‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and soul, and mind’ (Matthew 22: 37)
In 1762, John and Charles Wesley opened a school in Kingswood, England. Charles wrote: ‘unite the pair so long disjoined, knowledge and vital piety’. He had love in mind.
In college you develop habits of mind. Will love in mind be one? Will you find a way to love God with all your mind?
Unlike some philosophy and some religion today, the gospel does not separate head from heart, does not separate mind from faith, does not separate the spiritual and the cerebral. In fact, here, to love with heart and soul means, emphatically to love with the your mind. Do you?
Our gospel lesson today, Matthew’s curt summary of the Markan teaching, gives us a way forward, a way to live out such a common hope.
Matthew has shortened the passage from Mark. He has taken out the positive reference to the Jewish interlocutor. He has winnowed the narrative structure of the text. He has emphasized mind. Especially he has removed the kind response Jesus makes in Mark to his questioner: ‘you are not far from the kingdom of God’. What he has added is an introduction that describes a conniving collusion of the Pharisees and Sadducees to ‘test’ Jesus. In Mark Jesus is invited to help, and he does. In Matthew he is put to the test. Love of God. Love of Neighbor. On these two depend all the others. That is, even in the darker condition of the church, perhaps in the fear of the terror of Domitian, reflected in Matthew, the gospel stands. Love means love in mind.
And ‘mind’? Almost every NT use of the word mind is in Paul. There, in Paul, and here, in Matthew, the word refers to the breadth of human intellect, ingenuity, and creativity. But in Matthew there is a prefix, and the word gives a breathing, process, dimension to the root of the noun, which you will recognize, nous. Here: Not so much thought, as thinking. Not so much mind, as minding. Understanding as gerund: “if I am understanding you…” A disposition. A manner of thinking, like ‘after a manner of speaking’. (BGD, loc cit).
Let us love the lord with all our mind. But how?
We send you home with a tulip, as a way to think about love andmind. We will follow from our Presbyterian siblings. It seems to me impossible to speak of Calvinism without mentioning the famous/infamous acrostic for the 5 points of Calvinism—TULIP Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints). We shall use our Presbyterian siblings’ acrostic, in a different manner, to engage Matthew 22: 37—T, true; U-universal; L-lasting; I-inspired; P-personal.
A real celebration of the Gospel will depend upon a common hope. T. Something true. A heart for the heart of the city—a longing to heal the spiritual culture of the land. U. Something universal. An interreligious setting. L. Something lasting of love in mind. A developed expression of contrition. I. Something imaginative. A keen sense of imagination. P. Something personal. An openness to power and presence.
To be good news, the gospel must be true—true to God, to world, to self, to others.
We know this with regard to the full humanity of gay people. Bigotry against sexual minorities is not the gospel.
We know this in our treatment of others, especially in our personal and professional relationships. If you play fast and loose with someone’s identity—in a professional relationship, say—you risk doing permanent harm. You will not the full effect of this until it has happened to you.
Pray for a spirit of truth this year, beginning today, Matriculation Sunday, with this prayer:
Thou who loves us into love and frees us into freedom
We bring forward our thanks today for the freedom to study at Boston University
For the study of medicine, dentistry, physical therapy
Whose fruit is public health
For the study of law
Whose fruit is justice
For the study of management, business and economics
Whose fruit is community
For the study of art—music, dance, drama, all
Whose fruit is beauty
For the study of communication
Whose fruit is truth
For the study of engineering
Whose fruit is expanding safety
For the liberal, metropolitan and general study of art and science
Whose fruit is freedom
For the study of hospitality
Whose fruit is conviviality
For the study of education
Whose fruit is memory and hope
For the study of military and physical education
Whose fruit is security and strength
For the study of social work
Whose fruit is systemic compassion
For the study of theology and the practice of religion
Whose fruit is meaning, belonging and empowerment
In this year may the 40,000 member family of Boston University—students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, neighbors all—become, by grace:
healthier, more just, more connected, fairer, truer, sturdier, freer, gentler, deeper, safer, more compassionate, and more aware
O Thou who loves us into love and frees us into freedom.
Jesus is our Lord and Savior, but Jesus is not all the God there is. We are not Unitarians of the second person of the Trinity. Nor are we alone as the sole religious tradition on the planet. We shall need to share the spiritual nurture of earth’s 7 billion inhabitants with others. With Muslims, like Anwar Sadat; and Hindus like Mahatma Ghandi; and Jews like Elie Wiesel; and Buddhists like our BU student killed in last year’s Marathon, Lu Lingzi. True peace is found in Jesus but not exclusively in Jesus. Lu Lingzi’s memorial service last year in Boston made this fully clear to those of us present.
Our friend and colleague Dean Kenn Elmore said during a recent conversation, and in a truly Howard Thurman-like way, ‘sometimes we lose our capacity to reach for, to grasp, to hold onto the universals’. To love the Lord with all our mind.
As we minister with the students this year, we will need today’s gospel.
You will need love in mind. Learning that begets virtue and virtue that begets piety. Knowledge that begets action and action that begets being. Love in mind—your thoughts, your understandings, your perspectives.
At Erwin Church in Syracuse NY several years ago we had some memorable failures in ministry. But sometimes the things that seem less than successful turn out better than you think. Like the dinner we gave in 1985, hoping for 20 or 30 students and none came, save one young woman, Pam Brush. But she was all it took, she and God’s grace, to grow, over time, a vibrant neighborhood young adult ministry.
And now at Marsh Chapel. I wonder if Pam, or someone like her, is here this year? Here at Marsh Chapel. A place with 2000 years and more of traditions, embedded in stained glass, a 1000 year old gothic architecture ‘built to last’, a 175 year denominational legacy, a 60 year old building and congregation, and a handshake, a hand to hold onto that is lastingly steady. You may need that hand and handshake someday this year.
A bit of wonder, a bit of wonder.
Ralph Sockman: ‘the larger the body of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of mystery that surrounds it.’
GK Chesterton: ‘the world does not lack for wonders, but only for a sense of wonder’
Dag Hammarskjold: “God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal Deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason”.
Something like the 139th Psalm (recited)…
We are focused this year on spirit.
Robert Frost taught us about personal things, about invitation and compassion and vocation and aspiration. Our ushers, lead by Mark Gray, and our hospitality ministry, lead by Ray Bouchard, need your help with invitation. Our student ministries, lead by Br Larry Whitney, need your help with compassion. Our vocational discernment program, lead by Revs Hessler and Quigley, need your help with vocation. Our global international ministry, lead by Rev. Brittany Longsdorf, and our musical ministry, lead by Dr. Jarrett, need your help with aspiration. There is on this little island of Marsh Chapel in the great sea of Boston University, an island of peace and safety, of challenge and inquiry, of thought and meditation, of decency and health, there is on this little of island of Marsh Chapel, a place for you, over these four years.
This world is not going to get better only with the comforting aid of sentiment, feeling, emotion, and things of the heart. It will take a hard headed realism, and a hard minded love to transform this world. That is where you come in. When you write your history of John Wesley, summarize please his teaching in TULIP formula. The future, God’s future, needs your mind: T. Something true. A heart for the heart of the city—a longing to heal the spiritual culture of the land. U. Something universal. An interreligious setting. L. Something of lasting. I. Something imaginative. A keen sense of imagination. P. Something personal.
In the spirit I call you to love the Lord with all your mind. In conversation, memory, and exercise. If you have not had a real conversation once a day, you have missed something. If you have not memorized something once a week, you have missed a chance to be mindful. If you have walked along the sea shore, near Boston, once a month, you have missed the cleansing of the spirit. If you have walked down to the harbor and back to BU once a year, you have missed something.
I can not speak to you if I have not spoken for you and I cannot speak for you if I have not spoken with you. To needs for and for needs with.
From this day forward, will you love the Lord your God with all your mind?
John and Charles Wesley did so in 1762. John Dempster did so by founding Boston University in 1839, just a few years later:
Boston University, proud with mission sure
Keeping the light of knowledge high, long to endure
Treasuring the best of all that’s old
Searching out the new
Our Alma Mater evermore
-The Rev. Dr. Robert Allen Hill, Dean of Marsh Chapel