Wednesday
April 6

A Hyper-sensitized Society

By Matthew Cron

Almost every Sunday at Marsh we have an interdenominational book study. A topic was brought up in class that I felt very strongly about: the way in which people separate themselves between “us” and “them.” For some reason humans always feel the need to categorize other humans into specific groups. These are groups based on sex, nationality, skin color, language, etc.

I am one of the people in the US melting pot who cannot fit into the groups that society has predetermined for me. My mother and grandparents are immigrants to this country; thus, making me a first generation American. I do not have a Portuguese accent, act differently, or any look differently than any other caucasian male walking the streets in the US. But, sometimes it is easier for me to associate myself with people who do talk with accents, act differently, and look differently. Even though I am white and am seemingly just a normal 18 year old, I have experienced racism first hand.

My grandparents speak with an accent (sometimes it is thicker than other times), and it is clear to most people that they had immigrated here. Sometimes we go out to lunch together and I will help my grandfather order his food because Portuguese is his primary language and it is easier for me to articulate what he wants. There have been numerous occasions where people have said talked in demeaning tones to my grandfather or have been rude because I order for him, or because he does not speak English as fast or fluidly as them. Keep in mind that my grandparents are caucasian and that most of the people that I am talking about are also caucasian.

My grandparents are incredibly strong individuals and usually do not take notice to these things or take them to heart when they happen. However, I feel indirectly insulted by the actions of others. My grandparents are not some sort of degenerate subhumans just because they speak with an accent. Just because they are slightly more olive toned than other caucasians does not mean that they are suddenly less intelligent.

Although situations like these infuriate me, I do not blame the individuals who have done this to my family. I blame society as a whole and the implementation of an “us” and “them” mindset. People have been hyper-sensitized to other people who are slightly different than they are. This causes them to alienate those people and put them into stigmatized groups.

I believe that this is one of the reasons that there are racial tensions in the world today. Even when people are trying to be inclusive and have non-racist tendencies, they still maintain a stigma about the person. By labeling someone anything (black, white, spanish, mexican, brazilian, etc.), you are putting these people into a different group than yourself. This means you are being inadvertently and unintentionally racist. Instead of a these people all being put into the same group (American), they are now all broken into uneven and biased groups.

That is one of the major issues I see with society. We are so quick to label someone who is different than us and being different than us that we forget that we are all human. We forget that we are all from the same country (US). We are all Americans, no matter what we sound like or look like.

My baseball coach said it best; we were playing a team that was much better than us and my teammates and I were getting intimidated. He said, “They are just like you. They put their pants on like you, brush their teeth like you, drink water like you, go to school like you. The only difference is the name on the shirt. You have no reason to think they are any better than you, and you have no reason to think you are any better than them. The only thing you need to do is focus on yourselves.”

We need to do the same thing in society. Just because people sound different than us and look different than us, it does not mean they are less American than us. It does not mean that they are not as good as us. Because after all, these people still have to go to work like us. Still have to take care of their families like us. And most importantly, still put their pants on just like us.

Sunday
April 3

Eating an Apple and Religious Experience

By iquillen

I recently heard a rabbi give a some advice during a sermon. Someone once asked him, “How can I have a religious experience?” His answer was as follows: Take an apple, and eat it with your entire body.

His answer was so simple that I had some difficulty wrapping my head around it. He stated this in the context of a sermon about the first commandment in the Torah. That commandment was, “Eat.” When God created Adam and Eve, he commanded them to eat the fruit in any of the trees in the garden. Except, of course, for the fruit from one particular tree.

This commandment highlights the extreme significance food plays in our lives. No matter where you live, what cultures you belong to, or what you personally believe in, you must eat to be sustained and to survive. It is one of the basic necessities of life, so fundamental to our existence that most people devote three times a day to it (more or less, depending on the season of the year or who you talk to). Food also brings entire communities together, from a family eating dinner to a neighborhood celebrating a festival to a religious community across the globe, sharing in a meal on a regular basis.

The rabbi, though, wasn’t talking about food in that particular context. After all, you can only find so much community with others in eating an apple by yourself. And yet, a deep connection can arise from the simple act of eating an apple. The connection exists between you, the apple, and the source where it comes from.

I’ve left out an important part of the rabbi’s advice. It wasn’t just to eat an apple, but to eat an apple with your entire body. This isn’t a concept I’ve ever thought about, so I’m not entirely sure what that process entails. I think, though, that it means to be fully aware of yourself and the apple when you are eating. To be conscious of the life within you and to focus all of it on  bringing one small source of life into yourself. To attend to the act of eating, how your mouth moves to chew and consume this piece of fruit. To pay attention to the apple’s texture, its color, its smell, its flavor, and the sound of eating it. This is what I think it means to eat an apple with one’s whole body.

You may be wondering what on earth this has to do with having a religious experiences. In some ways, I think, the act of being aware and paying attention itself brings on a religious experience. One of my favorite poems by Mary Oliver talks about not knowing what a prayer is, but knowing how to pay attention, to fall and kneel down on grass, how to watch a small grasshopper eat sugar from her hand before flying away. Simply being aware and paying attention can become a sort of prayer, in that you become deeply connected to the life that surrounds you.

Eating an apple with your whole body involves a similar process. By being conscious of yourself and the apple, you become more deeply attuned to it. And in that way, you also become attuned to something that lies beyond yourself, and your connection to that thing. Some people might call that thing God or the Divine, others may call it community, others still Nature. Your connection to that thing, I think, is deeply meaningful, regardless of what you may call it. The next time you eat something (it doesn’t have to be an apple), I encourage you to be mindful of some of these things, whether or not you agree with them or believe them. Try to eat something not just for sustenance or to satisfy hunger, but to for the purpose of eating it with your whole body. Just some food for thought.

Wednesday
March 30

I feel like Jacob how he wrestled with God…..

By Devin Harvin

I awoke today to vague text in a group message about police sirens and ambulances outside a friends dorm. My friend leaves at Kilachand Hall and he awoke to the news of a freshman’s body being found. I learned of this new at the beginning of my first discussion at about 12PM and finally understood the severity of the situation. I’m still unsure of the details, but I know a precious life was lost this morning. I’ve been grappling with what was going through the individual’s mind or what could have led to his circumstances or if I could have done anything to prevent this, but what dominated my thoughts is why God allowed this to happen. I felt like Jacob how he wrestled with God except I wasn’t looking for a blessing but instead I was searching for answers. I wanted God to yell down and say “I have him now and don’t worry it’s all apart of the plan”. I waited all day for those words, but those words never came instead. Instead I focused on the midterm I had to write and remembering my work schedule. Instead, I chose to think about myself and focus little on the tragedy that had occurred at the place I call home. I finished classes for the day, wrote my blog and then headed to the law building to study for a few hours. At about 8 I left for the gym and the events at Kilachand Hall didn’t even cross my mind the entire time I was there. I go to take a shower and set up my music so I can listen and place my phone on shuffle. After the first song, Hezekiah Walker’s, I Need You to Survive comes on and as I listen to the song I realize that we can all do more.

It’s simple and cliche, but the song says it in the title. Simple tell someone, “you need them” and mean it. It can go miles and that simple act of showing someone that they’re worth it can brighten their day and perhaps save their life. No, God did not yell the words I so desperately wanted to hear. Instead, he made me work and wrestle with him just like Jacob. He made ask, what matters to me and why?, and with a simple song made me realize I can do more. The fault is not with me nor anyone else, but we have to learn from this and move forward. What gave Jacob the right to wrestle with God? The answer to that is for another post, but as a follower of Christ I think you have to wrestle with God.

Wednesday
March 30

Easter Morning

By cbjones8

So this year for Easter Sun rise service all of the Undergraduate Interns shared a poem.  Here is my poem:

Easter Morning

 

Today is a new day

But not just a new day

This is the day that the Lord has Made

Because of today All creation is new

Because of today I am new

Renewed in faith

A resurrection has occurred

A resurrection of the Almighty

A resurrection within me

I inhale New life

And exhale the old

The old full of pain and mistakes

I am free of the old

Because my God defeated death

I am alive because my God is alive

What a love that envelopes me

What a love that has the power to set me free

I am a new creation

Like a new born rabbit blinking into a rising sun

or a flower budding breaking through the resisting soil; rising up

I am risen this day

This my new life, given to me

By the power of the one who made me whole,

who made me new,

who made me

As the dawn is broken, my sorrow is too

And Joy comes with the morning

Joy comes with This Morning

 

Amen.

Sunday
March 27

The Morning After Easter

By iquillen

I celebrated Easter at Marsh Chapel this morning, beginning bright and early with an Easter Sunrise service followed by much preparation, two more services, and an Easter Egg hunt. After all of the joy and excitement of this morning, I can’t help but stop to ponder one line in today’s sermon. While I can’t remember the exact words, it went something like this: “Death makes us mortal, but facing death makes us human.” This line was said during a meditation of how we as humans respond to death.

For all of the joy, the celebration, and the message that Easter brings us, this line of the sermon reminded me that there are two parts to Easter. There is the cross and the stone rolled away from the tomb, the death and the resurrection. Easter tends to focus on the second part, and rightly so. There is much to wonder and rejoice at the mystery of someone dying and rising from the grave three days later. Whether one believes in the Gospel story or not, the scripture reading describes something miraculous, something that gives Christians hope. Hope for rebirth after loss, for joy after sorrow.

And yet that story still does not take away the prominence that death plays in our lives. Even though Easter comes every year, death is a reality that moves as time does: ever forward. While the resurrection gives us hope, it seems like half an answer to the question of how does one moves on after.

Although Christ rose from the tomb three days after being laid there, this message of Easter doesn’t really answer that question. Perhaps it’s not meant to. Perhaps the belief that he did it alone should be enough. I can’t help but wonder, though, what that message means to someone who has just recently lost a loved one. Does it offer peace, consolation, hope? Does it help someone who is mourning or grieving heal, or move forward? What does Easter mean for our own mortality? What does the story of the resurrection mean for our willingness to face death, which makes us human? I will admit these questions may not be appropriate for Easter, but I feel compelled to ask them all the same. Sometimes, the story of the resurrection leaves me with more questions than answers, some confusion along with the joy. For now, it is enough for me to celebrate and rejoice in the coming of Easter. But these questions still linger, and it may take more than the story of Easter alone to answer them.

Wednesday
March 23

On Endings and Beginnings

By jdingus

I used to think Easter was about an ending. An ending I was unwilling to celebrate.

I understood the miracle of the new baby, wrapped in love, cooing in a stable.

The beginning made so much sense, the possibility, the hope.

I understood how to love the beginning, how to be wrapped up like that baby in imagination and wonder. I knew just where I belonged in the candlelight and the joy on a cold night.

And so I wondered, why this ending? Why the suffering? Why the heartbreak?

Why do I need to leave the manger, leave the promise, leave the hope.

I didn’t want to think about the ending, and so I filled my mind with more beautiful things.

 

I smiled through classes and drank cocoa on couches.

I painted and planned.

I walked wishing, as water from melting snow landed on my face.

I still smiled as springy shoots arose from the solid soil.

And as I waited the world woke up.

 

Hope sprang out of the frost bitten earth

Green shoots claiming first breaths of crisp morning air.

Quick glimpses, warm breezes and brave blossoms, reminded me that the ending had to happen.

The snow left, icicles fell into a kaleidoscope of cracked light. The world reclaimed itself, coming into its own, as surely as it had hidden itself.

 

I was too stubborn to be convinced by the story, too proud, too cynical.

And so I had to find it in the trees. Had to smell it in the flowers.

The beginning I was so comfortable with, was really a step toward the ending.

And the ending was not an ending at all.

The dark snow laden earth, has never been the beginning.

The beginning has always been the green shoots pushing up.

It has always been the melting snow rising the rivers and coaxing them to sing.

It has always been the robins plucking worms from the earth to feed a nest of new babies. It’s cracked blue eggshells, not crackling fire wood or cracked ice.

This is the beginning, the earth buzzing with new life.

This is the beginning, layers peeled back, skin touching sun.

This is the beginning, the bright hopeful sky inviting us to live again.

 

 

Monday
March 21

Much More than Time

By Devin Harvin

A time of rejoicing

For the son of man has risen.

A time of peace and love

And congregations filled with joy

And large smiles on faces of children as they enter the church.

 

A time of reflections and renewal

For he died and lives again for us

Darkness forced to flee as light overwhelms .

 

A time of warmth and smiles

Though thought defeated he is victorious

A time of life and ascendence

For the lord our God calls Jesus to his throne

A Sunday in the year that stands out to  me

A moment to end a holy week

 

But Easter is more than a time

Easter is a reminder

A reminder that the lord saw light in us

A reminder that our sins do not define us

A reminder that my life is not my own

But to God it belongs.

 

Saturday
March 19

Interfaith Shabbat and Music

By iquillen

On Friday evening, I had the pleasure to attend an evening service at BU Hillel. This service was part of Interfaith shabbat, an event where people of any faith or spiritual background were invited to take part in a Reform service, share a meal, and attend a discussion about the relationship between faith and the environment.

During the service, the cantor led the prayers and chanting while explaining to us the significance of each part of the service. I will admit, it wasn’t always easy for me to follow. For one, I have very little to no knowledge of Hebrew, and so speaking and chanting the prayers and readings posed considerable difficulty. At the same time, I was struck by how deeply ingrained music was in the service. Nearly all of the readings and prayers were chanted, and although I could not understand the meaning of the Hebrew text I was saying, I could at the very least follow along with the cantor’s tune.

The cantor emphasized at several points during the service how the prayers were meant to help us reach a reflective and meditative state. Even though I could not follow the meaning of the chanting without an English translation, the meditative state she described was still accessible to me through the music. Later on, as the shabbat dinner concluded, several people at the table next to us began singing with each other at the table. The sense of community during the meal was accessible, again, through music.

All of this makes me wonder how closely our religious experiences and community are tied to music and sound. When I sang in the chancel choir at my home congregation, I remember one of the choir members saying how she felt the Holy Spirit when singing with the choir. During my first service attending Marsh Chapel, I remember hearing the choir from the balcony behind me, and experiencing a sense of both shock and awe. Time and time again, I have encountered meditation, community, and an experience of the Divine through music.

In the middle of the Shabbat service, the cantor led us in one particular song. She told us about hearing this tune for the first time in one of her classes, and being the only person in the room not knowing what it was. She then sang the tune of “Dona Nobis Pacem,” a traditional Christian canon, along with the text of a Jewish prayer. That song and prayer made a beautiful connection between two different faiths through music. It reminded me that, whatever our faiths and beliefs may be, we are unified by the sound of music. The notes, melodies, and texts may be different, but the music underlying them connects us all the same.

Thursday
March 17

The Impact of Others

By Matthew Cron

“Treat others as you want to be treated.” I am sure that we have all heard this at one point in our lives. This all sounds well but does it really mean anything? Of course this tries to teach us to be respectful of others, but does that truly do anything. I believe interactions with people has a huge impact on my life.

When I was younger I would struggle to make friends in school, like other children, I was stuck in my shell and could not seem to come out of it. I was just very shy. If you knew me back when I was younger you would know what I am talking about. At this point in my life it would make my day if anyone (literally anyone) would come up and start a conversation with me. There were some days where I would not really talk to anyone at all. Those brave other children who came to talk to me really had a major impact on how the rest of my day went. There was one day in first grade that I can remember I was particularly upset, my cat had died. No one else in my class knew what had happened or what was wrong, and no one really seemed to want to know except for one person. He came up to me and simply asked why I wasn’t smiling. Without needing to be prompted to do so he actually comforted me. He is still my closest friend today.

The reason that I bring that story up is to mention a new one. I was walking back from class on Monday and I saw a friend. For whatever reason she looked very down. I noticed this but did not do anything. I just said “hello” and  continued on my way. Over the past few days I have been upset with myself for not reciprocating what my friend did for me in the first grade. It has really been eating me up. Maybe all my friend needed was someone to ask why they were not smiling, but I did not do that.

I have come to interpret the saying “treat others as you want to be treated” as not only treating people with respect, but also, having the courage to help them when they are having trouble. I certainly appreciate it when people respect me, but I respect those who has the courage to come up to me and tell me that they think something is wrong. I respect and appreciate people who are able to do this. That is who I want to be treated. Hopefully next time I see a friend who does not have their usual smile I will have the courage to treat them with the respect that I have come to appreciate.

Tuesday
March 8

Learning to Learn

By Devin Harvin

One of the most challenging things I believe a christian student has to go through is understanding other religions. In high school it was simple to read, recite what each certain practice signified, take a test and forget. However, in college I’ve come to truly enjoy the act of understanding new religions. This semester, I’ve had the privilege to take CC 102 which is a class in which we study the individual and we seek to answer the question, What matters to us and why? One of the ways we aim to that is by reading various authors, most of whom are well established and considered experts in their fields. We reference Plato, study Aristotle and Confucius and Lao-Tzu (so far).

I’m familiar with Aristotle but the other two were complete new ideas to me. They focus heavily on the action or inaction of the individual and through discussing the two philosophies this allowed me to appreciate my christianity more while simultaneously appreciating two others. Engaging in debate with fellow classmates and interpreting the two ideologies made me desire to interpret and flesh out the bible even further. Some may argue that conflicting ideologies may lead you to heated and aggressive arguments but I would disagree. I think you can find beauty in all religions and in turn find more beauty in your own religion.

My experience in class dealing with Confucius and Lao-Tzu have influenced me to dive into some places of the bible and challenge the text that I’m encountering. I’ll end with speaking about Luke 5 1:11 where Jesus gets on the boat with Simon and tells him to put the net back into the clear Lake of Gennesaret after he had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught anything. Simon tells Jesus that he had worked all night and that they won’t find anything. However, despite his lack of faith he cast the net regardless and the net overflows with fish. Simon after seeing this says, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man”. Jesus responds and tells Simon don’t be afraid because he will now fish for people. Reading this a few things struck me: First, why would Simon even entertain the suggestion of Jesus after fishing all day? Maybe he had a sudden change of heart or maybe he wanted Jesus to see that no fish would be found. Second, why does Jesus reward Simon for his lack of faith and him telling Jesus to go away?

I think Jesus knew the heart of Simon and judged him for that and not his actions at the immediate moment. One of the most amazing things I find about Jesus is his ability to take your failure and not only make it a success but elevate you to a level you never imagined for yourself. Simon went from a fisher of fish to a fisher of people. A provider of his family to a deliver of Jesus’s word. Perhaps Lao-Tzu and Confucius don’t impact the way I read the Bible but they made me desire a deeper interpretation of the text.