bart to do it. Bart told the boy the news and he started crying. “Don’t worry; you can come and live with us if you need to,” Bart said.

“That’s not why I am crying. My mother was raped when she was 12 and her life was out of control; she was drugged, beaten and trashed. Now my pastor says she will be burning in hell because she never accepted Jesus,” the boy said. “If you were God, would you send your mother to hell?” Bart said. The boy answered no. “So you think God is less gracious than you are?” Bart said.

“We are saved by grace through faith, not by works. Jesus made it possible for us to get what we don’t deserve,” Campolo said. “When Ronald Reagan was shot, his pastor, the Rev. Donn D. Moomaw, came to see him and asked if he should die and have to stand before God, what would he say to claim entrance into Heaven. Reagan said, ‘If that happens, I would tell God that all my sins were laid on Jesus Christ on the cross.’ Not bad for a Republican.”

There are three disciplines Campolo urged the congregation to follow: prayer, church attendance and practicing the faith.

“When you pray, just ask God to help your unbelief,” he said. “Go into a closet and be still and meet God in secret.”

Then, go to church.

“You need to go to church. When you hold beliefs counter to the culture, you need to meet with a group that will reinforce the plausibility of your beliefs,” Campolo said. “Christian claims are absurd to those who don’t believe. You have to be with those who will revitalize and renew your commitments. The early Christians gathered every day to pray.”

He also urged the congregation to recite the Apostles’ Creed.

“You do recite it but you do so without thinking. But we sociologists know that it sinks in on a subliminal level,” Campolo said. “Baptists recite the creed every week, but we do it in hymns. In those old hymns, we are singing the creed. We need to have space for the old hymns or it is not the kingdom of God. We need space for the new music or it is not the kingdom of God.”

Campolo said praxis is the everyday practice of the faith.

“We think that what we believe influences what we do, and it does, but what we do influences what we believe much more,” he said. “We have a crisis of incredible proportions; there are 60 million refugees worldwide and nearly 20 million of them are outside the country they grew up in.

“Does the church have anything to say about this? Americans want to keep refugees out but do we remember that Jesus was a refugee? The Torah says to be kind to strangers because the Israelite were strangers in Egypt. America was founded by refugees,” he said. “Have we forgotten who we are and where we come from? People say they might be terrorists, they will take our jobs from us. How did the Egyptian carpenters feel when Joseph showed up?”

The picture of the 3-year-old boy on the shores of Turkey said it all, Campolo said.

“The family took a risk that they might not survive, but life was so horrible they could not stay,” he said. “God, break our hearts over the immensity of what is going on. Of course we have fear, but perfect love casts out fear. You don’t have the love of God if you live in fear.”

Campolo urged the congregation to go to their home churches and have them support one refugee family. Canadian churches, he said, have taken on that challenge.

“It is ludicrous to talk about the sacrifice of Jesus and not take in a single refugee family,” he said. “It is time to do what Jesus would do. If you do more of what Jesus would do, your faith will be renewed.”

“Pray, be still and know God. Meet regularly with other believers in church to renew your faith,” Campolo said. “Do what Jesus would do and God will deliver you from unbelief. You know the line in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘deliver us from evil?’ Scholars say it really should be translated ‘deliver us from the doubts of the evil one.’ Amen.”

The Rev. John Morgan presided. Hannah Jones, a scholarship student with the International Order of the King’s Daughters and Sons, read the Scripture. Jones is an English major at Southeastern Oklahoma State University. The prelude was the first movement of the “Trio for Flute, Oboe & Piano,” by Jean-Michel Damase. It was performed by flutist Barbara Hois, oboist Rebecca Scarnati and pianist Joseph Musser. The Motet Choir, under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, sang “Love,” by Gerald Near with words by Christopher Wordsworth, based on I Corinthians 13. The Edmund E. Robb-Walter C. Shaw Fund and the C. Everett Hall Memorial Chaplaincy provide support for this week’s services.


The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.