October 15

The Bach Experience, October 2023

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to hear the full service

Click here to watch the Bach lecture

Click here to watch the full service

Matthew 22:1–10

Click here to hear just the sermon and cantata

The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill:

We are living in and through a dark and difficult time, this fall.   Our climate shows significant signs, in our lived experience, of steady and worrisome warming.  Our nation continues in the grip of deep divisions, and, of more concern, a palpable willingness on the part of some to jettison centuries of hard-won democracy for autocracy, and its false promise of ‘escape from freedom’, as Erik Fromm called it.  Our culture languishes in the doldrums of a pervasive malaise, not unrelated to our fear of freedom, and its demands, and its rigors, and its openness to human flourishing.  The dark night of warfare has fallen and stayed grounded into Europe, for a year and a half, with the fate of our Ukrainian sisters and brothers in the balance, with no end in sight.  Now, in addition, we have the advent of a full blown catastrophic second war, perpetrated through terrorist violence, horrific and unspeakable violence, upon the people and traditions of Israel, which people and traditions our own Elie Wiesel over four decades here at Boston University did so much to illumine and honor, say: The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it is indifference.” 

How we miss his voice, his presence, his warning and his wisdom today.  Our youth and young adults, still wriggling free from years in the screen prisons of COVID, need and deserve and require expanded care and services related to personal, emotional and mental health, at a rate and with a range quite difficult for other generations fully to grasp.  The challenges of poverty, of racism, of sexism, of inequality and injustice, of health care, of educational disparity, and the ever–present clouds of greed, malevolence, mendacity and despair continue to lap at the shores of our existential beaches, without pause and with ongoing wind strokes of pain.  We are living through a dark and difficult time, this fall. 

While true for every season and age, it is acutely the case for our time that an honest, a necessarily honest admission of our condition should also and more so be soothed by, and challenged by, the promise of the gospel, and the prospect of better days to come.  It is acutely the case for our time, for this very day, this day of rest and worship, this sabbath day, that a pause, a discreet hour of ordered worship, should be observed, and honored, including today by way of word and music both, the stringent candor of word and the soothing beautiful balm of music, together.  The ordered public worship of Almighty God upon the Lord’s Day is not a matter of indifference.  It is a savingly crucial hour, that brings a ray of light into the dark, a note of promise into the silence, a reminder of joy into the pain, and a source of get up and go again power into the despond.  It is thus fitting to hear the negativity of the last third of St. Matthew, including the harsh cold parable this morning, as a partnered honest admission of our own condition, the condition our condition is in.  For Matthew cries out over the rejection of invitation, the rejection of welcome, the rejection of love.  And he will not be consoled, like Rachel weeping for her children, and like Israeli mothers today weeping for their now soldier sons, no dishonest avoidance here.  His parable matches our own angers.  When things are not right, saith the Scripture, let us be honest that things are not right.  And then let us turn and listen for the true, the good, and the beautiful.  As in our cantata this morning.  Dr Jarrett, what does this morning’s Cantata bring us? 


Dr. Scott Allen Jarrett’s contribution to this sermon is not currently available. 


The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill:

Presence in an ordered service of divine worship, your presence here today for instance, is one sign of trust that in this life we are being addressed from beyond.  Your presence this morning is an indication, a witness if you will, to your intimation or confidence or something in between, that you are ‘hearing voices’, that you are called, spoken to, addressed.   

The parable of the wedding banquet, retold in Matthew from a kinder Lukan version, rests on this conviction of a divine beckoning and calling.   

I think we seldom recognize what a powerful thing an invitation can be.  Pause and recall a time or two when you were savingly invited. 

We know the power of an invitation when we hungrily receive one heartily desired.  Nothing in all the world ever happened between persons without invitations.  Every sermon is in some way an invitation to you, to take a step in faith, to take a step, one step, in faith. 

That is, you receive today, again, a personal invitation.  The invitation is meant for you, sent to you, an event for you.  You are invited to attend the wedding of heaven and earth! to lead a godly life! to lead a life worthy of God! to live in faith and by a conviction, which is a trust, faith is a personal commitment to an unverifiable truth.! If we had all proof we want we would not have all the faith we need.  Will you come to the banquet?  Will you take a step in faith? 

The voice of invitation is an enticement, a coaxing, a luring, a courting.   

President Biden this week offered such an invitation, a biblical one, tucked into perhaps the greatest speech thus far in his administration, saying: This is a moment for the United States to come together, to grieve with those who are mourning.  

You remember that our gospel writer for today,  St Matthew, the Evangelist, has a passion.  It is invitation.  The point of the Gospel of Mathew the Evangelist is that he is an evangelist.  This is his love.  His first love.  To seek the lost, to hug the lonely.  And it is a passionate love.  I can see your passions, in architecture, history, homily, mission, symbol, country, group—these inspire passion. As, especially, does music. Matthew offers the gift, divinely wrapped, of his passion:  sharing an invitation, perhaps a first encounter with Christ for those c’est vouz?, who do not know a single verse, cannot recite a single psalm, cannot describe baptism and communion, do not a favorite hymn, and have no lived experience of church committee meetings.  This is the great joy of faith, to share it.  Do so. You only have what you can give away.  


-Dr. Scott Allen Jarrett, Director of Music

Comments are closed.