Archive for May, 2017

Sunday
May 28

Development

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to listen to the full service

Xunzi 1.8

Mark 16: 14-20

Click here to listen to the meditations only

Few! Thanks be to God that’s over with. It is tempting to say that we unceremoniously threw the class of 2017 out last weekend, except for the small matter of all of that ceremony. Nevertheless, having dispensed with the class of 2017, we now shift gears to welcome the class of 2021. Welcome, new terriers!

Perhaps, however, before shifting our gaze entirely to what comes next, we would do well to pause, just briefly, and consider what precisely it was that we accomplished last weekend. Most obviously, the ceremonies of commencement transformed the members of the class of 2017 from students into graduates, and thus, alumni, of Boston University. Ostensibly, this is a transformation from those who learn into those who know. It is a change of social status, from one social category to another.

Alas, there is a not-so-small problem with this analysis, and it was eloquently addressed by our Baccalaurete speaker, Dr. Mario Molina, from this pulpit last week. Did you catch it? He said, “the notion that what you learned in college is sufficient for your future work was an acceptable point of view in the past, but it is no longer valid. The big change, as you are all probably aware, is that you have to continue learning throughout your career. This means that perhaps the most important skill you should have acquired in college is how to learn, how to become motivated to keep learning, that is, how to become a lifelong learner.”

So what really happened last weekend, then, is that in enacting the rituals of commencement, we told over 6,000 people that they were finished, that they had accomplished something, that they could check that box off their to-do list and move on, and in so doing, we lied to them.

In point of fact, though, it should not be so surprising that we cast graduation as a shift between binary categories. After all, the whole system, model, and structure of the modern university is inherited from those born in medieval Europe at the height of Christendom, and Christianity, since its inception, has cultivated such dualisms at the center of its self-understanding.

Consider the texts that were read just a few minutes ago:

when you give to them, they gather it up;
when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath, they die
and return to their dust. (Psalm 104: 28-29)

May my meditation be pleasing to him,
for I rejoice in the Lord.
Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
and let the wicked be no more. (Psalm 104: 34-35)

For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind. (Isaiah 65: 17)

I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. (Revelation 21: 1)

To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the polluted, the murderers, the fornicators, the sorcerers, the idolaters, and all liars, their place will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.’ (Revelation 21: 6b-8)

The same dualistic view is replete in the gospels as well. Hear, then, these words appended to the Gospel according to Mark by later editors, drawing from the rest of the Gospels’ accounts of the resurrection:

Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16: 14-20)

Belief vs. unbelief; saved vs. condemned; living water vs. a lake of fire; new heaven and new earth vs. first heaven first earth; filled with good vs. returned to the dust. To be sure, Paul tells us that, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3: 28), but this is in the wider context of the dichotomy between those who belong to Christ and those “imprisoned under the law” (cf. Galatians 3: 23).

It is, perhaps, not entirely surprising that an apocalyptic movement, imminently expecting Jesus’ return accompanied by very real physical and socio-political consequences would schematize life in such a dualistic fashion. Surely, it has been the theological work of centuries to soften, temper, and reinterpret the harshness of these apocalyptic binaries. And yet, here we are, in 2017, five hundred years after the start of the Protestant Reformation and Martin Luther’s emphatic principle of Sola scriptura, that scripture is the sole authority for faith and practice, a principle, alas, that has not aged terribly well. Too often, sola scriptura becomes the basis of biblical literalism or even bibliolatry, an excuse for intolerance and exclusion, and thus reinforces apocalyptic dualisms. Should we celebrate the Reformation? Yes, but let us do so with eyes wide open, attentive to the full range of its lasting effects.

The problem with these dichotomies, these binaries, these either/or formulations, is that they leave no room for the process of growth, for transformation over time, for the period of change, for development. Alas, the mismatch between dualistic categories and our lived experience of ongoing, incremental growth and development is quite painful. Spiritually painful. Existentially painful.

Perhaps you have experienced this. I have.

Perhaps you have been told that your faith is lukewarm. I have.

Perhaps you have been told that you are not fervent enough. I have.

Perhaps you have been told that your belief is unorthodox. I have.

Perhaps you have been told that your soul is in peril. I have.

Perhaps you have been told that who you are or what you believe is not adequate for heaven, and so you must be damned to hell. I have.

Or perhaps your experience of the misfit of dualistic categories appears in the form of an imposter syndrome.

Perhaps you were baptized but harbored doubts.

Perhaps you were confirmed but still had questions.

Perhaps you were ordained in spite of suspicion of the church.

Perhaps you were asked to teach but have barely read the bible.

Perhaps you were asked to lead but worry that you yourself are already off the path.

Perhaps you were asked to testify but have only brokenness to offer.

Perhaps you were honored for uprightness but are all too aware of your own iniquity.

The good news of Jesus Christ for you and for me is this: Congratulations! You are normal! You are human! Christ is with you! And Christ has sent, is sending, will send the Holy Spirit to lead you and me through an ongoing process of growth and development into all truth and the full measure and stature of Christ.

But how can we hear this saving word amidst the dualistic cacophony? How can we swim in this river of saving grace when the waters have been divided to the left and the right? Dear friends, it may not be possible to hear what the Spirit is saying, to reunite the divided waters, by merely abiding in our present communities and reading the same texts. It may be that in order to hear the still small voice calling us to become as Christ, we must move beyond the din and find another body of water in which to immerse ourselves for a time. It may only be when we look back from afar that we can see the seeds and sprouts, the fresh growth to which we are otherwise oblivious in our native land.

Hear, then, these words from the third century BCE Chinese scholar Xunzi, from his “Exhortation to Learning:”

Learning—where should it begin and where should it end! I say: Its proper method is to start with the recitation of the Classics and conclude with the reading of the Rituals. Its real purpose is first to create a scholar and in the end to create a sage. If you genuinely accumulate and earnestly practice for a long time, then you will become an initiate. Learning continues until death and only then does it stop. Thus, though the methods employed to learn come to a conclusion, the purpose of learning must never, even for an instant, be put aside. Those who undertake learning become men; those who neglect it become as wild beasts. Truly the Documents contain the record of governmental affairs. The Odes set the correct standards to which pronunciations should adhere. The Rituals contain the model for the primary social distinctions and the categories used by analogical extension for the guiding rules and ordering norms of behavior. Accordingly, when learning has been perfected in the rituals, it has come to its terminus. Surely this may be called the culmination of the Way and its Power! The reverence and refinement of the Rituals, the concord and harmony of the Music, the breadth of the Odes and Documents, the subtlety of the Annals—all the creations of Heaven and Earth are completed in them. (John Knoblock, Xunzi: A Translation and Study of the Complete Works. Vol. 1. Stanford University Press, 1988. 139-140).

Learning, growing, developing, changing, transforming, is a process both life giving and lifelong. As is said of Confucius in the Analects:

The Master said, “At fifteen, I set my mind upon learning; at thirty, I took my place in society; at forty, I became free of doubts; at fifty, I understood Heaven’s Mandate; at sixty, my ear was attuned; and at seventy, I could follow my heart’s desires without overstepping the bounds of propriety.” (Edward Slingerland, Analects: With Selections from Traditional Commentaries, Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing, 2003).

What do we learn from this wisdom from China? What is different from the view of life as a series of binary transformations? We learn the age-old lesson not to mistake the forest for the trees. Yes, there are moments in life when we can recognize, can feel, can express the difference between our former selves and ourselves as we are now, but these moments are signposts along the way of a much longer journey, not destinations or achievements in and of themselves. Salvation comes in the accumulation of wisdom, of insight, of understanding, of attunement, not all at once in single step. Salvation is following the path demarcated by the Spirit, led and prodded along by the Spirit, into all truth, not the appropriation of truth in a single grasp, which must inevitably be partial, limited, and fleeting.  The question, then, is not whether or not you have achieved salvation or spiritual fullness, but whether you are undertaking the journey and process of growth and development, or standing still, mired in place.

The week before Mother’s Day, my older daughter made a gift for her mother, my wife. Happy anniversary, love. When I picked her up from childcare, she made us whisper the entire way home so that my wife, who was not with us, would not find out about the gift, as it was supposed to be a secret. That Saturday, the day before Mother’s Day, she ran into our room and woke us, waving the gift in the air, exclaiming, “I made you a Mother’s Day present, Mommy, but it’s a surprise!”

Now, this lack of clarity about the nature and proper revelation of a secret is endearing and amusing in a four-year-old, but that very endearment and amusement is in part rooted in the fact that we can expect the child to grow, develop, and mature into a fuller understanding and stature. Sadly, we in the United States, and perhaps especially in the past week everyone around the globe, must suffer under the ongoing denigration of leadership, of virtue, of statecraft, and of humanity by one who views the path of learning and growth and development as beneath him. As Xunzi rightly points out, “Those who undertake learning become men; those who neglect it become as wild beasts.”

This summer at Marsh Chapel, our annual sermon series takes up the theme of “new directions in discipleship.” Christian disciples are students, learning what it means to follow Jesus. Unlike secular models of education, however, there is no graduation from the school of discipleship. Instead, discipleship is a lifelong process of learning, growing, maturing, and developing, but so too it is a process of the finite approximating the infinite, a process that can never come to a final conclusion in the finitude of life. “Learning continues until death and only then does it stop. Thus, though the methods employed to learn come to a conclusion, the purpose of learning must never, even for an instant, be put aside.

Today we observe the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus, transposed from this past Thursday, which was forty days after Easter. Jesus is back in heaven, having descended from heaven in the incarnation at Christmas, descended further into hell on Good Friday, been resurrected from the dead on Easter, and now, at last, ascended back to heaven. Good news! The story is over! A happy ending! But no! The story is not over. Next Sunday is Pentecost, when we celebrate the arrival of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, the Advocate, who will lead us into all truth. We are not done. We are unfinished. As we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, then, let us recognize it for the signpost it is along our journey of lifelong learning and discipleship, a sign pointing us to the very need for our ongoing development. Amen.

– Brother Lawrence A. Whitney, LC†, University Chaplain for Community Life

Sunday
May 21

Boston University Baccalaureate

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to listen to the full service

Click here to listen to the Baccalaureate Address only

This year’s Baccalaureate speaker is Dr. Mario J. Molina, University of California, San Diego, Distinguished Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry.

For more information about Marsh Chapel at Boston University, click here.

For information about donating to the Chapel, click here.

Sunday
May 14

This I Believe

By Marsh Chapel

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John 14:1-14

Click here to listen to the meditations only

Graduating Students Share Their Spiritual Journey

Ian Quillen – BA – Neuroscience; Speech, Language, & Hearing Sciences, CAS/KHC’17

There is a saying that home is where the heart is. When I first came to BU, I wanted to create a new space that I could call home. Perhaps I could have gone further away from Brookline, the town near Boston where I grew up, to accomplish this. But when I came to Marsh Chapel my freshman year, I found a place that grounded me where I could place roots.

Marsh Chapel has been described as a heart for the heart of the city, and a service in the service of the city. I would take the first part of this phrase and add an “h” to the word heart: Marsh chapel has become a hearth for me, as well as a heart for the city and a home. When I say hearth, I mean a space where people can find rest, food, and warmth. Most of all, I mean a space where people can find solace, grow, and change. I believe in building such hearths through acts of hospitality.

This belief stems from spending Tuesday nights cooking dinner for students in a basement kitchen and sharing it over conversation and laughter. It emerges from nights I would spend cleaning dishes and just listening to the simple peace of water flowing and dirt being washed away. It comes from my experiences sitting down with people and yielding space and time to them—space for them to comfortably be themselves, and time for them to tell me their stories.

I believe that one of the greatest challenges as a student is learning how to listen. This is more than just paying attention in class so that you don’t miss something. It involves not thinking about how you’ll respond to what someone is telling you, and just being present with them. Listening is becoming comfortable with your own silence so that you can discern the voices of others, the sound of your surroundings, and maybe the gentle whisper of the Divine. Once you’ve discerned that, you then have a choice to make: how do I respond to what I’ve heard?

I believe that sometimes the hardest power to master is not knowing when to act, but knowing when to yield. This is not the same as giving up, or being complacent. Yielding is knowing how much you can do to support someone before stepping back, and letting them make decisions for themselves with the tools they’ve been given. It is knowing when to let go of your ego, while still preserving your worth as a person, for the sake of another. It is knowing that you don’t have to fix every problem to have hope, hope that survives best at the hearth you’ve created for yourself and for others when all else is said and done.

These are the beliefs I’ve developed at Marsh Chapel. They are the flames that nurture me as I leave my home. They form my hearth, and where my heart is.

Svea Schreiner – M.Ed. – Educational Leadership & Policy, SED’17

A year ago, I was sitting on a rickety front porch in a place known as Holler #5, surrounded by some of the kindest, sweetest people I’ll ever meet, who welcomed me and my husband into their lives with open arms. For two years, I lived and worked as a teacher in one of the poorest counties in the U.S., McDowell County, West Virginia. Life is extremely difficult in this rural, abandoned coal- country community; it was for us during our time there and it has been for life-long residents for many generations.

Although I’ve moved back to New England and it’s been 11 months since then, it still sometimes feels surreal to be here in Boston, a place that has got to be about as close to a polar opposite of the Holler if there ever was one.

Much has been made in the last year or so of the differences between people in rural America versus those in so-called “coastal elite” urban centers like Boston. The differences are many, and the culture shock was very real as I adapted from a life spent in the Northeast to one in rural Appalachia, which seems to still be at least a few decades behind the times, for better or worse. I experienced a second round of culture-shock coming back a few years later, reintegrating into “modern” life and going to graduate school full-time this year here in the city.

But for all the ways we’re different, there are also many ways that we’re the same.

First, people are good and want to be there for each other. When we first moved into our little West Virginia home, squished in next to 30 or so other homes in the hollow between two steep and lush tree-covered mountains, our neighbors brought us vegetables from their gardens, cakes baked in their kitchens, and invited us to drink iced tea with them on their porches.

Here in Boston, I’ve seen this essential goodness studying alongside talented fellow teachers and accomplished, principled professors. I’ve seen incredible dedication and commitment to equity for children in classrooms across the country and the world, and a willingness to sacrifice and work tirelessly to ensure that all children are given the opportunity to succeed.

Secondly, people are complicated, and they cannot be reduced to any single stereotype or label. It’s very easy to write off the West Virginia contingent as an ignorant, narrow-minded monolith. I can tell you from direct experience that this is not the case. Conversely, it’s also easy to assume all of us Yankees are cold, self-centered, and unfriendly; stereotypes I heard from WV friends that are similarly untrue.

The truth is, there is no one label that can possibly encapsulate all of the beauty and joy and pain of a person’s life. Everybody has a story, and we should acknowledge the complexity of those individual stories in every person we meet.

Most importantly, we all have the same amount of God in us, regardless of where we came from, what we’ve done, or where we’re going. Looking below the surface, finding the essential goodness, and practicing love over suspicion, mercy over judgment; these are the things I believe in.

In the collision of the two disparate worlds I’ve inhabited over the last few years, I’ve learned that the thing we need most ourselves and the thing others need most from us is simply this: grace. In the face of all that separates, this common thread unites, and that unity and connection are always worth pursuing.

Magdalena Buczek- MAMS, GMS’17

I discovered these words of Thomas Merton the year before starting a Masters in Medical Sciences: “Perhaps I am stronger than I think. Perhaps I am even afraid of my strength, and turn it against myself, thus making myself weak…Perhaps I am most afraid of the strength of God in me. Perhaps I would rather be guilty and weak in myself, than strong in Him whom I cannot understand.” This thought haunted me as I struggled to believe that one day I could be a physician working with patients who experience homelessness and incarceration. Questions buzzed through my mind: Was I cut out for medical school? Could I take the intensity that everyone warns about? Standing strong in God was scarier than letting go of self-doubt.

Anxiety and fear crept into every day during the first semester. I would cry in an empty classroom, and five minutes later pull myself together enough to walk into histology lab and study slides of kidney tubules. Nighttime was (and still is) the worst for my anxiety. I sat paralyzed at the thought of the work in front of me.

In the second semester, several things happened: my brother had a serious skiing accident followed by major surgery; a friend attempted suicide; a high school classmate overdosed; and a young friend nearly died in a car accident. All the while, I was attempting to hold it together in my coursework. In the midst of this confusion and my own anxiety, I could think only one thing: “Lord, I cannot do this alone.” I was overwhelmed with work and emotions, and so I invited God to be beside me one moment, one hour, and one day at a time. Today, I told myself, I will attend lecture, review the thyroid physiology chapter and the morning’s pharmacology lecture, and map the cranial nerves. I asked God to help me focus just on that, now and for the remainder of the day, and to worry about tomorrow when and if it gets here. The beloved people in my life had taught me in a harsh way that tomorrow is no guarantee.

I often feel guilty about my anxiety, especially when I have the privileges of an excellent education, a safe home, and abundant food and support systems. I don’t know why I feel it, or why it keeps returning. But I know that I have a responsibility to use my privilege to address the injustices, poverty, and violence that plague our world. I do my best to address my anxiety, both for my wellbeing and for the wellbeing of those I serve.

My anxiety is always nearby. Managing it will be a lifetime’s work, requiring vigilance and self-reflection. May my self-doubts be constant reminders that I cannot do this alone. May my fears be invitations to be in relationship with God. Alone, I am weak, but God’s faithfulness, forgiveness, and love are infinite. Thus, in God my strength is unbounded, and I should not fear my strength.

Adrienne Lotoski – MS – Arts Administration MET’17

This I believe.

I believe in journeys. I believe that life is a journey, whether short or long, it is a continual of time. We are all here for a journey through time, a journey to experience the preciousness of life and the bonds of humankind.

I believe in sharing. I believe that sharing helps others. Sharing your knowledge with someone is to give them a bond and to opens the door to friendship. Sharing a meal with someone is to give someone substance for being. Sharing your time with someone is to share experiences.

I believe in experiences. I believe with each and every experience comes learning and lessons. Learning should be constant and never ending. And lessons are necessary for providing boundaries and guidelines to ensure future experiences are meaningful. Experiences are also to be shared to create eternal bonds of family and friendship. What is life is we don’t have family and friends to share our experiences?

I believe in happiness. I believe that the gift of happiness manifests itself in smiles. Smiles can be simply shared with your family, friends, neighbors and strangers. A simple smile can change someone’s day and can provide a ray of happiness.

I believe in helping others. I believe it is important to help those that can’t help themselves. Help is one way of facilitating another person’s journey through life. Help someone else’s journey so they benefit from your knowledge and your goodness. How difficult is it to hold a door open, pick up someone’s dropped item, or to invite someone to share a cup of coffee?

I believe in the importance of understanding. I believe that understanding is necessary for taking the journey through life. With understanding comes the ability to accept or reject, to make amends and to move on. With understanding comes knowledge and with knowledge comes respect.

I believe in respect. I believe that each and every one of us is to be respected for our beliefs including those that religious, political, scientific or sociological. Respect fosters relationships which foster knowledge which fosters good will.

I believe goodness exists in each person. I believe each person is born with goodness and that it is always there, even if it just under the surface. It might not always be easy to find the goodness, but once it is found, it can help others with their journeys.

I believe in our children. I believe it is in our children that we deliver the messages of happiness, experiences, respect and education. By teaching our children these messages, we are teaching them how to experience the journey of life and understanding.

I believe in education. A Boston University education. With education comes knowledge and with knowledge comes the ability to change. The ability to change things for the better – to make your life better, to make your brethren better, to make your community better and to make the world better.

This I believe.

Kasey Shultz – BA -Sociocultural Anthropology; Spanish; African Studies, CAS/KHC’17

1,351 days ago, on matriculation Sunday, I came to the chapel for the first time for worship and sat in the third row of pews, trying to ignore the dull ache in my chest that had taken up residence ever since my parents had left the night before to fly back to Seattle. Nervous and alone, I started wondering what I had gotten myself into. But then, the ethereal sound of the choir filled this space, resonating against the stone walls and washing over me in waves. We sang the same hymns I had sung since childhood and I was wrapped up in the familiar, comforting rhythms of liturgy. That ache in my chest evaporated, the nervousness fled, and I knew I was home.

In the four years since then, I’ve spent hours here singing and praying, studying and meditating, laughing and eating, questioning and listening. Located at the heart of campus, the chapel has also been at the heart of my four years at BU. It has introduced me to new friends and ways of thinking about faith and vocation while grounding me in a community of believers that was always there to support and encourage me. In the midst of a cohort of people from various faith traditions and backgrounds, I was challenged to define my faith and to lay out a vision of what I believe—my own personal credo.

For one thing, my time at the chapel has helped me to realize that I believe people are inherently good. But also that we make mistakes—like, a lot of mistakes. I believe that God’s love for us is so vibrant and pure that it wipes all those mistakes away. I believe that all people are connected to each other and that we need to honor that connection by taking care of and respecting one another. I believe in the baptism of rain on a fall day and the communion of food shared with friends. I believe that science and religion complement each other, that God speaks into our silences and blooms into our empty spaces, and that the Holy Spirit lives in gusting winds and tranquil waters, in babbling toddlers and freely shed tears. I believe that worship requires a community and community requires forgiveness and forgiveness requires grace. I believe that doubt is the strongest form of faith and that no person or tradition can fully comprehend the complex, paradoxical, and timeless nature of God. I believe that we are called to welcome those who have been rejected, to speak for those who have been silenced, and to lift up those who have been oppressed. I believe that prayer is a conversation, worship is a relationship and scripture is a promise.

And above all, I believe that God loves, a love that is freely given, a love that we can never avoid or escape or ignore—a love that changes us and a love that frees us. A love that moves us to believe.

Sunday
May 7

Alma Mater

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to listen to the full service

John 10:1-10

Click here to listen to the meditations only

 ‘I am the door.  He who enters by me will be saved and will come and in and go out and find pasture.’

 On the journey:  we covet prayer, we remember names, we commune in hope.

Prayer (Prelude)

 The Covenant Prayer is perhaps one of John Wesley’s most known prayers. Do you feel that it is an important prayer for believers to pray in modern day? It is often a prayer recited at church in special worship services. Do you feel that it is a prayer believers should pray on their own to affirm their commitment to God?

Mr. Wesley in prayer sought a combination of enthusiasm and enlightenment, as he did in general in the practice of faith.  He could feel the presence of the Spirit, as on May 24, 1738 on Aldersgate Street.  He also could sing with his brother, Charles, at the opening of an elementary school in Kingswood, England, 1762, ‘unite the pair so long disjoined, knowledge and vital piety, learning and holiness combine, truth and love (for all to see)’.  The Covenant Prayer is one such sought combination of enthusiasm and enlightenment.

How important do you feel it is for believers to examine themselves with John Wesley’s self-examination questions (https://www.hopefaithprayer.com/john-wesley-holy-club-questions/) and which of the questions do you feel are most important for people to focus on?

All the questions are good ones, though they would benefit from an admixture of first person singular (‘I’), with first person plural (‘we’).  The questions help us to stay alert to what is new in every morning.  What a wonder there is in what is new!  I have been re-reading David Hempton’s book, Methodism:  Empire of the Spirit, this year, in which he explores the mysterious birth and growth of the Methodist church, especially in circumstances of harsh confinement—sailors on shipboard, prisoners in cells, soldiers in confined barracks, poor settlers in small prairie dwellings.  There is a mystery at the start of something new. 

One of John Wesley’s self-examination asks, “Am I enjoying prayer?” Do you have any advice to give on how one can enjoy prayer?

Prayer is the joy of sitting silent before God.  Enjoy the quiet.  There will be plenty of rumble, din, cacophony, dissonance and just plain noise in the rest of the day. 

If John Wesley were here today, what do you think he would recommend for people who feel that they need to revive their prayer life?

Remove yourself from email on a regular basis.  When you have to use email, remember that it is irretrievable, international, eternal, and immutable. 

We know that John Wesley was very disciplined about prayer. He would wake up at 4:00 AM for his daily prayer time. In order to wake up so early, he made sure to go to bed early. What are some ways you suggest that Christians can become more disciplined about prayer?

One practice suggested by the Rev. Vernon Lee, some years ago, was to use the quiet time of dressing, in the morning, to pray, in particular and in person, for others.  The Rev. Susan Shafer gave us a collection of Bonhoeffer’s prayers and writings, 100 words each, one for each day, to be used in the morning.  Howard Thurman, though, preferred prayer at night, as he remembered his walk on Daytona Beach: “the ocean and the night surrounded my little life with a reassurance that could not be affronted by any human behavior; the ocean at night gave me a sense of timelessness, of existing beyond the ebb and flow of circumstance; death would be a small thing, I felt, in the sweep of that natural embrace”.

John Wesley would often write out prayers. Do you feel that writing, drawing or other creative modalities help some to better connect with God through prayer?

Yes.

John Wesley advocated for fasting as a way to make prayer more powerful and he himself fasted every Friday; at one point in his life, he fasted every Wednesday and Friday. Do you advocate for fasting? If so, how often?

Regular—daily—physical exercise is as prayerful, meditative, healthy, spiritual and meaningful a practice as one can find.  At Marsh Chapel, we host a spiritual yoga group at 5pm. 

John Wesley was deeply connected to God. In what ways do you feel he developed this strong connection? How can Christians today strengthen their connection to God?

Mr. Wesley, in his Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, at several places offers hints, glimpses, and premonitions of his sense of divine presence.  Commenting on Matthew 6:9ff, the Lord’s prayer, he writes, ‘He who best knew what we ought to pray for, and how we ought to pray, what matter of desire, what manner of address would most please himself, would best become us, has here dictated to us a most perfect and universal form of prayer, comprehending our real wants, expressing all our lawful desires; a complete directory and full exercise of all our devotions’.   Notice the word ‘universal’. For Wesley, as for his tradition at its best, Jesus is our beacon, not our boundary, and in Him, God is loving us into love and freeing us into freedom.  Love for all, freedom for all.  And all means all.

My mother taught me my first verse of Scripture:  A wise man built his house…

Identity (Sermon)

Class of 2017! Are you happy, glad, joyful?

Then, if so, you have entered the deep mystery of a most ancient invocation, that of the Psalmist, from more than 2000 years ago:  Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands, serve the Lord with gladness!

There is a remarkable sentiment, that gladness itself, happiness itself, joy itself are ultimate service.   Gladness serves.  Come into his presence with singing!  Know that the Lord is God.  It is He that has made us, and not we ourselves.  We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with Thanksgiving, and his courts with Praise, give Thanks to Him and bless his name.  For the Lord is good.  His steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Calvin Trilling: “For thirty years my mother served us nothing but leftovers.  The original meal was never found.”

The land of Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty is now led to applaud, and celebrate the loss of health care for 24 million.  This is an early wave in a tide of humiliation coming our way this decade.  The church of Charles Wesley, he of gladness of heart, who helps us to sing, ‘finish then thy new creation’, is now led to affirm the rejection of the consecration of a fine, well prepared, regularly ordained elder, simply because she is gay.  This is another wave in a tide of humiliation coming our way in these years.

That gladness of heart is lasting, meaningful service, in faithfulness to ALL generations.

No surprise, that.  For you are Boston University graduates, with a name, and from a tradition, of glad hearts.   Not some but all.  Not home town but universe.  Not nation but world.

With gladness of heart, Howard Thurman said, people all people belong to one another.  Not some, but all.

With gladness of heart, Martin Luther King said, the moral arc of the universe is long, but bends toward justice.  Not country, but universe.

With gladness of heart, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, which gave birth to BU, said, The world is my parish. Not nation, but world.

Not some but all; not home town but universe; not nation but world.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands, serve the Lord with gladness.

May 14, the day on which you can hear your classmates speak of faithfulness and life, that same day is….Mother’s day.  Make a plan.  Buy a flower. Choose a gift.  Send a note.  And do so—with gladness!

My mother was a Latin teacher, for whom reminders were instruction (we tend to need more reminder than instruction)

 Hope (Communion)

Come now up the sawdust trail.  Receive the Lord.  ‘Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sin…

We await a common hope, a hope that our warming globe, caught in climate change, will be cooled by cooler heads and calmer hearts and careful minds.

We await a common hope, a hope that our dangerous world, armed to the teeth with nuclear proliferation, will find peace through deft leadership toward nuclear détente.

We await a common hope, a hope that our culture, awash in part in hooliganism, will find again the language and the song and the spirit of the better angels of our nature.

We await a common hope, a hope that our country, fractured by massive inequality between rich children and poor children, will rise up and make education, free education, available to all children, poor and rich.

 We await a common hope, a hope that our nation, fractured by flagrant unjust inequality between rich and poor children, will stand up and make health care, free health care, available to all children, poor and rich.

We await a common hope, a hope that our schools, colleges and universities, will balance a love of learning with a sense of meaning, a pride in knowledge with a respect for goodness, a drive for discovery with a regard for recovery.

We await a common hope, a hope that our families, torn apart by abuse and distrust and anger and jealousy and unkindness, will sit at a long Thanksgiving table, this autumn, and share the turkey and pass the potatoes, and slice the pie, and, if grudgingly, show kindness and pity to one another.

 We await a common hope, a hope that our decisions in life about our callings, how we are to use our time and spend our money, how we make a life not just a living, will be illumined by grace and generosity. 

We await a common hope, a hope that our grandfathers and mothers, in their age and infirmity, will receive care and kindness that accords with the warning to honor father and mother that you own days be long upon the earth.

We await a common hope, finally a hope not of this world, but of this world as a field of formation for another, not just creation but new creation, not just life but eternal life, not just health but salvation, not just heart but soul, not just earth, but heaven.

My mother understood the difference between cultural and financial wealth.  And taught us how to change, leave, journey, and itinerate.  England, Spain, Geneva WCC, Montreal McGill, Boston.

‘I am the door.  He who enters by me will be saved and will come and in and go out and find pasture.’

Calvin Trillin: “For thirty years my mother served us nothing but leftovers.  The original meal was never found.”  On the journey:  we covet prayer, we remember names, we commune in hope.

– The Reverend Doctor, Robert Allan Hill, Dean.