Choose little toil of love to make world a place for all to live, Dorhauer says


The Rev. John C. Dorhauer, general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, preaches on Sunday in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

“I am a theological minimalist,” declared the Rev. John C. Dorhauer. “Today’s Scripture passage speaks for itself.” Dorhauer preached at the 9 a.m. Aug. 23 worship service in the Amphitheater. His sermon title was “The Incarnation of Love,” and the Scripture reading was Mark 12: 28-31.

In the Scripture, a scribe asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, The Lord is one; you shall love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this. ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Dorhauer said “I can sum up this Scripture in three sentences, eight words: ‘Love God. Love your neighbor. God is love.’ When the scribe asked Jesus what was the most important commandment, he told the scribe, ‘If you want to do what God intended, love God and love your neighbor.’ ”

He continued, “God is just and God is love. Justice without love is just self-righteous anger that makes everyone more defensive. Love without justice is just sentimentalized feelings. When you link love and justice, they become powerful. These words were in the first hymn we sang today, ‘We read thee (God) best in him who came (Jesus).’ Jesus is the incarnation of love.”

Dorhauer used a poem by Emily Dickinson and two stories to illustrate his point. He said, “Yesterday I talked about who God is and who we are in light of God. Today I am talking about who Jesus is and who we are in light of Jesus. If Emily Dickinson were alive today, she would be writing this poem for us.” The poem reads: “I had no time to Hate— / Because The Grave would hinder Me— / And life was not so / Ample I / Could finish—Enmity / Nor had I time to Love— But since / Some Industry must be— / The little Toil of Love— / I thought Be large enough for Me—.”

He quoted the poem: “ ‘I had no time to Hate.’ All over the world politicians and religious leaders are enticing us to hate.” He recited the rest of the poem and then said to the congregation, “The religious elite used the law to define who was in and who to hate. Jesus said, ‘All the law wants you to do is love God and love your neighbor.’ What Dickinson is saying is, if you start down the road of hate, you will die, consumed by an energy that is never satisfied. You die, and what is left? Or you can start down the road of love and care for the needy, the widow, the orphan, the oppressed, and you will be dead before you get that done. Choose a path. The toil of love is big enough for me.”

Dorhauer was in Colombia, driving through the Andes to an area controlled by the United Nations after the FARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia) had signed a peace accord with the Colombian government. He met a former member of FARC who confessed to his war crimes, which included planting a bomb in a village that killed 50 people. The man went back to the village after his prison term, and was working with the villagers in repentance for his crime. He was building a road for the village, and every 10 feet there was a hole where a cement monument would be installed, one monument for every one of the dead.

“He told me he had been kidnapped by FARC at the age of 12 and was tortured and brainwashed to become the soldier they wanted,” Dorhauer said. “At one point, when he was going to confess, a FARC member kidnapped his sister and put her on the phone and told the man if he talked his sister would die. The man swore he would kill the FARC member if he ever found him.”

The two men ended up in the same jail and the FARC member had confessed to his own sin. The man had been visiting with the prison chaplain, and instead of killing the FARC member, forgave him. Dohauer said, “Can you imagine the ripples that would have gone out if he had killed the other man? How many other lives would have been destroyed? ‘I had no time for hate, a little toil of love was large enough for me.’ ”

In the second story, Dorhauer had just returned home from a trip and found old furniture on the lawn, left by the new neighbors next door. “I was getting irritated,” he said, “when I noticed a woman in a hijab with two small children looking at the furniture. They tried to pick it up but it was too heavy for them. The mother saw us and became fearful. They did not speak much English, but she understood that my son and I would help them carry the furniture.”

They walked together three blocks and carried the furniture up two flights of stairs. “The husband was there,” Dorhauer said. “The family were Syrian refugees. The husband had been tortured by the Syrian government and had lost the use of his right leg. My son and I stayed for a while and the mother brought out some food as a way to say thank you.”

He continued, “What if my irritation had turned into something else? What if her fear had turned into something else? Instead, smiles and a few words changed this interaction between strangers. This is the world that I want to live in. I don’t want to fear immigrants, or believe that Mexicans are murderers, or the women who wear a hijab are to be feared.”

Hate will not change the world. “I have no time for hate,” Dorhauer said. “What will change lives is one little toil, day in and day out by Christians who choose to love. Every little toil of love is large enough for us.”

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, vice president of religion and senior pastor at Chautauqua Institution, served as liturgist. The Rev. David Shirey, senior pastor of Central Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Lexington, Kentucky, and author of the liturgies for Week Nine, read the Scripture. The prelude, played by Joshua Stafford, Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist and director of sacred music, was “Prelude on a Theme of Orlando Gibbons,” by C.V. Stanford. Members of the Motet Choir sang “If Ye Love Me,” with music by Thomas Tallis and words from John 14: 15-17. The postlude was “Ciaccona,” by Bernardo Storace. The Daney-Holden Chaplaincy Fund provides support for this week’s services and chaplain. 

Tags : morning worshipResiliencerev. john c. dorhauerweek nine

The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.