May 7

Alma Mater

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to listen to the full service

John 10:1-10

Click here to listen to the meditations only

 ‘I am the door.  He who enters by me will be saved and will come and in and go out and find pasture.’

 On the journey:  we covet prayer, we remember names, we commune in hope.

Prayer (Prelude)

 The Covenant Prayer is perhaps one of John Wesley’s most known prayers. Do you feel that it is an important prayer for believers to pray in modern day? It is often a prayer recited at church in special worship services. Do you feel that it is a prayer believers should pray on their own to affirm their commitment to God?

Mr. Wesley in prayer sought a combination of enthusiasm and enlightenment, as he did in general in the practice of faith.  He could feel the presence of the Spirit, as on May 24, 1738 on Aldersgate Street.  He also could sing with his brother, Charles, at the opening of an elementary school in Kingswood, England, 1762, ‘unite the pair so long disjoined, knowledge and vital piety, learning and holiness combine, truth and love (for all to see)’.  The Covenant Prayer is one such sought combination of enthusiasm and enlightenment.

How important do you feel it is for believers to examine themselves with John Wesley’s self-examination questions ( and which of the questions do you feel are most important for people to focus on?

All the questions are good ones, though they would benefit from an admixture of first person singular (‘I’), with first person plural (‘we’).  The questions help us to stay alert to what is new in every morning.  What a wonder there is in what is new!  I have been re-reading David Hempton’s book, Methodism:  Empire of the Spirit, this year, in which he explores the mysterious birth and growth of the Methodist church, especially in circumstances of harsh confinement—sailors on shipboard, prisoners in cells, soldiers in confined barracks, poor settlers in small prairie dwellings.  There is a mystery at the start of something new. 

One of John Wesley’s self-examination asks, “Am I enjoying prayer?” Do you have any advice to give on how one can enjoy prayer?

Prayer is the joy of sitting silent before God.  Enjoy the quiet.  There will be plenty of rumble, din, cacophony, dissonance and just plain noise in the rest of the day. 

If John Wesley were here today, what do you think he would recommend for people who feel that they need to revive their prayer life?

Remove yourself from email on a regular basis.  When you have to use email, remember that it is irretrievable, international, eternal, and immutable. 

We know that John Wesley was very disciplined about prayer. He would wake up at 4:00 AM for his daily prayer time. In order to wake up so early, he made sure to go to bed early. What are some ways you suggest that Christians can become more disciplined about prayer?

One practice suggested by the Rev. Vernon Lee, some years ago, was to use the quiet time of dressing, in the morning, to pray, in particular and in person, for others.  The Rev. Susan Shafer gave us a collection of Bonhoeffer’s prayers and writings, 100 words each, one for each day, to be used in the morning.  Howard Thurman, though, preferred prayer at night, as he remembered his walk on Daytona Beach: “the ocean and the night surrounded my little life with a reassurance that could not be affronted by any human behavior; the ocean at night gave me a sense of timelessness, of existing beyond the ebb and flow of circumstance; death would be a small thing, I felt, in the sweep of that natural embrace”.

John Wesley would often write out prayers. Do you feel that writing, drawing or other creative modalities help some to better connect with God through prayer?


John Wesley advocated for fasting as a way to make prayer more powerful and he himself fasted every Friday; at one point in his life, he fasted every Wednesday and Friday. Do you advocate for fasting? If so, how often?

Regular—daily—physical exercise is as prayerful, meditative, healthy, spiritual and meaningful a practice as one can find.  At Marsh Chapel, we host a spiritual yoga group at 5pm. 

John Wesley was deeply connected to God. In what ways do you feel he developed this strong connection? How can Christians today strengthen their connection to God?

Mr. Wesley, in his Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, at several places offers hints, glimpses, and premonitions of his sense of divine presence.  Commenting on Matthew 6:9ff, the Lord’s prayer, he writes, ‘He who best knew what we ought to pray for, and how we ought to pray, what matter of desire, what manner of address would most please himself, would best become us, has here dictated to us a most perfect and universal form of prayer, comprehending our real wants, expressing all our lawful desires; a complete directory and full exercise of all our devotions’.   Notice the word ‘universal’. For Wesley, as for his tradition at its best, Jesus is our beacon, not our boundary, and in Him, God is loving us into love and freeing us into freedom.  Love for all, freedom for all.  And all means all.

My mother taught me my first verse of Scripture:  A wise man built his house…

Identity (Sermon)

Class of 2017! Are you happy, glad, joyful?

Then, if so, you have entered the deep mystery of a most ancient invocation, that of the Psalmist, from more than 2000 years ago:  Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands, serve the Lord with gladness!

There is a remarkable sentiment, that gladness itself, happiness itself, joy itself are ultimate service.   Gladness serves.  Come into his presence with singing!  Know that the Lord is God.  It is He that has made us, and not we ourselves.  We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.  Enter his gates with Thanksgiving, and his courts with Praise, give Thanks to Him and bless his name.  For the Lord is good.  His steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Calvin Trilling: “For thirty years my mother served us nothing but leftovers.  The original meal was never found.”

The land of Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty is now led to applaud, and celebrate the loss of health care for 24 million.  This is an early wave in a tide of humiliation coming our way this decade.  The church of Charles Wesley, he of gladness of heart, who helps us to sing, ‘finish then thy new creation’, is now led to affirm the rejection of the consecration of a fine, well prepared, regularly ordained elder, simply because she is gay.  This is another wave in a tide of humiliation coming our way in these years.

That gladness of heart is lasting, meaningful service, in faithfulness to ALL generations.

No surprise, that.  For you are Boston University graduates, with a name, and from a tradition, of glad hearts.   Not some but all.  Not home town but universe.  Not nation but world.

With gladness of heart, Howard Thurman said, people all people belong to one another.  Not some, but all.

With gladness of heart, Martin Luther King said, the moral arc of the universe is long, but bends toward justice.  Not country, but universe.

With gladness of heart, John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, which gave birth to BU, said, The world is my parish. Not nation, but world.

Not some but all; not home town but universe; not nation but world.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the lands, serve the Lord with gladness.

May 14, the day on which you can hear your classmates speak of faithfulness and life, that same day is….Mother’s day.  Make a plan.  Buy a flower. Choose a gift.  Send a note.  And do so—with gladness!

My mother was a Latin teacher, for whom reminders were instruction (we tend to need more reminder than instruction)

 Hope (Communion)

Come now up the sawdust trail.  Receive the Lord.  ‘Ye that do truly and earnestly repent of your sin…

We await a common hope, a hope that our warming globe, caught in climate change, will be cooled by cooler heads and calmer hearts and careful minds.

We await a common hope, a hope that our dangerous world, armed to the teeth with nuclear proliferation, will find peace through deft leadership toward nuclear détente.

We await a common hope, a hope that our culture, awash in part in hooliganism, will find again the language and the song and the spirit of the better angels of our nature.

We await a common hope, a hope that our country, fractured by massive inequality between rich children and poor children, will rise up and make education, free education, available to all children, poor and rich.

 We await a common hope, a hope that our nation, fractured by flagrant unjust inequality between rich and poor children, will stand up and make health care, free health care, available to all children, poor and rich.

We await a common hope, a hope that our schools, colleges and universities, will balance a love of learning with a sense of meaning, a pride in knowledge with a respect for goodness, a drive for discovery with a regard for recovery.

We await a common hope, a hope that our families, torn apart by abuse and distrust and anger and jealousy and unkindness, will sit at a long Thanksgiving table, this autumn, and share the turkey and pass the potatoes, and slice the pie, and, if grudgingly, show kindness and pity to one another.

 We await a common hope, a hope that our decisions in life about our callings, how we are to use our time and spend our money, how we make a life not just a living, will be illumined by grace and generosity. 

We await a common hope, a hope that our grandfathers and mothers, in their age and infirmity, will receive care and kindness that accords with the warning to honor father and mother that you own days be long upon the earth.

We await a common hope, finally a hope not of this world, but of this world as a field of formation for another, not just creation but new creation, not just life but eternal life, not just health but salvation, not just heart but soul, not just earth, but heaven.

My mother understood the difference between cultural and financial wealth.  And taught us how to change, leave, journey, and itinerate.  England, Spain, Geneva WCC, Montreal McGill, Boston.

‘I am the door.  He who enters by me will be saved and will come and in and go out and find pasture.’

Calvin Trillin: “For thirty years my mother served us nothing but leftovers.  The original meal was never found.”  On the journey:  we covet prayer, we remember names, we commune in hope.

– The Reverend Doctor, Robert Allan Hill, Dean.

Leave a Reply