October 29

The Horizon of Love

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to hear the full service

Click here to watch the full service

Matthew 22: 34-46 

Click here to hear just the sermon

One longs for a more excellent way, as did Shakespeare 

Here you might catch a glimpse of what love can be, neighbor to neighbor, what loving kindness, chivalry, honor, care can be.  We still teach Shakespeare at Boston University: 

Let me not to the marriage of true minds 

Admit impediments.  Love is not love 

Which alters when it alteration finds, 

Or bends with the remover to remove: 

O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark, 

That looks on tempests and is never shaken; 

It is the star to every wandering bark, 

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken. 

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks 

Within his bending sickle’s compass come; 

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, 

But bears it out even to the edge of doom. 

If this be error, and upon me prov’d, 

I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d 


One longs for a more excellent way, as did Matthew. 

 St. Matthew’s fiercest passion, is patently and transparently on display this morning.  Matthew holds a very high view of the church, far higher than we expect, far higher than yours and mine, one  could add. For Matthew, the church is empowered: with the means of lasting forgiveness with a mind for sound ethics, and especially with the real presence of Christ. 

 Matthew trusts this risen Christ and this voice of the risen Christ to free him to follow his bliss, to succumb to his passion. And what is Matthew’s passion? What passion pulses through the parchment of this popular gospel? What force of energy is on the “kiviev” on the lookout, on the wing, hanging ten, parachuting in, ready to emerge here today? It is the passion of an evangelist who finds every blessed possible way to connect Jewish Jesus with a Greek world. It’s the passion of an evangelist who enlists an old missionary teaching tract (“Q”) to spread inspiration, truth, and joy. It is the passion of an evangelist who portrays your Savior among pagans, amid harlots, appended to the cross, about the resurrection work of compassion. It is the passion of an evangelist who sums up his Gospel this way: “Go make of all disciples”. Here is this autumn’s Gospel: the point of St Matthew the blessed evangelist is that he is an evangelist. The whole point of the gospel of St Matthew the evangelist is that he is an evangelist. Matthew’s passion? Seeking the lost! Expanding the communion of saints, the circle of divine love! 

One longs for a more excellent way, as does Marilynne Robinson… 

She concludes an essay this week with a rumination on children, on work, on love, on daydreams, and on the liberal and liberating purposes of education.  In the last year, our evening with Robinson in April represents our ministry to the country as a whole, while our three days at McGill as University Lecturer last October represent our ministry with the whole globe as a whole just as our Baccalaureate address here in Marsh Chapel in May represents our ministry with BU near and far, on campus and with alumni, far and near.  Our worship service is for the country, for the globe and for the university, as well as for those, you and you all, those sturdy souls who by decision, discipline and faith come here, present each Sunday in this sacred, beautiful chapel. What love you and all bring to us and others! What love you all express by prayers, presence, gifts and service. What love you all long for and lean toward and hope to know, by shadow in this lifetime and by sunshine in the next life. God love you, as you work toward the horizon of love.  

One longs for a more excellent way, as does the language and body language of every wedding… 

In mid-March of 2020 COVID hit, hard. A time of sheer mendacity, when one leader intoned, ‘it will be over by Easter’. But no. Suddenly, in all directions, all was cancelled.  All manner of gathering was cancelled.  Group, assemblies, meetings, classes, worship, funerals, and weddings and all.  We have not fully recovered from this sudden shut down, not three and half years later. We are not fully ourselves, at least not yet, not conversationally human, not humanly available, not ardently and easily committed to gathering, to assembly, to connection, to ordered public worship.  But healing is coming, and more along the way.  The Covid onset, among other things,  interrupted weddings. 

One was scheduled for early March, 2020.  But the word, the word ‘no’ came down, necessarily so.  So, a beautiful couple, very understanding and gracious, cancelled their wedding:  no service with 300 present, no reception with 300 at table, no 300 photographs in a wedding album, no guest book, no family together.  And there were to be no exceptions, and there were none, all through 2020 and 2021.  The next decanal pronouncement of marriage in the Chapel occurred on May 14, 2022, more than two years later. 

Now, of a sudden, and this is part of the recovery from Covid, our weddings, and funerals, here at Marsh Chapel, are steadily moving back to more regular levels.  We will have had six weddings this fall at Marsh since Labor Day.  For this we are thankful, thankful for the gathering, the assembly, the community, the conversation, the public worship.  Thankful for the human being, involved, the being human therein.  

It happened in 2020 that a few days later the cancelled wedding couple placed a call to the Dean of the Chapel, saying:  This is probably not possible, but could we come, just us two, and stand on the far ends of the communion rail, double masked, and ask you, double masked, standing behind the altar, to marry us?  We recognize that this probably cannot happen, but we would love to have you do so. 

Well.  The Dean of the Chapel had some moral reasoning to do.  Hm. OK.  Bride at one wall, Groom at the other, Dean at the third.  OK.  On March 17, 2020, they appeared alone, this handsome couple, fully attired, full dark tuxedo and lapel flower, full white gown with cape and and all, one under one stained glass window and one under the other.  The service was solemnized in short order and abbreviated order of worship, all three double masked.  The traditional ‘you may kiss the bride’ was not included and would have to wait until they arrived at their isolated honeymoon cabin alone in New Hampshire, the car packed with foodstuffs for the journey up, the days of honeymoon, and the journey home.  I pronounce that they are husband and wife together.  

One longs for a more excellent way, as did Martin Luther… 

In 1520, Luther published three fundamental documents in that cornucopia year, which, to some measure, encompass the broad range of Luther’s theological perspective. Together these three ‘made the breach with Rome irreparable, and established the foundations of what would eventually become a new church’ (with thanks to Dr. Lyndal Roper, now and later, 133).  To the Christian Nobility of the Church. The Babylonian Captivity of the Church.  The freedom of the Christian person.  They each and all, along with his opening hymn this morning, sing of love in the fierce presence of tragedy, armed conflict, hatred and death.  (Those hunting for a sermon on Christian, pacifism and just war both, are referred to the sermon from this pulpit February 12, of this year, “With Malice Toward None”, and including historic teachings regarding response and proportionality). 

We should remember that Luther’s reformation coincided with the emergence of the printing press. 4,000 copies of Nobility were sold as soon as they came off the press, August 1520. It was addressed in German to lay people, and argued that since the church itself had been unable to reform itself, it fell to the laity to do so. The reform promoted here is heavily weighted on financial reform. Luther charged the church with avarice, and charged the nobility with the task of addressing that avarice, something the nobles had every interest in doing.  Most striking, to our ears, is the full sympathy Luther has for love, for human love, for priests and religious who have fallen in love and fallen into another’s arms. Putting them together and forbidding sex ‘like putting straw and fire together, and forbidding them to smoke or burn’ (Roper, 150). Only the nobility, only the lay princes, said Luther, had the power to do all this, and he charged them to do it. Sola Gratia!  Sola Scriptura!  Sola Fide! 

For his trouble, Luther was excommunicated in December of 1520. 

One longs for a more excellent way, as did MLK… 

“Agape (LOVE) is more than romantic love, agape is more than friendship.  Agape is understanding, creative, redemptive, good will to all men.  It is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return….   When one rises to love on this level, he loves men not because he likes them, not because their ways appeal to him, but he loves every man because God loves him.  And he rises to the point of loving the person who does an evil deed while hating the deed that the person does.  I think this is what Jesus meant when he said ‘love your enemies.’  I’m very happy that he didn’t say like your enemies, because it is pretty difficult to like some people.  Like is sentimental, and it is pretty difficult to like someone bombing your home; it is pretty difficult to like somebody threatening your children; it is difficult to like congressmen who spend all of their time trying to defeat civil rights.  But Jesus says love them, and love is greater than like.”[i]     

‘We must reconnect to King’s passionate belief that human dignity is indivisible:  it is not possible to enjoy it unless it is equally available to all’ (OToole, NYRB 11/23) 

Jesus is our beacon, not our boundary.  Love is our beacon, not our boundary. 

One longs for a more excellent way—you and II do—especially in the midst of mayhem and troubles in the middle east and in neighboring Maine, where your former chaplain Brittany Longsdorf is hard at work as the chaplain at Bates College in Lewiston… 

Let us keep our eyes on the prize, and look for that one day, in the fullness of time, when love will reign. 

One day when there will open space, luxurious freedom for all manner of difference, all kinds of kinds.  

One day, as the Old Testament says, when the lion will lie down with the lamb. 

One day, as the New Testament says, when there will be no crying anymore, nor grief anymore, nor tears, nor shall hurt any or destroy. 

One day…and why not start here, and why not begin now?…there will be a real community of gracious love. 

The darkness shall turn to the dawning and the dawning to noonday bright and Christ’s great kingdom shall come on earth, the kingdom of love and light. 

At least let it be known that here, at Marsh Chapel, with us, it has got to be love all the way, love all the way, love all the way.  As the Scripture guides, may we walk daily. toward the horizon of love, even to perfection in it.  As Mr. Wesley said, ‘if you are not going on to perfection, just what are you going on to?’ 

‘And I will show you a still more excellent way’.  A more excellent way… 

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; 

It is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 

it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 

Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 

For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; 

but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. 

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. 

So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love, the horizon of love 


Comments are closed.