NICHOLE JIANG – STAFF WRITER
The Rev. Mary Lee Talbot delivered the morning sermon at ecumenical worship 9 a.m. Tuesday in the Amphitheater. Best known to the Chautauqua community as an author and the religion writer for The Chautauquan Daily, Talbot stepped up to deliver a powerful homily as part of a week of guest preachers taking the pulpit in place of the Rev. Liz Theoharis, who was originally scheduled to preach this week.
John Viehe began the service with a reading from the Scripture. The Scripture text was Luke 3:10-13.
“And the crowds asked him, ‘What then should we do?’ In reply, he said to them, ‘Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise.’ Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, ‘Teacher, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Collect no more than the amount prescribed to you,’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what should we do?’ He said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages.’ ”
Talbot’s homily was titled “Two Don’ts and a Do.” The setting for this particular Scripture is John the Baptist, who is down by the Jordan baptizing people. Three groups of people come to ask him what they can do to get into the kingdom of heaven.
Beginning with the group of soldiers, who hadn’t always treated people with kindness, Talbot touched upon the first “don’t.”
“They do not do unto others as they would have others do unto them,” Talbot said. “They try to intimidate them. They try to bully them. So the first ‘don’t’ is, ‘Don’t be a bully.’ ”
John tells them: Don’t extort money from anyone by way of threats or false accusations and do be satisfied by your wages.
“They were probably making a pretty good living, and were housed and fed,” Talbot said. “They didn’t need to take the extra money and they didn’t need to be a bully to the people in Palestine, yet many of them were. They had the knives, they had the swords and it was easy to be.”
Talbot then applied this as a metaphor to some things that have occurred in the present day.
“We have, as a country, been treated in the last few years to graphic examples of bullying,” Talbot said. “For example, our former president. We know it’s not a good feeling to have somebody calling you by sixth-grade schoolyard names over Twitter. It’s not a good feeling to have police make false reports about you — and then have cameras show that what they have said isn’t true. We’re not that far away from John’s time by the riverside.”
Talbot then moved on to the tax collectors, who cheated people and took what was not theirs to take, by bringing up the story of Zacchaeus.
Jesus offers to dine with Zacchaeus, even though he is a sinner. This leads to Zaccheaus having a change of heart and finding hope in Jesus. Zacchaeus states he’s going to give half his concessions to the poor and if he had defrauded anyone he would pay them back four times over.
“When have we ever heard of someone who’s committed fraud offering to pay back not just what they owe, but four times that?” Talbot said.
This brought Talbot to what we as people can do: Share.
“As we work through all of the Christian Scriptures, we know that sharing what we have with those who don’t have enough is the primary mark of the Christian community,” Talbot said. “It should be the primary mark in any community.”
Talbot then applied the importance of sharing to the community of Chautauqua.
“I think about my house here in Chautauqua,” she said. “My family, and I’m sure some of you, have been around here for a while. You probably have a lot of stuff. You probably have stuff that fills almost every closet — and maybe even every drawer.”
All of this stuff can be given new life and new purpose.
“In some towns and cities, people are starting to share things they don’t need instead of selling them,” Talbot said. “It’s good to see these ‘pandemic cleanouts,’ but it’s also good to remember that sharing is something that needs to be done every single day.”
Talbot invited the congregation to do an analysis of their own lives and to then take action.
“We have to take action to see that those around us have a coat in the winter, have a place to live and something to eat,” Talbot said. “Two ‘don’ts’ and a ‘do.’ Don’t bully, don’t cheat people and do share.”
The Rev. Dr. George Wirth, consultant to the Cousins Family Foundation in Atlanta and a trustee of Princeton Theological Seminary, presided. Joshua Stafford, Jared Jacobsen Chair for Organist and director of sacred music, played the organ and conducted the Chautauqua Octet. The morning anthem was “Shine Like the Sun,” by Karen E. Black, arranged by John Ylvisaker, sung by the Octet. The postlude was “Allegretto” and “Lebhaft,” sketches no. 4 and no. 3, op. 58, by Robert Schumann The Gladys R. Brasted and Adair Brasted Gould Memorial Chaplaincy provides support for this week’s services and chaplains.