September 25

The Bach Experience- September 2022

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to hear the full service

Luke 16:19–31

Click here to hear the sermon and cantata


Dean Hill:

Especially throughout the COVID summers, we came to rely on the radio, its classical music and occasional weather and news, for our summer technological engagement with the wider world, out in the woods of Empire State.  Alone in the earlier mornings, when the fitful restlessness of work life gradually abates, as it can over time if we give it time, sometimes there is momentous moment. 

 The announcer said something about Debussy, whom I remember from required (back in the days of required courses) college introduction to music.  Therein we sat on a carpet and listened and were tested later on baroque, classical, romantic, impressionist and modern music.  The French name made a mark.   

Then onto the radio waves came a light, flowing harp beauty.  It was a shimmering beauty, light and alluring, quiet, gentle, unlike really anything I could remember hearing before.  The host named the piece as an Arabesque, perhaps the second such from Debussy, though I may have mistaken that.  The lake breeze lifted the notes, and there was throughout the room for a few fine minutes a shimmering beauty.  For two summers and more we could not sing together, or perform together, or worship together, in COVID. We will never any longer take the thrill of congregational and choral singing of the hymns of faith for granted.  These are beautiful moments. 

Like its cousins, truth and goodness, such a beauty leaves a mark, makes a lasting mark, a beauty mark you could say.  Time stops.  Imagination awakens.  Troubles recede.  You are caught up in something larger than yourself, as sometimes happens in religious experience too. 

In this radio carried music, it seemed to this untrained ear, there rose and fell a kind of oriental melody, a lightness, a veiled impression.  And it seemed to me that the better person to listen was the kind of person listening in this moment, who has no formal musical education, other than that incurred through spouse, family, and various church organists and choir masters.   

 It is the ear, often, rather than the eye, voice rather than face, the audible invisible, that carries an uncanny power.  The triumph of the invisible over the visible.   

 It happens that my mentor Bishop Joseph Yeakel died in this same summer time week.  He taught us: you can only preach what you know…the one on one work is the most important ministry…your staff need to be creative and loyal both…people remember what you do more than what you teach…most of us need more reminder than instruction 

His contemporary, a long-retired minister, had a dream the night before, before he knew of Joe’s death, that he had been asked to preach at the memorial, but had not prepared a sermon.  Dreams are such strange things.  Invisible, shimmering, beautiful, too. 

 Across the radio waves again, Dr. Jarrett, we assemble our listenership.  With joy and peace in believing, with joy and peace in the true, good and beautiful.  For what, this Lord’s Day, shall we most listen? 


Dr Jarrett’s section is not available.


Dean Hill:

In these weeks we listen also to, and soberly remember, Jeremiah. 

The prophet Jeremiah excoriated his people, hoping against hope to keep them in faith along. For four decades he challenged, criticized, and vilified his beloved country, and its leadership, and its people.  They heeded him not.  

Jeremiah exclaimed: False prophets deceive people with their optimism.  The temple has no efficacy in and of itself.  The true circumcision is not of body, but of mind and heart.  Even the Bible can lead astray: Even the Torah may become a snare and a delusion through the false pen of the scribes. 

Notice some of the themes from the sixth century bce:  Deportation, false optimism, betrayal of heritage, forgetfulness of history, ineffective leadership, personal failings which damage the nation, turning of a deaf ear toward the voice of God. “For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good.” 

Jeremiah, whom we have heard in the background of our worship and preaching for some weeks, speaks to us again. today.  He warns us, he warns us, week by week he has warned.  And then, remarkably, in today’s reading, he stakes his life on hope, an unseen hope, a powerful hope of what may yet be. May his memory, just here, truly help us. 

The beauty of the music this morning is itself a sort of baptism of hope.  We sometimes long to take a spiritual shower, to bathe ourselves in the living waters of grace, faith, hope, life, and love.   Especially, it might be stressed, on any college campus today, the need for spiritual cleansing is continual.  We need both judgment and mercy, both honesty and kindness, both prophetic upbraid and parabolic uplift.  And we get them, thanks be to God, in Jeremiah and in Luke.  But look!  They come upside down.  In a stunning reversal, kindness and gentle hope are the hallmarks of our passage from Jeremiah, while wrath and hellfire explode out of Luke. 

Listen again to the voice of the prophet, one of the great, strange voices in all of history and life, one of the great, strange voices, in all of Holy Writ.  Jeremiah.  All is lost, in Judah, as Jeremiah addresses Zedekiah the King.  You will be a slave in Babylon, King Zedekiah.  You will be given into the hand of your sworn, mortal enemy, and so too will be the fate of your city, your temple, your people, and your country, King Zedekiah.  But. Nonetheless.  Nevertheless.  And yet. These are resurrection words. But. Nonetheless.  Nevertheless.  Still. Even And Jeremiah put his money where his mouth is.  Or was. 

With his beloved country in ruins, Jeremiah does something great, something remarkable and hopeful and great.  Jeremiah buys a plot of land.  One day, a long time from now, he muses and prays, there will be some manner of restoration: ‘I cannot see it.  I cannot hear it.  I cannot prove it.  Sometimes I cannot believe it.  But, hoping against hope, I will buy some land, and someday, somebody, somehow will use it’.  This is faith:  to plant trees under which you will not sleep, to build churches in which you will not worship, to create schools in which you will not study, to teach students whose futures you will not know—and to buy land which you will not till.  But someone will.  Or at least, that is your hope.  You have done some things this fall.  You offered a morning prayer.  You attended to worship. Good for you.  You sent a check to support something or someone.  Good for you.  You went and volunteered to make contacts and calls. Good for you.  You spoke up and spoke out, regardless of the fan mail, family disdain, and other costs.  You did something.  Will it make a difference?  Who can say?  But it does make a difference, for you, if for no one else.   

Go.  Go.  Go and buy your little plot of land. 

-Dr. Scott Allen Jarrett, Director of Music

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