“God is good and has a way of perfecting your preparation. I always trust him for every step,” said the Rev. Dwight D. Andrews at the 9:15 a.m. Monday morning worship service in the Amphitheater. His sermon title was “The Spiritual AARP,” and the Scripture readings were Psalm 30 and John 21:1-19, a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus.
The Rev. Robert M. Franklin, director of the Department of Religion, had noted earlier in the service that the board of the African-American Denominational House was at Chautauqua this week.
“I am glad Chautauqua’s ecumenism is growing. In many ways, I struggled in my ministry with growth and maturity,” Andrews said.
Andrews shared a story about trying to work with a partner congregation for the two churches to sing Bobby McFerrin’s “The 23rd Psalm (Dedicated to My Mother).” The Motet Choir sang it earlier in the service. McFerrin changed the words to “She makes me lie down in green pastures, she rights our wrongs.” At the end he added a new gloria, “Glory be to the Mother, Daughter and Holy of Holies.”
“McFerrin celebrated our mother-father God. We wanted to sing it but the other church would not change the words; they refused the bigness of God,” Andrews said. “We had an ecumenical moment and my pastoral side, not my Detroit side, came out.”
The congregation laughed appreciatively.
“There was no easy answer, but we engaged in conversation because I always went to be growing in spiritual maturity,” he said.
He said he had avoided the American Association of Retired Persons for about 15 years but finally capitulated. What he preached about was the Association for the Advancement of Resurrected Persons.
“After Easter there is always a let down. The people stop coming, the choir is not as good. What does it take to be spiritually mature?” Andrews said. “It doesn’t take long for us to forget what it means to be resurrected. We are risen again, and again, and again.”
The Association for the Advancement of Resurrected Persons asks the question, “How can we continue to grow in faith every day?” Andrews said. “We don’t want to be stuck in the ‘we’ve always done it that way’ mode; we want to stop getting stuck. This week we celebrate American music that tells the story of our evolution as a nation and as a faithful people.”
Spiritual maturity is different from physical maturity, he said.
“Men know that there is a time of life when you want to show you are fighting physical maturity with a symbolic gesture. I went to a sports car dealer and found a little red convertible,” Andrews said.
Again the congregation laughed appreciatively.
“When I went in I should have known, but when the salesman showed me the car, I eased into the seat and I heard the engine. I said, ‘This is perfect.’ ”
The salesman told him he would get him the details when he got out. Andrews then mimed trying to get out of the car as the congregation laughed heartily.
“It was so low to the ground that it took two salesmen to get me out,” he said. “I told them I would check with my wife and call them.”
The congregation laughed even more.
“The Lord was telling me you don’t need that car,” he said. “Even though the body may age, that does not inhibit your spiritual growth. If you are not growing spiritually, you are dead.”
In the Scripture reading, the disciples had gone back to fishing and they caught nothing. When Jesus came, he invited them to throw their nets on the other side and they brought in a huge netload.
“Every day, we have to decide what spiritual journey we are going on and who will lead it. When Jesus directed them, something new happened,” Andrews said. “Too many of us do the same thing over and over again. It is a challenge, but we have to take advantage of a new way of doing things.”
He said we need to look for new opportunities to let the church be the church.
“What would Jesus say to the fact that we are still a divided community, that we think we are supposed to be separate?” Andrews said. “When I pick up my sax and play jazz in church, people are happy to hear the music in a new way.”
Andrews said as people, we need to be open to learning something everyday. Age doesn’t matter.
“I want to live a resurrected life every day. Half of us are on autopilot, not listening for a new way. Every day through breathing, relationships, sharing, loving [and] engaging, we become different in ways we never imagined,” he said. “God guides us every day of our lives. What if we say to Jesus, ‘Where do you want me to go today? How can I see the bigness of God, the glory of God?’ ”
The musical Your Arms Too Short to Box with God reminds us that God is just that big, he said.
“I want to be spiritually mature, to live life as a resurrected person,” Andrews said. “Everyone who wants to be a resurrected person every day say, ‘Amen.’ ”
And the congregation responded loudly, “Amen!”
The Rev. Robert Franklin presided. The Rev. Scott Maxwell, newly installed pastor of St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Wilmington, Delaware, read the Scriptures. The Motet Choir sang “The 23rd Psalm (Dedicated to My Mother)” by Bobby McFerrin. Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, directed the choir. He noted that McFerrin changed the words to the psalm after watching his wife and children play together, believing that God’s unconditional love is like that of a mother. The Harold F. Reed Sr., Memorial Chaplaincy and the Daney-Holden Chaplaincy Fund provide support for this week’s services.