Communion Meditation, Advent 1

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Luke 21:25-36

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Welcome


We welcome you into this season of preparation, Advent 2018.  What a rich array of worship, fellowship and service opportunities you have given to the community, here at Marsh Chapel, December 2018.  Thank you for all you do in music, hospitality, global outreach, and ministry! Bring a friend with you to worship sometime this month! This newsletter carries information about services and events.

Of particular note, Jan and I welcome you again to our annual Christmas Open House.  Please stop by and join us following Lessons and Carols in worship December 9, 2018. The Open House is held in the newly renovated ‘Castle’ a block from the Chapel, 225 Bay State Road, 12:00—2:00pm.

As the Christian year begins and the secular yearly calendar ends, I give great thanks for your ongoing generosity.  Over these years you have greatly enhanced our annual giving and support. Particularly our Ministry and Music Endowment, our Friends of Music initiative, our new Ministry grants, and especially your general, undesignated weekly giving have built this growth.  The pursuit of our mission, to be a heart in the heart of the city, and a service in the service of the city, with emphasis on voice, vocation, and volume, depends upon your ongoing generosity. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

In addition, sometimes people ask, come year end, is there anything in particular, or in addition to all of these possibilities, that you would encourage us to consider for giving in December.  And the answer is ‘yes’. I encourage you to consider support of whatever size and substance for the Endowment of the Deanship of Marsh Chapel (link here). I recognize that the $4.2M goal of this dream is lofty.  But for the long term future, for the future of all that we are currently doing, and will yet do, there is nothing more important. It may be that one person, a member or a listener or a friend or a colleague, will make a single gift of this endowment, or a planned gift for this endowment, in one fell swoop.  But there are other ways for us to get there, if my 5th grade arithmetic is still accurate:  4 gifts of $1M, 40 gifts of $100,000, 400 gifts of $10,000, or 4,000 gifts of $1,000.  Life is full of possibilities!

Daily Devotions

You will want to continue, as we enter the season of Advent and the transition into a new liturgical year, with regular daily devotions.  May they be Scriptural, as in Exodus 20 (the decalogue is here recited). May they be Creedal, as in the Apostles’ Creed (here recited). May they be Blessed, as in the Beatitudes (here recited).  May they be practical, as in the Pauline Thirteen (here recited). When we transition into a new beginning, we rely heavily on grace.

Once we had a guest minister who could not remember the Lord’s prayer.  He finally asked the congregation, ‘Folks, could you please help get me started?’  He did fine once he got started. Sometimes we need just a little help to begin, to get started.

How do you begin to live as a person of faith?  You come to ordered worship, Come Sunday. You read the Bible, in church and at home.  You pray, over meals and at the beginning of the day. You keep faith in work, in life, in marriage, in partnership, in thought and speech and deed.  You keep faith. You receive the Sacrament. You bow in silence. You give yourself in service to others. You discipline your use of time and money. You make a decision to tithe, to give away a certain percentage of your income each year.  You live rejoicing. You face down anxiety. You begin by making a beginning.

How do you begin to live as a person of faith?  You read NT Wright’s book, Simply Christian.  You read CS Lewis older, similar volume, Mere Christianity.  You read a collection of Marsh sermons, from Howard Thurman or Robert Cummings Neville, or the current dean.  You read a chapter a day, for two weeks, of the Gospel of Mark, which will get you right through the earliest Gospel.  And you come to church, to the hear the Holy Scripture read and rendered.

It helps to remember some things by heart.  At 18 Charlayne Hunter-Gault was the first student to integrate the University of Georgia.  She was taunted, threatened, stalked, and frightened. She went into her room, locked the door against the night, pulled the blinds, and decided not to go home.  She recited through the night the 23 Psalm. It helps to remember some things by heart

Scriptures of Transition and Beginnings

Today, Jeremiah, the Psalmist, Paul, and Luke all address us this morning in the matter of transitions, of beginnings.  That is the thing about faith. It takes a leap. So we speak of the ‘leap of faith’. Faith takes a leap.

For Jeremiah, that leap in transition toward a new beginning relies on the promise of God.  This is true of the entire Old Testament. God is the God of promise, the God of future, the God faith, the God of hope.  They are the promises of God that sustain the starts and changes and transitions and beginnings for the journey, for the itineracy, for the traveling people of faith.  Faith is a continuous exodus from established positions. Ask Abraham, or Deborah, or Miriam, or Moses, or Joshua, or Samuel, or Saul, or David, or any one of the sixteen prophets, including today Jeremiah.  He preached four decades worth of unheeded sermons and was buried in an unmarked grave, sixth centuries before the turn of the ages. Yet he could still lift a prophetic promise, in the name of God:  Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell secure…a branch will spring forth from David…The Lord is our righteousness.  We inherit and depend upon the wayfaring experience of Israel, upon the God who keeps God’s promises.  Jeremiah helps us to begin.

For David, or for whoever wrote our Psalm this morning, our start in faith, our beginning in faith begins with the prayer to know thy ways…teach me thy paths…lead me in thy truth.  There is a prayer of confession, more true as one ages, but true in all ages, remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions, according to thy steadfast love remember me.  The paths of the Lord are steadfast love and faithfulness. There is some work involved here, on our part, to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.  Faith and the life of faith, like anything else, benefit from some actual attention, labor, work, discipline.  The Psalmist helps us to begin.

For Paul, the beginning of his collection of letters, his epistolary fame, is on display this morning.  I Thessalonians is the oldest book in the New Testament, from the year 50. In that way it is the beginning of the Gospel, and fit especially for the first Sunday of Advent.  The whole of the letter is a celebration and an anticipation of the Coming of the Lord. Every chapter, five in all, contains this theme, the Coming of the Lord, including with emphasis our reading from chapter 3 today.  Our beginnings are enmeshed in His Advent. May…our Lord Jesus Christ direct our way…so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of the Lord Jesus with all his saints. Thanksgiving, joy, faith, love—at the beginning of the faith of Christ, we find exuberant encouragement.  Paul helps us to begin.

For Luke (now you note we have turned from Mark to Luke, from 2018 to 2019) the traditional expectation of an apocalyptic end time, the beginning of end if you will, is here recorded.  Luke moves from eschatology to ethics, though, as our reading shows. Watch at all times…have strength…to stand before the Son of Man.  The prophecy here rendered, the prediction given, as it happened, did not occur, did not occur:  this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.   Yet Luke’s Gospel teaching, inaccurate in terms of time, is nonetheless timeless in terms of accuracy.  You begin by abstaining from evil. You begin by turning away from what brings harm, to yourself or others.  You begin by putting distance between yourself and drunkenness and dissipation. Frances Willard in our back window would have agreed.  Be prepared, at all times, in all places, in all ways, in all ages, be prepared. Begin by being prepared. Luke helps us to begin.

You know, faith takes a leap, a leap of faith.  And faith leads into a land of kindness and gentleness.   This weekend as a nation we remember our 41 President. We remember his ability to leap out of airplanes, past the age of 90.  And we remember his hope, stated in the 1989 inaugural, for a ‘kinder, gentler’ nation, country, land, people.

Celie Johnson

“I received an email that would change everything for me. Wheelock College as I knew it was going to close effective June 1, 2018, and that Wheelock would be merging with Boston University. As expected, I had a minor meltdown and LOTS of questions spinning in my head. I told my mom, essentially, ‘I did not sign up for this, I am not going to Boston University!’ I really considered transferring to Emmanuel College, which I had gotten into along with Wheelock. My mom eventually talked me out of it, even though I was hesitant still.

Sophomore year flew by, and it got to the point where there was a lot of tension at Wheelock because people wanted answers. This was another transition because I had to transition into getting ready to essentially start my college career all over again. I finished Sophomore year and went home determined to spend the summer preparing myself for the transition and the new school year.

I returned to Boston ready for the challenge of a bigger school, more people, and tougher classes. I was also determined to get involved in some way at BU. However, the most important thing for me was to find a church and a church family. Soon, I found my church and church family at Marsh Chapel, got the internship of my dreams, and rushed Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed fraternity focused on community service. Even though I knew that the transition would not be easy, I knew that the transition would be part of life, just as my mom told me growing up.

‘Transitions themselves are not the issue, but how well you respond to their challenges!’

This quote has been one of our family sayings for years. Our lives prepare us for the transitions the future brings. Sometimes when we’re going through the hardest transitions in our lives, such as when I had to let go of Wheelock and become part of a new community and part of something bigger than myself. I’ve always been told that how well you respond to change and transition says a lot, and I truly believe that’s the truth. However, I believe that my faith has really played a role just as much in how I handle transitions and change. I have my God to thank for how well this experience has gone so far for me, and I would be where I am without my faith. I believe that before the semester, and I believe that now.”

You are invited!  Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of  your sin, and are in love and charity with your neighbor, and intend to lead a new life, following after the commandments of God, come, draw near in faith, and take this sacrament to your comfort.  Especially those who intend to start out, to begin, to make a transition into a new life!

-The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill

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