Communion Meditation

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James 1:22-27

Mark 7:1-8

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As you enter this year of study, every day you will have a chance and a need for some pause, some moments of quiet.  Use your familiar devotional reminders to bring peace of mind and encouragement of heart.  Recite the decalogue.  Recall the creed.  Repeat the beatitudes.  Rely on the Lord’s Prayer.  Remember Paul’s admonitions.  One of our student choristers brings you our sincere,  communal and heartfelt word of welcome.  Maggie?

 

Welcome

 

Maggie:  Welcome to the varied ministry of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, fall 2018!  We look forward to getting to know you, as you sign up to sing in a choir, as you volunteer to usher or greet, as you attend a fellowship or study group, and especially as you worship with us on Sunday at 11am! 

            The envisioned mission of Marsh Chapel is to be ‘a heart in the heart of the city, and a service in the service of the city’.  To that end Dr. Jarrett will invite you to vocal expressions of faith in the life of our music program.  To that end Ms. Chicka will invite you to global outreach in our work with International students.  To that end Br. Whitney will invite you to take part and take leadership in campus student ministry.  To that end Mr. Bouchard will solicit your support for work and works in hospitality. 

            This year, with our emphasis on ‘voice, vocation, and volume’ in our shared life, we are using as a focus for our work the word ‘hope’.   Our summer, fall and spring term worship and community life are laden with expressions of hope.  We trust and hope that each and every Sunday Morning will become an occasion for the speaking and hearing of ‘a word of faith in a pastoral voice toward a common hope’. 

            Where we can be personally helpful to you, and where our staff, chaplains, and campus ministers can be a benefit and blessing to you, do not hesitate to call up on us. 

            John Wesley famously called for a means of grace to ‘spread scriptural holiness and reform the nation’.  Now that was a big dream! May grace expand and extend in meaning for us in the fall term, 2018!

To begin, as you enter, as you ‘matriculate’, today and this week, we offer you, in communion meditation, three thoughts on adventure, regret, and faith.

 

  1. Adventure

 

We will keep ourselves in good balance by a daily quiet, a regular silence.  In this time we may recall and recite the ten commandments, the apostles’ creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the beatitudes.

In so doing, we may be able to remember, to recollect, to regather ourselves by reference to our best selves, to our own-most selves.  We have, for instance, had three years of shouting about a wall to be built along the Rio Grande.  But even once, or at all, have you heard a reference in all this hollering to the Monroe Doctrine?  The Monroe Doctrine expressed a singular, particular interest, on the part of the United States, in the whole of the Western Hemisphere.  It privileged, rather than denigrated, our relationship with the peoples and lands from Canada to Mexico to Chile.  Have you heard it quoted, or referenced in the last two years?

We happily have a rising senior, who is a student leader at Marsh Chapel, and an international studies major, who can help us remember the Monroe Doctrine.  Denise, what can you tell us?

Denise:  The Monroe Doctrine, authored by James Monroe in 1823, is in the main a statement of American commitment to the welfare and well-being of our northern and southern neighbors, Canada to Chile.  It has waned and waxed in actual influence, and at times has been tragically abused.  Theodore Roosevelt added his own corollary about 100 years after the original.  The Monroe Doctrine expresses American commitment to protection and defense of our neighbors in this hemisphere. 

Who knows?  Perhaps some part of our matriculating class of 2022 will engage in the adventure of rebuilding culture, society, economy and politics in our international neighborhood.  Listen again to the love poetry in the Song of Songs.  The voice of my beloved!  Behold he comes, leaping upon the mountains, bounding over the hills. Voice…Beloved…Leaping…Bounding!   Life is just full of potential, of possibility!!  Life is an unending set of adventures!!  Why we could as a country, for instance, rebuild the Central American societies and economies that are sending parents and children fleeing for their lives north to America.  We have the means.  We have the motivation.  Bridges are better than walls.  In safety and with jobs, people could stay in their own countries.  What an adventure that would be, to see the Monroe Doctrine refit for the 21st century!   You might want to venture in adventure to study abroad, even perhaps south of the border.

 

  1. Regret

 

We will keep ourselves in good balance by a daily quiet, a regular silence.  In this time we may recall and recite the ten commandments, the apostles’ creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the beatitudes.  In so doing, we may be able to sharpen our capacity to the tell the difference between the true and the false, between the decent and the scurrilous.

You probably remember the phrase, ‘Methinks the lady protesteth too much’.   In hindsight we gain insight though often the insight is painful.  Where is this remembered phrase found?  In Shakespeare.   It expresses doubt in another’s sincerity (for those older than I), or authenticity (for those of my own generation), or capacity for irony (for those coming into the student ranks today).

We happily have a rising junior, who is a student leader at Marsh Chapel, and an English major, who can help us remember Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet, from near the year 1600.  Tom, what can you tell us?

Tom:  Well, actually, Dean Hill, the quotation, though often put as you did, is more accurately, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks“.  The line so spoken is a little subtler and has an irony to it.  Here Queen Gertrude remarks on the insincerity, the overstatement within the ‘play within the play’ that Prince Hamlet writes.   The play itself shows guilt and insincerity, as does the famous line about ‘protesting too much’.  We use it in everyday speech to say that someone is lying.

By the way, if you have to choose, along the way, what in college to read, read some Shakespeare and read some Scripture.  The Bible and the Bard are the best, in the long run.  Both know about regret, a short or one word definition of hell.  Hell is regret, and regret is hell.  Hardly anyone escapes this life with no regrets.  They befall us all.  But we can at least be aware of them.  We can least strive to minimize them, both in quantity and in quality, both in number and size.  These years, if it be possible, we pray, let your regrets be few, so that your fulsome sense of irony and authenticity and sincerity will shine through.   The thing about social media, the newer technological forms, is that it is possible to represent yourself as someone a bit other than yourself.  For a time.  But over time, the truth, the hard truth, comes out.  When you look others in the eye and speak.  And they look in you in the eye and listen.  That is when you don’t want to have to ‘protest too much’.  As the Bard also wrote, trite but still true, ‘to thine own self be true’.  At least as much as possible!  When I lie, I hurt most myself.  Regret, the recognition of a lived moment of lying, hurts not others, but me.  Eschew regret.  Limit regret.  May your regrets be few and far between.

My esteemed friend Professor Andrew Bacevich, speaking to the graduating class of our own BU Academy some years ago, said:  ‘Now you are going off to college.  You will sometimes find yourself in a situation where a little soulful radar sounds inside you.  You know that something is afoot that just might not be right.  Listen to the beeping, the conscience, the sound of that soulful radar’.  The hardened and stern lessons of the Letter of James stand in this tradition: ‘be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves’.  It is not just what you learn or hear, it is what you do or don’t do that makes a life, a college career, and a person.

 

  1. Faith

 

We will keep ourselves in good balance by a daily quiet, a regular silence.  In this time we may recall and recite the ten commandments, the apostles’ creed, the Lord’s prayer, and the beatitudes.

We are living through a national debate about whether honor is necessary to leadership, or not.  Here in Mark 7 honor comes in two varieties, the one of the lips and the other of the heart.  Said one this week, speaking of his work place, ‘What is missing there is heart’.

May your adventures be many, and may your regrets be few.  The power to see things through, both when you need the accelerator and when you need the brakes, the capacity to balance the two, goes by the name of faith.   As the Gospel today emphasizes, it is the inside of the cup, the heart, the sense of honor, over time, that matters most.  Faith is the courage to continue to lean forward, when adventure is in the balance, and the courage to continue to lean backward, when regret is in the outcome.  Whatever, says Paul, is not of faith, that is sin.  So we gather for prayer every Sunday, and are led by lay leaders like Sandra, who often prays with and for us, as she does this morning.  Sandra?

 

Sandra:   Gracious God Holy and Just

Thou from whom we come and unto whom our spirits return

Thou our dwelling place in all generations

Rest upon us in the silence of this moment we pray

Dry the tears of those moved to emotion in an hour of separation

Illumine the skyline of opportunity that lies behind the rain clouds of worry

Carry young hearts open to friendship into seas of friendship

Help us hear for our time the voice of the Prophet

‘What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly’?

Help us we earnestly pray to prefer justice to judgment

Help us we earnestly pray to love the merciful more than the material

Help us we earnestly pray to walk humbly not haughtily

May the degrees we earn turn by degrees the wheel of life from judgment to justice

May the courses we choose inspire in choices later a keenness of mind matched by a fullness of heart

May the learning we gain afford us the gain of humility, the honest desire to give credit where credit is due, and not to tip the scale

May the friendships we make in their turn make us less inclined to judgment and more enamored of justice

May the regrets we acquire then incline us to mercy, as we have felt mercy, and not to material measurements alone

May the adventures we bravely pursue give us the wisdom to know our condition, mortal, frail, prone to harm others, frail, mortal

May all our acquisition of knowledge chase us toward justice, toward mercy, and toward humility

And the wisdom to welcome, later, perhaps much later, the recognition that

The larger the body of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of mystery  that surrounds it

The larger the body of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of mystery that surrounds it

Amen

– The Reverend Doctor, Robert Allan Hill, Dean.

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