Archive for May, 2018

Sunday
May 27

Rectifying the Name of Christianity

By Marsh Chapel

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John 3:1-17

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You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you have created all things, and by your will they have their being.

You are worthy, O Lamb, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed us for God from every tribe and language and nation; you have made us to be a kingdom and priests serving our God.

To the One who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever. Amen. – Revelation 4: 11, 5: 9b-11 (Common Worship)

 

You may be forgiven for flinching somewhat when you are told by friends what they have heard that “Christians” say, or hear about what “Christians” are doing on the evening news, or read about how “Christians” vote in your morning newspaper. You may be forgiven for that knot in your stomach when you hear that a seminary president has resigned in the wake of criticism for enabling sexual assault, sexual harassment, and domestic partner violence. You may be forgiven for wondering what what passes for Christianity these days has to do with Jesus of Nazareth.

How did we get here?

Well, consider for a moment all of those posters and t-shirts and bumper stickers and tattoos you have seen sporting merely eight characters: J – O – H – N – 3 – : – 1 – 6. What does that inscription even mean? For someone walking down the street, it is just a string of eight characters with no obvious meaning, but of course, being a good church goer, you know that it refers to the Bible, and therein to the Gospel according to St. John, the third chapter, and the sixteenth verse. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (NRSV) Well, now. Ain’t that nice. God loved the world. Everlasting life. Sounds pretty sweet. But what lies lurking beneath the surface, that is, what is being implied when the verse is foisted in the faces of the uninitiated, is not the promise of salvation but the threat of believe or perish. Rather than the grace of God, the verse is being used like an underhanded compliment to spread judgment and condemnation. What’s more, it is pretty obvious, even to the uninitiated, that this is precisely what is going on.

The name of Christianity is in a pretty sorry state in many quarters, not because people have not learned how wonderful Jesus is, but because they have learned just how horrible Christians can be. Can the name “Christian” be redeemed? I’m not sure, but perhaps it can be rectified. The project of rectifying names comes not from the first century of the common era in Palestine but from the fifth century before the common era in China. You may have pause to wonder whether an idea at such distance in time and space from Jesus, let alone from you and I, could possibly be relevant, but a very important dissertation set to be defended in August here at Boston University makes the case that the two need not necessarily be as far apart from one another intellectually as they are from some of their own neighbors in time and space.

I am grateful that my dear friend and colleague, Dr. Bin Song, Chapel Associate for the Confucian Association here at Marsh Chapel, is here to read from the Analects of Confucius this morning, in Chinese and English.

子路曰:「衛君待子而為政,子將奚先?」子曰:「必也正名乎!」子路曰:「有是哉,子之迂也!奚其正?」子曰:「野哉由也!君子於其所不知,蓋闕如也。名不正,則言不順;言不順,則事不成;事不成,則禮樂不興;禮樂不興,則刑罰不中;刑罰不中,則民無所措手足。故君子名之必可言也,言之必可行也。君子於其言,無所苟而已矣。」

Zilu asked, “If the Duke of Wei were to employ you to serve in the government of his state, what would be your first priority?” The Master answered, “It would, of course, be the rectification of names (zhengming 正名).” Zilu said, “Could you, Master, really be so far off the mark? Why worry about rectifying names?” The Master replied, “How boorish you are, Zilu! When it comes to matters that he does not understand, the gentleman should remain silent. If names are not rectified, speech will not accord with reality; when speech does not accord with reality, things will not be successfully accomplished. When things are not successfully accomplished, ritual practice and music will fail to flourish; when ritual and music fail to flourish, punishments and penalties will miss the mark. And when punishments and penalties miss the mark, the common people will be at a loss as to what to do with themselves. This is why the gentleman only applies names that can be properly spoken and assures that what he says can be properly put into action. The gentleman simply guards against arbitrariness in his speech. That is all there is to it.” (Confucius. Analects. trans. Edward Slingerland. Indianapolis: Hackett, 2003. 139).

Thank you, Dr. Song. Now, before you sit down, perhaps you could help me with something. I seem to have forgotten the name of the author of that very important dissertation about to be defended regarding doctrines of creation in Christianity and Confucianism. Do you recall who it is? Oh, that’s your dissertation? Well, this is awkward. Dear friends, please join me in congratulating Dr. Song on his tenure track appointment as Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Washington College in Maryland beginning in July.

The project of rectifying names begins with the assumption of a leader who has undergone an extensive program of moral self-cultivation. Such a leader would lead by moral force, that is, would have influence simply by virtue of the quality of their character, including at the level of influencing how their followers use language. Rectifying names is about making sure that language accords with reality, that words correspond with real objects, and that grammar articulates real relationships and distinctions. Of course, as we are learning in our time in real time, immorally self-cultivated leaders are quite capable of having precisely the opposite effect to disastrous social consequences.

For an example of rectifying names, we need turn nor further than right back to the Gospel according to St. John, the third chapter, the first through the fourteenth verses:

Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. He came to Jesus by night and said to him, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?’ Jesus answered, ‘Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be astonished that I say to you, “You must be born from above.” The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.’ Nicodemus said to him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. (NRSV)

Nicodemus is confused, and we can hardly blame him. As far as he can tell, birth is something that happens at the beginning of life, it occurs once, and it is a rather bloody affair of being forcibly ejected from the womb of one’s mother. Jesus is here rectifying the name “born” to refer not only to birth into this life but also to birth into eternal life, and this birth is by water and the Spirit from above. Unfortunately, this attempt at rectification largely fails. In point of fact, this is likely because Jesus violates two of the four maxims of conversational implicature identified by British philosopher of language H. Paul Grice as underlying conditions for successful communication. Jesus upholds the maxim of quality, speaking what he knows to be true, and the maxim of relevance, speaking to the topic at hand, but he violates the maxim of quantity by failing to provide as much information as needed for Nicodemus to understand, and the maxim of manner, which requires clarity, brevity, and orderliness while avoiding obscurity and ambiguity.

If anything, this excursus serves to demonstrate that rectifying the name of Christianity can be no small feat. The name of “Christian” for many refers not to the grace of God but to rank hypocrisy in service to the self-interests of its purveyors. Such hypocrisy is inevitable when so many Christians have shifted the reference of what they take to be ultimate from God to their own self-interests, which is precisely what Paul Tillich identified as idolatry: mistaking the finite for the infinite – the bible is mistaken for God, masculinity is mistaken for Christ-likeness, whiteness is mistaken for purity, the nation state is mistaken for the realm of God, and money is mistaken for salvation.

It is not the case that these idolatries are recent inventions among modern Christians. Many if not all of them have been lurking within Christianity virtually since the beginning. Much could be said detailing the histories of each of them, but for the moment let us focus on the last, the confusion of money for salvation. As another very important dissertation, recently defended at Harvard, points out, theology and economics have been intertwined in Christian theology all the way back to the writings of St. Paul, rendering the logic of salvation in financial terms.

I am grateful that my dear friend and colleague, the Rev. Dr. Jennifer Quigley, Chapel Associate for Vocational Discernment here at Marsh Chapel, is here to read an example of this from St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans, in Greek and English:

Ἄρα οὖν, ἀδελφοί, ὀφειλέται ἐσμὲν οὐ τῇ σαρκὶ τοῦ κατὰ σάρκα ζῆν, εἰ γὰρ κατὰ σάρκα ζῆτε, μέλλετε ἀποθνῄσκειν· εἰ δὲ πνεύματι τὰς πράξεις τοῦ σώματος θανατοῦτε, ζήσεσθε. ὅσοι γὰρ πνεύματι θεοῦ ἄγονται, οὗτοι υἱοὶ θεοῦ εἰσιν. οὐ γὰρ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα δουλείας πάλιν εἰς φόβον ἀλλ’ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα υἱοθεσίας ἐν ᾧ κράζομεν· αββα ὁ πατήρ. αὐτὸ τὸ πνεῦμα συμμαρτυρεῖ τῷ πνεύματι ἡμῶν ὅτι ἐσμὲν τέκνα θεοῦ. εἰ δὲ τέκνα, καὶ κληρονόμοι· κληρονόμοι μὲν θεοῦ, συγκληρονόμοι δὲ Χριστοῦ, εἴπερ συμπάσχομεν ἵνα καὶ συνδοξασθῶμεν.

So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ – if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (NRSV)

Thank you, Dr. Quigley. Now, before you sit down, perhaps you could help me with something. I seem to have forgotten the name of the author of that very important dissertation about theo-economics in St. Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. Do you recall who it is? Oh, that’s your dissertation? Well, this is awkward. (Is anyone else having déjà vu all over again?) Dear friends, please join me in congratulating Dr. Quigley on her graduation from Harvard Divinity School with the Doctor of Theology in New Testament and Early Christianity last week.

Some of you may be wondering how we got from there to the idolatrous hypocrisy that characterizes too much of Christianity today. Alas, it is really not that hard. Allow me to demonstrate. Hear then a proof that former U.S. President Jimmy Carter is in fact the savior of the world on the basis of the Gospel according to St. John, the third chapter, verses fifteen through seventeen:

‘And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.’ (NRSV)

From here I take you to Valentine’s Day 2011, my first Valentine’s Day with Holly, to whom I have now been blissfully married for six years today. Happy anniversary, love. On that Valentine’s Day in 2011, I had planned a nice evening out, with dinner at a tapas restaurant followed by a screening of Casablanca at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square. To this romantic plan, Holly appended a pre-dinner screening of a documentary film on the effort to eradicate Guinea Worm, a parasitic infection contracted by drinking contaminated water resulting in the growth of a worm, sometimes up to a meter long, in the lower extremities over the course of a year, which then emerge through a blister in the skin to deposit their larvae and begin the cycle all over again.

Now, in John 3: 15, Jesus prophesies that “just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” He is referring here back to the Hebrew Scriptures, the book of Numbers, the 21st chapter, where the Israelites are wandering around the desert whining and so God sends a plague of fiery serpents to whip them into shape. Of course, they repent, so God tells Moses to put a serpent on a pole and whoever looks at the serpent on the pole would live. (Note here the similarity with the medical symbol of the Rod of Asclepius, a Greek deity of healing and medicine, which is a serpent wrapped around a pole). Guinea worm may well be the plague of fiery serpents described in Numbers. After all, when the worm emerges from the skin, it does so through a painful blister that sufferers describe as a burning sensation. Thus, on the basis of Jesus prophesy linking his own crucifixion to the plague of fiery serpents, and then his crucifixion to the salvation of the world in verse seventeen, clearly the salvation of the world consists in the eradication of guinea worm. Since there are still people in the world who suffer from guinea worm, clearly Jesus’ crucifixion was not as successful in accomplishing this goal as he had promised. However, due largely to the dedication and resourcefulness of the Carter Foundation, led by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, guinea worm cases are down to only thirty worldwide in 2017 from 3.5 million cases thirty years prior. Thus, once guinea worm is finally eradicated once and for all, Jimmy Carter will have saved the world.

See, you really can get the bible to say pretty much anything. I should note that Jimmy Carter himself would be horrified by this interpretation. If you don’t believe me, then you should attend bible study with him at Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia before church some Sunday. Just be sure to get there early, very early, like, before 6:00a.m., if you want a seat.

This example also serves to make Confucius’ point that when names are not used in a way that accords with the contours of reality, “the common people will be at a loss as to what to do with themselves.” Indeed, what are we do with Christianity and those who call themselves Christians? Confucius prescribes exemplary moral leadership that does not succumb to the inevitable hypocrisy of idolatry but instead accords its own actions with what is real, and true, and good, that is, with God. Such leaders would be able to rectify the name of Christianity by influencing others to accord their actions with what is real, and true, and good.

But where are we to find such leaders? Right here! Marsh Chapel! You are such leaders. You have the ability to go out and in thought, word, and deed to rectify the name of Christianity. You are empowered by the Spirit to go forth and accord your actions with what is real, and true, and good, to inspire others to accord their actions with what is real, and true, and good, and to hold those in power to account when they lie, and cheat, and steal. To rectify the name of Christianity, go forth as good Confucians that you may resist hypocrisy and idolatry, that you may properly distinguish the finite from the infinite, and that you may lead with moral force. On this Trinity Sunday, bind unto yourselves the strong name of God who makes reality, Christ the norm of truth, and the Spirit that leads us into goodness. Amen.

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

Sunday
May 13

‘This I Believe’ Meditations

By Marsh Chapel

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John 17:6-19

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Robin Masi – Ed.D – Educational Leadership and Policy Studies; SED’18 

I believe in the power of art to transcend boundaries that words cannot provide.

I believe that living the life of an artist and teaching art students one needs to learn from those that have gone before us.

This has brought me to think about my own role model, Sister Marie deSales Dinneen and one of her role models while she attended Boston University over 50 years ago. She encouraged me to attend B.U. for my doctorate in education – her beloved alma mater.

Sr. Marie always knew she wanted to be a nun. She was a devoted sister, teacher to the “youngsters” at Regis as she called them, and a rabid Boston sports fan.

Sr. first attended Harvard University on a full scholarship. She studied the classics which as she put it “was like crucifying myself” so she transferred to Boston University and for the next 10 years she received her PhD in art history and then another bachelors and masters from the College of Fine Arts. She never exhibited her work but wanted to be the best teacher for her students. Her own art work was phenomenal and included joyous themes of complex compositions of parades, holidays, and other multi-group outings.

Phillip Guston is one of the most well-known abstract expressionist artists whose oversized canvases of Klansmen, fat men in cigars, and other aggressive imagery was painted in violent and expressive tones of black, gray and red. His work dealt head-on with social and political issues and he has exhibited internationally for decades. I couldn’t imagine two more different people or artists. Phillip was one of Sr. Marie’s professors here at BU.

Sister once told me “My first introduction to Phillip was when I was sitting in class, in layperson’s clothing as this was after Vatican II, and he looked at me and said,

‘And I see we have Marie Dinneen from Weston. Are you one of those ladies who are here because your husband says you are a good painter?

“Not quite,” Sr. Marie recounted. “I’m a teacher at Regis College and I’m here like everybody else in that I want to learn about art.”

She recalled another conversation.

“I was early for class one day and my work was on the board ready for a critique. It was a jumble of gesture drawings of Archbishop Cushing with kids making their confirmation.”

Phillip asked ‘is that yours, Marie? I think I see a cardinal – he’s holding his hand out to the great unwashed.”

“Yes,’ she said – ‘he has a special way of doing it’ and I flung my hand out – and he said humorously, ‘that’s it, Marie, we’re the great unwashed!” They had a good laugh together and he became one of the best critiquers of her work.

“I grew to like him very much,” she said.
When she learned of her acceptance to the MFA program at CFA another professor said,

‘Marie, you’d be interested to know that the one who went to bat for you the most to get into the MFA program was Phillip.”

I believe Sr. Marie found her place here at B.U., and so did I. Just like she said I would.

I believe that when you follow those who have come before you, you always end up in the right place.

Anne Marie Kelley – MS -Project Management; MET’18

At 59 I may not be the oldest graduate this year, but I most certainly am not the youngest. However, I believe that if you are open to changing, to enriching your life through learning, you can do anything.

I believe in the power of a smile; it’s a non-verbal sign of encouragement, a universal sign of welcome, a way to say I see you and you are not alone.

I believe in the power of laughter; it can ease tense moments, make us realize that you don’t have to take everything in life so seriously.

I believe in celebrating small successes. Many of our goals in life, like pursuing a degree, will take time to achieve. Celebrating the small successes helps recharge our batteries so we can continue pursuing our goals.

I believe in faith, in yourself, in your friends and family and in God. Faith gives you the courage and strength to keep moving forward, to overcome obstacles. Faith gives you hope.

I believe it’s okay to not be perfect, even sometimes to fail; it builds coping skills and the perseverance you need to keep moving forward.

I believe in the power of grit, of holding on, of hanging in there even when times are difficult, as this prepares you for whatever happens in your life, and it is a necessary ingredient for success in whatever endeavor you undertake.

I believe in the power of asking for help and offering to help. We all have different skills and talents and sharing these talents will help us make the world a better place.

I believe in the power of embracing diversity. By learning about others you learn more about yourself. You come to realize that we have more in common than in our differences.

This commencement is a double blessing for me as my son is also graduating and earning his undergraduate degree. I know that parents of all graduates – whether from the US or from another country, no matter their race, religion or socio- economic status, want the same as I want for my son; an opportunity to have a good life, to be productive, to define and achieve their own success and happiness, to know that they are loved, and to be able to love themselves and others.

I believe it does ‘take a village’ to raise a child. It’s our job to help the next generation; to ensure that we leave this world in the hands of those capable to make the world a better place.

And, I do believe even an old dog can learn new tricks, if they are willing and if they have the love and support of family and friends. After all none of us travels this journey of life alone, we need each other to become the best version of ourselves.

Evan Armacost -BA/MA – Classical Studies; CAS/GRS’18

“Take, Lord, receive, all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will.” So begins Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s Suscipe prayer that changed my life a little more

than one year ago. My faith journey at Boston University began with a certain hesitation; styles of worship and community were very different from my home parish in Evanston, IL, compounding on the homesick anxieties of going to college halfway across the country. For too long my Catholicism felt like a crystal cup I had inherited from my family and parish community: something that I was obligated to protect but that was not entirely mine. I turned instead to academics for consolation and validation, filling my schedule and my identity with studies and professional aspirations while growing increasingly empty.

As my spirit and selfhood reached a chilling nadir I embarked on my long-awaited semester abroad in Rome which would become the beginning of a pilgrimage that continues to this day. There I felt drawn to pray, to journal, to re-evaluate my life and its meaning in new ways. One word kept tugging at my heart: surrender. Such a prospect terrified me. I had spent a year and a half deeply curved in on myself in a relentless quest to achieve some ever-distant “success.” What would it mean to let go?

My wrestling inclinations came to a head during an Art History field trip to the Chiesa della Gesù, mother church of the Jesuits. From the moment I entered the church I came to the realization that for years I had been chasing my pride and ambitions ahead of God’s wishes for me. I resolved to turn my life back toward God and outside of myself, in whatever way the Lord would invite me. Be warned: “Ask and you shall receive!” Kneeling before the tomb of Saint Ignatius on the church’s left side I found an English prayer card with the text of the Suscipe.

“Whatever I have or possess You have given to me; to You I return it and hand it over to be governed by Your will.”

As I read words that promised a radical gift of self beyond my boldest imaginings I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I had never understood that this phrase, so often found in Scripture, was more than metaphor: it was an all-encompassing sensation. I became empowered and encouraged by a love I had nearly forgotten. It was then that I knew that, even if I gave God everything, I would lack nothing.

From that day to the present I have endeavored to share the love that I experienced in Rome. I make eye contact, I smile, I listen – really listen. Academics instead of an end themselves are now a means to that greatest End, God, and bring me great joy. The BU Catholic Center, always a space where I felt welcome, has become a second home. By the wisdom of the Holy Spirit I have decided to enter the Jesuits after my time at Boston University comes to an end. I do not know all that my future holds, but I have learned to trust those final words of Ignatius’ prayer:

“May you give to me only Your love and grace and I will be rich enough, nor will I ask for anything more.”

Nichholas Rodriguez – BS – Computer Engineering; ENG’18 

In my four years, I am not sure if I could reduce what I believe to a set of theological statements or ideas. I think if someone were to ask me, “what do you believe?,” I would maybe point them to the set of creedal statements that the Reverend Dean Hill mentioned months ago in a sermon titled A Word in the Wilderness. There, among other statements, he said:

“God is love…[and]
Life is a sacred journey to freedom.”

I would also maybe point to Mike McHargue’s Axioms about Faith, where he states:

“Faith is AT LEAST a way to contextualize the human need for spirituality and find meaning in the face of mortality…, [and]

God is AT LEAST the natural forces that created and sustain the Universe as experienced via a psychosocial model in human brains that naturally emerges from innate biases.”

While my theology has changed over these last four years, I would say the real change in what I believe is not exactly the base narratives of my own personal creeds, but rather my attitudes about them.

For our personal creeds deal with what it means to be.

In these last four years, I oftentimes found myself trying to find the courage to be in the midst of the many tensions that exist within our modern, globalized societies and within my own story as I wrestled with my own humanity.

In my four years here, I wrestled with doubt and the seemingly endless conflicts between my scientific intuition and my living, breathing faith.

I wrestled with the dark nights in my soul, I wrestled with failures and loss, and I wrestled with the implications of my own smallness and our Pale Blue Dot’s fragileness in a large, cold universe, and with the death of my God felt at the loss of my Freshman year’s neatly wrapped up faith. But, in the death of my God, I felt for a moment a connectedness between everything and the energy within myself keeping me alive. I felt, for a moment, existence itself.

I wrestled with what it meant to hold convictions and identities in a pluralistic world. In my four years here, I figured out really quickly that life does not make perfect sense, and that while there are wrongs and there are injustices in our world that we need to resist, I also learned that humanity’s distinct and diverse set of religious, spiritual and cultural identities are all beautiful – and that unity is not uniformity.

In my wrestling, I often felt connected to something greater. In the many conversations I had with colleagues surrounding justice, meaning, and the future of our world, there were times when I felt morealive. I felt the energy within me beating and a connection within myself to the millennia of traditions and ideas that are constantly in conversation with me. For moments, I felt the words of prophets and teachers, of the New Being and of Spirit, working through me. A few times, I felt for moments that these stories, my culture, my faith, and these conversations truly matter.

So, in my experiences I learned to be thankful, to listen, to empathize, and to engage.

We exist for the time we do, and in every moment, we have the opportunity to engage. We have the opportunity to engage with ourselves, with what we care about, with our world, with those around us, and with the Ground of Being from which we exist.

And, it is within wrestling with this holy tension and our own humanities, it is within our engaging with those of whom we may be unfamiliar, and it is within our finding the common ground(s) binding us, where we may see the face of God.

Marritt Nowak – BA – International Relations; CAS/Pardee’ 18

I believe in change. Four years ago I made a decision. After fourteen years of faith-based education at my Catholic school in St. Louis, I was ready for a change. I went from a class just short of one hundred girls to my undergraduate year at BU, with nearly four thousand students from all over the world. Different. Boston University, with its promise of diversity, urban environment and New England weather promised to be the exact opposite of what I had grown accustomed to. And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Of course, what we think when we first arrive as undergraduates and what we know when we leave also tend to be completely different things. Just a few weeks in to freshman year, I was invited to hear the Marsh Chapel Choir perform one of their exquisite Bach cantatas. I had always loved classical music, and a new friend would be singing, it sounded like a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning. The moment I entered this space I felt overwhelmed with welcoming smiles, friendly handshakes and of course the thoughtful preaching and beautiful music. I was home.

My visits increased in frequency, cantata after cantata, fellowship events with the global ministry department, and holy week services bringing me further and further into this community, something I had not anticipated as I tried to break out of what I thought was faith boxing me in. But that wasn’t the case at all, faith was the very thing opening doors to the diversity and new experiences I craved when I first began my journey. Before I knew it I was back in religion classes, eventually choosing to minor in the subject and visiting the chapel whenever I was free for interfaith fellowship events. I knew I needed to bring the welcoming spirit and positive energy I encountered in this space to more communities. This semester, I have welcomed refugees to a new country, using the warmth and earnest kindness I learned from Marsh Chapel. I had the privilege of assisting new arrivals in obtaining vital social services. It was waiting in lines or on hold, advocating for the people who had next to no one in their corner, that I learned to believe in welcome.

I arrived here unsure of what faith even means, completely out of touch with the things that I believe. The picture is not yet crystal clear, and I assume parts of it will shift and change forms throughout my life, but the pieces have begun to come together. I believe that difference is a good thing, that it makes us stronger. I believe that true community is not founded on mere tolerance, but strengthened by pluralism that embraces diversity, welcomes changes and blossoms with compassion. Going forward, I have learned not only to be open to the differences I encounter in others, but ready to accept change within myself. I came to BU with a desire to change the world; I leave here with the hope that the world will continue to change me.

 

Sunday
May 6

Easter Remembrance

By Marsh Chapel

 

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John 15:9-17

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A text copy of this sermon is not available.

-The Reverend Doctor, Robert Allan Hill, Dean.