In the midst of the election season, the news media often present election coverage as “Decision 2008,” or “Decision 2020,” scored with ominous music.
“They remind us how important the decision for president is,” said the Rev. Leslie D. Callahan. “The decision for the president of this nation, sometimes called the leader of the free world, is important. All the choices we make are significant.”
She continued, “But there is only one choice that makes the difference — the choice God made in Christ to love us.”
Callahan gave the homily at the 9:15 a.m. EDT Friday, Aug. 7, morning devotional service on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. Her homily title was “Decisive,” and the scripture was Romans 8:26-39 (NRSV) —
“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, / ‘For your sake we are being killed all day long; / we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’ / No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
She told the congregation, “I am not undercutting our choices as human beings. As people of faith, we make a confession of faith in Jesus Christ and this changes everything. Paul says it is decisive.”
People are justified before God, made right with one another and God through Christ. It is a taste of glory, and hope for the glory to come.
“Since God is for us, who can be against us? The whole kitchen sink can come against us, but nothing will take us away from God,” Callahan said.
Who can condemn us when God has justified us? Who can stand against us when God is for us? “Tribulation and distress are real, but can they separate us from God?” she asked. “Can any peril, the sword, nakedness? God has answered decisively: No.”
People experience danger in the midst of the declaration of God’s witness for us. “Paul wrote that people are counted like sheep to the slaughter. It may seem like we can be separated,” she said.
Callahan continued, “No, we have won a sweeping victory because of the God who loves us. Beyond electoral politics, beyond our own troubles, we know God’s love in Jesus Christ.”
She admitted that she did not know the outcome of the 2020 election, of what will happen as we continue the opening and shutting of public life because of the pandemic. “But with the Mississippi Mass Choir, I declare, that having God in our lives is the thing that makes the difference.”
In Romans 8:38-39, Paul wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Callahan said, “So go forth; not quietly or passively, but courageously. Act boldly because God has acted decisively.”
She sang, “‘My hope is built on nothing less, Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.’ Go with peace and courage in the name of God.”
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 “Intrada,” by John Ireland. Miller sang the hymn, “My Song is Love Unknown.” The anthem was “Sursum Corda,” by John Ireland. Stafford played “Alla Marcia,” by John Ireland for the postlude. This program was made possible by the Jackson-Carnahan Memorial Chaplaincy and the Harold F. Reed, Sr. Chaplaincy.