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In the midst of chaos, tarry in prayer, waiting for God to change you, Callahan says

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“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord,” writes the Psalmist at the beginning of Psalm 130. “I don’t know your cry,” said the Rev. Leslie D. Callahan. “Internally and sometimes out loud, mine has been, ‘I don’t know how to do this.’”

Callahan gave the homily for the 9:15 a.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 6, morning devotional service on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. Her homily title was “Waiting for Morning,” and the scripture text was Psalm 130 (NRSV) —

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. / Lord, hear my voice! / Let your ears be attentive / to the voice of my supplications! / If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, / Lord, who could stand? / But there is forgiveness with you, / so that you may be revered. / I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, / and in his word I hope; / my soul waits for the Lord / more than those who watch for the morning, / more than those who watch for the morning. / O Israel, hope in the Lord! / For with the Lord there is steadfast love, / and with him is great power to redeem. / It is he who will redeem Israel / from all its iniquities.”

She continued, “I am aware of my weakness; I don’t have everything under control. I have been kept by God’s grace. We all live in God’s grace. Great is God’s faithfulness.”

In the juggling act of life, there is usually a rhythm to the ups and downs, the joys and pains, the sunshine and the rain. “Life is precarious but predictable,” Callahan said. “Things are always going on, but not everything is always going on all the time.”

Now, she said, “it feels like all the balls or the bowling pins you are juggling are all up in the air, and are all threatening to come down at the same time.”

Frankly, she continued, what she has been feeling most is panic. “I am overwhelmed with the threat that I will be buried under all the responsibility.”

Some people, in the middle of the pandemic, find themselves isolated and unable to connect with others. Other people feel the room closing in because their chosen companions are always around.

“I am in the depths and I cry to God, ‘I don’t know how to do this,’” Callahan said. “The good news in this season, as we cry to God, is we experience divine disruption. Our grasp has always been tenuous and things have always changed in an instant.”

She continued, “Life has always been precious and vulnerable; we have always been aware of our fragility. So we cry out of the depths, we cry out to the Lord.”

Sometimes the prayer is, “Lord have mercy,” or, “God help us.” People cry to God for help when they are overwhelmed, saying, “God, we are waiting for you.”

One of the many things Callahan has juggled is to become a first-grade teacher for her daughter, Bella. 

“We have a rhythm to the day. We do classes in the morning and in the afternoon she gets screen time, usually a Disney princess fest,” Callahan said.

One day, in the middle of the afternoon, Bella asked her mother if it was almost night. Callahan replied, “No, why?” Bella said, “Remember, tomorrow we are going to get my new bike.”

Callahan continued, “If we want to get to the morning we must go through the night. At 7, she was already waiting to get through the night.”

The Psalmist longed for God more than the watchmen who looked for the morning light.

“We don’t know how to do a pandemic, to teach first grade, but I come from a Pentacostal tradition where we are taught to wait for the Lord,” Callahan said.

The Pentacostal tradition is called “tarrying” or prayerful waiting. “You get on your knees, call on the name of God until something changes, usually in you,” she said. “The change in you has the possibility to change other things.”

Callahan said, ‘While watching, waiting and tarrying, I will trust.” Then she sang, “I will trust in the Lord, I will trust in the Lord, I will trust in the Lord, until I die. I will trust in the Lord, I will trust in the Lord, I will trust in the Lord, until I die.”

The Rev. Paul Womack, a retired United Methodist minister and co-host at the United Methodist House in Chautauqua Institution, presided from the Hall of Christ. Joshua Stafford, interim organist for Chautauqua Institution, played the Tallman Tracker Organ. Michael Miller, a Chautauqua Opera Apprentice Artist, served as vocal soloist. The organ prelude, performed by Stafford, was “Prelude on Aberystwyth,” by Healey Willan. Miller sang the hymn, “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.” The anthem was “Aus Tiefer Noth,” by Johann Sebastian Bach. Stafford played “De Profundis,” by Jean Langlais, for the postlude. This program is made possible by the Jackson-Carnahan Memorial Chaplaincy and the Harold F. Reed, Sr. Chaplaincy.

Tags : Leslie D. Callahanmorning worshipPsalm 130Waiting for Morning
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The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the morning worship column, a recap of the morning worship service. She is a Presbyterian minister, an author or editor of five books on Chautauqua, and just finished six years of service on the Chautauqua Lake Central School Board of Education. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her dog Sammi, a Stabyhoun — a breed no one has ever heard of.

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