When the Rev. Janet Broderick was about 13 years old, her school was going to have a dance. Everyone was excited. Three of the most popular boys approached her and said they all wanted to take her to the dance and they had been fighting about it all week.
They told her, “After school, go out to the playground and hide in the big green box there. One by one, we will come to you and you can tell us which one of us you want to go to the dance with.”
Broderick went to the playground after school and hid in the box and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally the box got too hot and stuffy so she got out. The three boys and their friends were all standing there, laughing at her.
“I ran across the yard to the girl’s room and promised myself I would never expose myself like that again. Have you ever found yourself humiliated and decided to take fewer risks?” she asked.
Broderick preached at the 9:15 a.m. EDT Friday, July 31, morning devotional service on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. Her sermon title was “Staying Steady.” The aphorism for the day was from Paula Poundstone: “My mom said that she learned to swim when someone took her out in the lake and threw her off the boat. I said, ‘Mom, they weren’t trying to teach you how to swim.’”
The scripture text was 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 (NRSV) —
“Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
There are dreams about anxiety where people appear naked in public or without a top. “These dreams are about trying to find a safe place. They are universal dreams because we all want to fit in and be part of a group,” Broderick said.
In Christianity, that way of finding God’s healing is through Jesus and being mirrored by him on the cross.
“Jesus was entirely rejected. He was naked. People were laughing at him. In the humiliation of Christ, we find a place for everything, a place where nothing is outside the pale. There is the place of healing,” she said.
Broderick told two stories to show the healing power of Jesus.
Her son, James, was going through a rough patch. He was anxious about his father being in the hospital. A priest friend came by to visit Broderick’s family. He was wearing a very expensive, well-ironed, button-down white shirt.
To Broderick’s horror, her son took a black, permanent marker and drew a line down one sleeve of the shirt. The friend said, “Here, James, put a line on the other sleeve so they match.”
Broderick said, “James relaxed into his arms and they cuddled. He was a little bit of Jesus for James.”
The second story was about the Irish poet Thomas Moore and his wife Elizabeth. She had contracted smallpox and would not let anyone into her room. Moore stood outside her room and told her he did not care what she looked like, he just wanted to hold her.
She resisted, so he went downstairs and wrote her a poem. In the morning he came up and told her he had written a poem for her and asked if he could come in and read it to her. She said yes, and he read the poem.
“Believe me if all those endearing young charms / which I gaze on so fondly today / were to change by tomorrow and fleet in my arms / like fairy gifts fading away / Thou wouldst still be adored / as this moment thou art / let thy loveliness fade as it will / and around the dear ruin each wish of my heart / would entwine itself verdantly still,” the poem begins. “It is not while beauty and youth are thine own / and thy cheek unprofaned by a tear that the fervor and faith of a soul can be known / to which time will but make thee more dear! / Oh! the heart that has loved never truly forgets / but as truly lives on to the close as the sunflower turns on her God as He sets / The same look which she turn’d when he rose!”
“Moore heard footsteps and she opened the door; she welcomed and embraced him,” Broderick said.
She concluded, “May God’s grace, God’s unmerited favor, touch you exactly where you are wounded, and may it make you well, happy, and send you peace.”
The Rev. John Morgan, pastor of Williamsburg Presbyterian Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, presided from the Hall of Christ. Joshua Stafford, interim organist for Chautauqua Institution, played the Tallman Tracker Organ. Meredith Smietana, a student in the Chautauqua School of Music Voice Program, served as vocal soloist. The organ prelude, performed by Stafford, was “Rorate coeli,” by Jeanne Demessieux. Smietana sang the hymn, “O Love of God, How Strong and True.” The anthem was “Retrospection,” by Florence Price. Stafford played “Psalm 75,” by Emma Lou Diemer, for the postlude. This program was made possible by the Gladys R. Brasted and Adair Brasted Gould Memorial Chaplaincy.