Heart and Voice

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1 Samuel 3:1-20

2 Corinthians 4:5-12

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Heart and Voice

Goodness is close at hand.  Goodness is close to you.  Goodness is not far, not out of reach, not gone, not gone forever.  Goodness, what makes life liveable, and godly, is within reach.  Are you ready to reach out and receive?

Goodness is right close at hand, even when we do not see her.  Even when the days bristle with ugliness, with mendacity, with the lack of virtuous example in leadership, with a willingness to use ugliness, mendacity and lack of virtue to hurt and maim by what we say and what we do.  This is the clue to the long reading from Samuel, wherein all looks bleak for the ancient Israelites:  but goodness has not quit the field just yet.  Eli will be chastened, but there will be heart and voice, still.  In Samuel.  This is the clue to the beauty of Psalm 139, wherein should we even travel to heaven, to hell, to uttermost parts of the sea, even there goodness will find us, the right hand will guide us, the light will shine in the darkness.  Are you at a point to listen, and then to notice, and then to abide in goodness?  This is the clue to the choicest of Pauline passages, 2 Cor.  What a shame that we do not always know and hear the Holy Scripture for what it is:  Holy. True and loving, honest and kind. We are indeed cast down.  But not forsaken.  Not driven to despair.  Is that not a good reason, goodness knows, to bestir yourself and come Sunday come to church? There are many reasons not to worship, but far more to get up and come your hair and come to church.  Goodness is lurking, waiting, watching, reaching out, ready with a helping hand for you.  This is the clue to Mark 2, and the debates about Sabbath.  Sabbath is good.  What heals the human heart and lifts the human voice is goodness.  Good that gets in the way of goodness is not good, like religion that gets in the way of God is not godly.  Behold the strange, beautiful, saving, powerful, loving world of the Bible, the good book.

Goodness is close at hand.  Goodness is close to you.  Goodness is not far, not out of reach, not gone, not gone forever.  Goodness, what makes life liveable, and godly, is within reach.  Are you ready to reach out and receive?

 

Heart and Mind

 The paper carried a story last week about a woman who was found out by goodness. (NYT, 5/25/18).  Goodness saved her as goodness can do.  Maybe at home.  Maybe in holy communion.  Maybe in prayer.  Maybe in the meandering melody of a summer sermon.

Her name is Louise Penny.  She is a Canadian crime novelist.  For those of us with a little Raymond Chandler roving  the back roads of our imaginations, she is a companion, compatriot, confrere, an ‘unfailingly cheery detective writer’, centered on Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, hero of her 13 books.  In the writer’s house is a throw cushion with the words ‘goodness exists’.

At age 46, she had written not a single book.  In fact, her life was hanging by a thread.  She was depressed and lonely, and had turned to alchohol for self-medication.  She said: ‘Gnawing loneliness, self-loathing, fear…I know what it is like to hate yourself so much  that you have to murder yourself.  Coming out on the other side gave me a profound belief that goodness exists’.

How did she get out?  All of our churches have been winsomely populated and supported by many who found goodness in the way she did.  First, she found community, in her case, Alchoholics Anonymous.  Every one of our churches has had a group meeting of this or similar sort.  Second, she found a friend, actually a doctor who later became her husband.  Friendship is a rare gift in life, sometimes only touched like the hem of a dress passing by.

Encouraged by community, encouraged by friendship, Louise Penny started to do what she loves and to love what she does.  Do what you love and love what you do. She writes spell binding crime novels set in a little Quebec village.  She said: ‘My books are love letters to Quebec’.  One preacher said his sermons are ‘love letters to New England’. Friend:  right here, close at hand, in the pew and in the nave, there is community for you and there is friendship for you.  Community. Friendship.  Don’t take only the preacher’s word for it, or only the church’s witness to it, or only the religious longing for it.  People like Ms. Penny have found it, along the struggling path of life, in community and in friendship.  We pause to ask you a question, speaking of heart:  have you made space enough in life, your life, your one and only life, for community and friendship?

Heart and Service

Goodness is close at hand.  So close, so close that if it were a snake it would bite you.  Plain as nose on your face, and plainer still, plain as the nose on my face.  Why it is right here, all around us.  Yes, right here, for a moment, we pause to give thanks, right here, right now for some of the goodness here at Boston University.  You know, healthy good institutions really matter, and where by heart and voice, in heart and service, we see goodness, we want to name it, to claim it, to celebrate it.

President Brown said this spring: Boston University is an institution with a long history of outreach and engagement.  (President Robert A. Brown, 3/12/18.)

President Merlin said in 1923: Boston University lives in the heart of the city, in the service of the city. (President Lemuel Merlin, 1923.)

One deeply embedded value and strength of Boston University, today, and found in every school and college is this long (1839) history (Methodism) of outreach (heart) and service (in the world, for the world).  Goodness.

The three medical campus schools lead the way with care for the urban poor (MED), with daily recognition that public health means social justice (SPH), and with the most global student body of any school or college at every commencement (GSDM).

All fourteen schools on the Charles River campus show the shadows and lingering long-term influence of heart and service.

Reflect on the current emphasis in Questrom upon ethical business and business ethics.

Remember the School of Education’s 25-year commitment to the Chelsea city schools, but also ongoing delightful efforts like their work in literacy through the 20 years of gift to urban school children through BUILD (Boston University Initiative on Literacy Development), and the outreach to Boston Public Schools so strongly enhanced by the Wheelock merger.

Rejoice at the concept of ‘citizen artist’, the ‘social artist’, affirmed at the College of Fine Arts, the best of theater and music and visual art, brought to the street level (along with the Arts Initiative).

Reflect on the curricular and co-curricular engagement in the School of Theology, with current issues like race, gun violence, immigration, and poverty, the ongoing voice of ‘The School of the Prophets’. 

Remember the School of Social Work engagements with neighboring hospitals and schools, in internships and partnerships.

Rejoice at the ongoing vitality within Metropolitan College of a now veteran program in prison education.

Reflect on the Engineering School support for Women in Science, Math and Technology, and the Inovation Lab for a better world.

Remember the School of Hospitality emphasis on servant leadership.

Rejoice at the communal nature of education at the College of General Studies, modeling dimensions of shared learning and living with great effect.

Reflect on College of Arts and Sciences and its birth of the PARDEE School, committed to world peace.

Remember the Law School, and its honored graduates, like Barbara Jordan, who have defended the legal system of this country, ‘a country of laws and not of men’; and Cornell William Brooks, former head of the NAACP.

Rejoice at the varied commitments through School of Communication to the development of an educated populace, on which the rest of democracy depends.

Reflect on the Sargent School lectureships on physical and occupational therapy, open to the public, and applicable to the work of many other schools and colleges as well, with focus on the care of the whole person.

To these vital forms of outreach and engagement in schools and colleges, add co-curricular projects (brought into more prominence by the new ‘HUB’ initiative).  That is, add the influence of the Howard Thurman Center in race and conversation across difference;  the special scholarships for city students (Menino), for Catholic students (Medeiros), and for Methodist Students (Clergy offspring); add the voice of Marsh Chapel, across the region and around the globe, every Sunday morning; add the 6 University Chaplaincies and 25 campus ministries, all with some portion of service; add the ROTC program for women and men preparing to ‘preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States’ (including with their very lives);  add the Hubert Humphrey Scholars international students and families program (one of the original programs in the country); add occasional work like the space given to 1,000 Tulane students for the year 2005-6following Katrina; add the Community Service Center and its multiple programs and FYSOP;  add the Pardee Center and its ecumenical and hopeful labor; add the Elie Wiesel Center; add PILOT; add the BU Initiative on Cities; add the Sustainability Center:  all of these to some measure reach out beyond the University to serve and help the larger community, across the region and around the globe.  Boston University exemplifies a culture of ‘outreach and engagement’.

Friends, as Peter Marshall used to say, ‘There are a lot of things wrong. But there are a lot of things right.’ Clasp goodness today, in word and song and sacrament, as nourishment for the week to come.

Goodness is close at hand.  Goodness is close to you.  Goodness is not far, not out of reach, not gone, not gone forever.  Goodness, what makes life liveable, and godly, is within reach.  Are we ready to reach out and receive?

– The Rev. Dr. Robert A. Hill

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