February 3

Winter Grace

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to hear the full service.

Click here to hear the sermon only.


Snow makes things slow

As R Warren wrote in her new poem: ‘a silhouette rimmed in snow-light’, we too follow Christ, our beacon not our boundary

Its tactile and visual embrace gives us a winter grace

With Jeremiah, come winter, we may pause to listen

Not to do, but to be

To listen for the divine in the word, as did the ancient prophet who labored until the fall of Jerusalem (snipped from our reading) and then some

I will touch your lips, saith the Lord, who called a young man, another young man, as would occur again, later, in Nazareth

We learned in a bucolic age, to spill water and freeze it, to shovel snow and clear it, to skate, backwards and forwards, to play, stick in hand, to learn, when Colgate finished its Reid Athletic Center that hockey could be played indoors too

An old flexible flier, veteran of the snow ice hillsides

Skiis, boots, goggles

An old black and white photograph of snow drifts above the telephone lines

Winter is the season of spirit, Summer the season of flesh

Those who taught us more by example than precept to be:













At 10:30 every Sunday, here in the nave, you may join others, with Rev. Holly, in silent prayer


David too, or the psalmist, had his memories of youth, which brought laughter and song

O LORD upon you have I leaned from my birth

When we are affronted, confronted with misery in mystery, as some today,  we too take our refuge in continuous praise, song and laughter, in WHOSE presence there is fullness of joy

A rock.  The home of wise man.  A rock.  Thou art Peter.  A rock.  A mighty refuge.

Even Ground Hog Day offers something solid, something good.

Every heart has secret sorrows

Monday’s child is fair of face

Tuesday’s child is full of grace

Wednesday’s child is full of woe

Thursday’s child has far to go

Friday’s child is loving and giving

Saturday’s child works hard for a living

But the child that is born on the Sabbath Day

Is happy, witty, bright and gay!

After church next week you may want to sing with the Thurman Choir, under the baton of SAJarrett…

Laugh and Sing…

Snow makes things slow

Paul offers his teaching to us, if we learn from him

About love

Love is God

Because I am loved, I can love

Behold the superiority, the nature, and the permanence of LOVE

The religious norm, the norm of faith is love, joy of heaven to earth come down

Trustworthy, loyal, helpful….

Learn to love

Come and join our undergraduates, confer with them and others

Learn, by day, by night, by day, to love


Now the community of Jesus’ growing up years cannot fully accommodate his grown up voice

There is a wintery harshness in the moment he leaves

In love, directly, he says they are not special, not unique, except as is every snow flake, and they are angry, and he departs.

Every departure foreshadows the last

We are more mortal than we regularly realize

Our own departure, our ability to leave, to leave this frozen earth, this or another community, our families and family, in the bleak winter quiet, the austere winter quiet, we may passingly, suddenly recognize our omega point, dimly perceptible, afar

Jesus chooses two stories in which prophets take care of outsiders.  Blessings are to fall, not on the home town community, but on outsiders—Syrian, Syrophoenician, the ritually unclean, non-Jews

Now the community of Jesus’ growing up years cannot fully accommodate his grown up voice

There is a wintery harshness in the moment he leaves

In love, directly, he says they are not special, not unique, except as is every snow flake, and they are angry, and he departs.

Cyril Richardson had taught at Union Theological Seminary for 50 years.  His course on Patristics was famous, the finest of finely honed hour long lectures on Clement, Ireneaus, Origen, Athanasius.  He sat to teach.  He would cast about, and mention P Tillich, whom he described as if Tillich were still a promising but odd graduate student, from the continent, who would have benefitted from better early church history (‘Athansius was there before Tillich was’).  Out of order I appealed to take his course, my first term.  ‘Who knows how long he will teach?’, one said.  There is a living relationship between the 45 minute lecture and the 22 minute sermon.  If one lives, both do.  Richardson brushed aside the fads of the day—team teaching, contextual education, liberation theology, praxis—and lectured with a winter grace.  He died with one lecture only to go.  Mr Ruppe, his assistant, read the faded penciled yellow pad lecture, with tears.

I am proud to have been Richardson’s student.

At his funeral, the Episcopal priest demurred to preach, and read instead a sermon of Richardson’s own, delivered at the death of a friend.

In it the deceased, now quoted, had said, simply, what disturbs us about death is the prospect of the deaths of our loved ones, on the one hand, and the death of our dreams, on the other.  Let us face both prospects, he said.

It is a winter grace to face our fleshly limit.  To prepare, Sunday by Sunday, to prepare to leave, as one day we must, one day we shall.

There are no ordinary days, no insignificant holidays.

You will remember that she and George were graduated from High School in Grover’s Corners.  On the basis of a frank talking to over a soda, in which Emily criticizes George for being less than fully humble, George decides not to leave home, not to go to college, but to start working an uncle’s farm right away, and to marry Emily, the girl next door.  You remember their wedding.  “ A man looks pretty small at a wedding, all those good women standing shoulder to shoulder, making sure the knot is tied in a mighty public way.”   You remember that Emily, after just a few years of profoundly happy marriage and life, tragically dies in childbirth.  You remember that George finds no way to manage the extreme grief of his loss.  Simple Yankee English.  Simple reckoning about love, life, death and meaning.

Maybe you also remember, in the playwright’s imagination, Emily from the communion of saints looking out on her young husband and wanting to go back.

Others warn her away from the plan:  “All I can say Emily, is, don’t…it isn’t wise…(If you must do it) Choose an unimportant day.  Choose the least important day of your life.  It will be important enough.”

She chooses February 11, 1899, her 12th birthday.  She arrives at dawn.  She sees Main Street, the drugstore, the livery stable, and breathes the brightness of a crisp winter morning.  Simple.  She looks into her own house.  Her mother is making breakfast, her father returning from a speech given at Hamilton College.  Neighbors pass in the snow.  Simple.  She sees how young and pretty her mother looks—can’t quite believe it.  It is 10 below zero.  There is fussing to find a blue hair ribbon—“its on the dresser—if it were a snake it would bite you”.  Simple.  Papa enters to give a hug and a kiss and a birthday gift.  And others from mother and the boy next door. Simple.  “Just for a moment now we’re all together.  Mama, just for a moment now we’re all together.  Just for a moment we’re happy.  Let’s look at one another.”

Simple.  This is the gospel of Ground Hog Day, the best holiday of the year, the holiday of the extraordinary ordinary, of the uncommonly common, of the sunlit winter, of the eternal now.  Simple.  Grover’s Corners.  Papa. Mama.  Clocks ticking.  Sunflowers.  Food. Coffee.  New ironed dresses.  Hot baths.  Sleeping.  Waking up. “Earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you.”

Reverence for Life is the beginning of wisdom, as Schweitzer said.

Jesus left Nazareth

Jeremiah left Jerusalem, David left Israel, Paul left Judaism, Jesus left Nazareth

We too shall leave

This table is opened to your comfort

As we take our leave

As we prepare to leave

To leave…

Remember your creed…


~The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill, Dean of Marsh Chapel

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