Archive for the ‘The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill, Dean of Marsh Chapel’ Category

July 10

Ode to Mercy

By Marsh Chapel

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Luke 10:25–37

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Against a dark background of economic need revealed in violent thievery, our Gospel sings out a majestic ode to mercy.

Against a dark background of cultural violence revealed in highway robbery, the taking of what is not one’s own, our parable pronounces a poetic ode to mercy.

Against a dark background of racial contest, revealed in the starring role of the Samaritan, our Lord acclaims a gemlike ode to mercy.

Against a full and darkly difficult background of taking what is not one’s own, Luke’s own biblical theology starkly epitomized in chapter 10, perhaps and rightly the best known and most beloved passage in Scripture, gives melodic voice to an ode to mercy.  We listen this beautiful Sunday morning, first for a moment to Luke, and second for a moment to the Samaritan.

What meets us in St. Luke this summer?

Luke was written nearly a generation later than Mark, by most estimates, Mark in or near 70, Luke in or near 85-90 of the common era (though there is now some significant resistance to this view).  Traditionally ascribed to Luke the physician, its author and that of its sequel, the Acts of the Apostles, is finally unknown to us.  We know him only through the writing itself.

What do we find?  Or what shall we find in prayerful conversation with Luke across the summer?

Luke is made up of a mixture of ingredients.  First, Luke uses most of Mark: like Matthew, Luke knew and repeated most of the earliest gospel, Mark. But he made changes along the way, or construed the gospel according to his own desires and emphases.  This is hopeful for us, in that it is an encouragement for us to take the gospel in hand, and interpret it according to our time, location, understanding, and need. This requires that so long left behind over fifty years, a sound liberal biblical theology.  Second, Luke uses a collection of teachings, called Q, as does Matthew.  An example is our Lord’s Prayer, later in the service. Luke’s version is slightly different from that in Matthew, as is his version of the Beatitudes and other teachings, found in the ‘sermon on the plain’, rather than the ‘sermon on the mount’.  Third, Luke makes ample use of material that is all his own, not found in Mark or elsewhere. The long chapters from Luke 8 or so through Luke 18 or so, very much including the pinnacle parable this morning, are all his. Examples include some of your favorite parables, like today’s Good Samaritan, and like the lost sheep, and like the Prodigal Son, and like the Dishonest Steward.  We have Luke to thank for the remembrance of these great stories. Luke brings us a unique mixture of materials, and makes his own particular use of them.

Luke weaves together his own perspective and materials with that of the rest of the Scripture.  Luke has a passion for compassion, and sings out as today a song, an ode, an accolade through and through to mercy.  To justice.  Real religion, by Luke’s measurement, is not ever very far from justice, from a concern for justice, for the just cause, the just word, the just deed, the just perspective.  Including today.  Luke draws from the whole, the whole of Scripture to craft his two books, the Gospel and Acts.  So, look for a moment at the rest of Scripture.  Tragically, sadly, in this last month, we may be closer than we have been in a long time to real, though harshly administered, reflection on matters of interpretation of ancient documents, whether the Holy Bible from thousands of years ago, or the US Constitution, from hundreds of years ago.  Interpretation really matters.  Biblical theology, a sound mode of interpretation, really matters, counts, and lasts. A purely originalist view, whether for Constitution or Scripture, will bring its own maladies, as bear witness following the Supreme Court decision, leaked earlier, but announced last month.  Are we to read these documents only as collections of topics from the past, cemented in antique times and places?  Or are we to read them regarding their themes, their living themes, not just their topics, and the lasting, growing, consequential outworking of these themes, in both history and theology, or in both history and philosophy?  Topics of themes?  Origin or meaning?  There is a biblical theme, today, undergirding the Samaritan, the most marvelous of parables, the theme of justice.  It lives throughout Scripture.

Read the books of the Law, like Exodus 23:9: “You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt….For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat.”

Remember: the Hebrew Scripture, our Older Testament, was largely composed in the dark days of a later slavery, the bondage of Babylon.  In that moment of memory, the community of faith recalled keenly their earliest history of God’s love and power, the God who brought them up out of the land of slavery to the land of milk and honey.   They mused:  We know what it means to be poor, to be oppressed, to be outcast, to be downtrodden. Once we were ourselves. THEREFORE, there will be justice in our land for the poor. You and you all know that too, and may need to search your extended family histories and memories for what happened to your people in the Great Depression.   We learned something, or were reminded of something, then, as were the Israelites dragged again in chains to Babylon in 587 bce. Luke writes in earshot of Babylon.

Read together the books of the Prophets, the very heart of the Old Testament.  In all of religious literature, in all human history, there is nothing quite as sobering, as piercingly and stingingly direct, with regard to justice, as these 16 voices, four the louder and twelve the lesser.   Malachi teaches tithing. Isaiah affirms holiness. Hosea preaches love. Micah shouts, ‘do justice, love mercy, walk humbly’. Together the prophets consistently rail against human greed, human selfishness, human covetousness, human apathy.  The harvest here for our theme is so plentiful it is difficult to select an exemplar, there are so many.

Perhaps Amos will do best, our lectionary guest this morning. In the eighth century BCE, a shepherd boy from Tekoa went down to the gates of the big city, Jerusalem, and cried out against it.  He pilloried the shallow religion of his day. He assaulted the reliance, the naïve over-reliance of his government on weapons of war, he bitterly chastised the amoral, post moral practices of human sexuality of his day.  But he saved his real fierce anger for injustice.

“I will not revoke the punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes—they that trample the head of the poor into the dust of the earth, and turn aside the way of the afflicted” (Amos 2:6-7).  “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies…Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness as an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5: 21-24). Recall Martin Luther King reciting these verses, down in the sweltering little jail house of Birmingham Alabama, 1963.

Read together the books of Wisdom, especially, as we do each Sunday, the book of the Psalms. Let us read together the books of Wisdom.  Love is for the wise, and justice is the skeleton of love.

“When the just are in authority, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan…The just man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge…(Proverbs 29)

‘Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now arise’, says the Lord; “I will place him in the safety for which he longs’ (Psalm 11: 5).    “You would confound the plans of the poor, but the Lord is his refuge’ (Psalm 14:6).

In an odd way, the most sobering judgment about justice is offered by Ecclesiastes, who speaks least directly to the theme.  But his philosophy is clear, his thematic emphasis.  He looks at all the toil of the sons of men, and sees—vanity.  He warns: that for which you strive will not last, that for which you suffer will not endure.  “What has a man for all the toil and strain with which he toils beneath the sun?  For all his days are full of pain, and his work is a vexation; even in the night his mind does not rest’’(Ecc. 2:23).  As an Indian proverb puts it:  ‘In his lifetime the goose lords it over the mushroom.   But in the end, they are both served up on the same platter’.  Each a reminder:  Justice lasts, not acquisition.

More: to understand, or interpret, the Good Samaritan, this magisterial parable, one needs more than origination, more than topics, more than the geography between Jerusalem and Jericho.   One needs to hear it in the heart of Luke, and in the fullness of Scripture.  One needs a sure grasp of the great themes of Scripture, not just the topics.

So, listen second, this morning again to the Samaritan.  Against a full and darkly difficult background of the taking what is not one’s own, Luke’s own biblical theology is starkly epitomized in chapter 10, perhaps and rightly the best known and most beloved passage in Scripture, which gives melodic voice to an ode to mercy.  An ode is:  something that shows respect for or celebrates the worth or influence of another (Webster).  An ode in the general sense, and one…full of surprises.  Surprises…Notice them…In Luke 10…

 The breadth of life promise, do this and you will live…

 The honesty about random peril, hurt, along the road of life…

 The abject failure of the clergy—priests, levites– to respond…

 The heroism of the excluded, the heroism of the Samaritan…

 The touch, time, treasure, tenacity of the care (seeing, anointing, bandaging, carrying, paying, returning)…

 The timely, welcome open space at the inn unlike Christmas…

 The jarring turn of neighbor from object to subject (not who to care for but, who cares)…

 The questioning of the questioner…

 Such a Diamond! Gem! Masterpiece! Parable…

In our own moment, we may be nourished by such an ode.  How dearly we need that nourishment.

For we now awake every morning, unlike those mornings prior to November of 2016, when still there lingered the prospect of a common hope, arising to see in every direction–the taking of what is not one’s own.  Pollution, Putin, Pandemic, Politics, Prejudice, Pistols, and Pain.  Climate pollution, the taking of the green earth by one generation, when it surely belongs to future generations.  The taking of land by one country, in inch-by-inch slaughter of another.  The taking of public health, like water and air a common good, not one’s own, but taken nonetheless, mainly by not facing it as a whole, as a nation, together, as in the pandemic. The taking of political activity, engagement, and truth, and making of it into a seedbed for autocracy.  The taking of the tragic history of racial injustice—THE HALF HAS NEVER BEEN TOLD—and making of it into a mode of argument, jousting, contest.  The taking of freedom from fear of gun violence, a freedom owed children in schools and at parades, as if their freedom from trauma were ours to take.  And now, in addition, the taking of women’s bodies, and the coming frightful multiplication of needless and heedless pain.  Women’s bodies are women’s bodies.  The theme underlying all these: the sordid taking of what is not one’s own, the rapacious seizing of what is another’s, what belongs to another.

How utterly, staggeringly different, our Samaritan gospel today, the picture judging us from antiquity, the account of love of neighbor.  Yet, there are glimmers of encouragement, in every day and week.  We have had a week and more of reminders, like that of the Samaritan himself, of how good life can be.

One loves his northern neighbor by the honoring of Canada Day with a Maple Leaf flag…

One loves her next door neighbor with anniversaries and birthdays with strawberry pies… 

A community loves the neighborhood by funding block parties for dancing, county fairs for the dairy princesses, symphony concerts on village greens with the star-spangled banner all standing, some Strauss some dancing to it, the requisite John Williams compositions all nodding, and a Sousa march as cherry on top…

 Our own existential plumb line inherited from Amos and the truth of Holy Writ, of biblical theology, is not entirely forgotten, in our common culture, nor is our own existential call to mercy in the glorious example of the Samaritan.  And that is truly good news.

What shall we do?

 Jesus answers, a man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho…

 What shall we do?

 But you are doing it.  By private prayer.  In attendance on ordered worship. In a ministry of outreach to the shut in and home bound.  In preparation for a holiday barbecue.  In the planning for choirs and programs, and study groups to come.  In offering a kind word. In charitable, generous giving. In noticing hurt and offering help.

 What shall we do?

 Jesus answers, learn from the Samaritan…

Jesus answers, show mercy

And Jesus gives us something we can do to preserve a glimmer of personal encouragement, the practice daily of the love of neighbor

 An Ode to mercy…

Go and do likewise…

 An Ode to mercy…

Go and do likewise…

 An Ode to mercy…

Go and do likewise…

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

June 19

What God Has Done

By Marsh Chapel

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Luke 8:26-39

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Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you."

This summer we listen for good news in the biblical theology of St. Luke.  We do so with the aid of minds and voices of proven preachers, who have earned or are earning doctoral or graduate degrees in theology, our blessed and dear colleagues here at Marsh Chapel, Rev. Drs. Coleman, Chicka, Gaskell and Rev. Donahue-Martens, ABD, and Mr. William Cordts, who together bring a confluence of five rivers of loving grace, five tributaries and contributaries of loving freedom. Further, this summer, we follow the lectionary, or rather, the multiple lectionaries of our life here:  that of the Scripture, say Luke 8; that of the University, say Baccalaureate or Matriculation; that of our nation, say Juneteenth or Fathers’ Day; and that of the Chapel itself, say Independence Sunday and barbecue (July 3 this year).

What does Luke say, and how does he say it?

This will take us all summer and more to unravel.  We shall strive do so, one step at a time, one Sunday at a time, one parable, teaching, exhortation, miracle, or, as today, one narrative at a time.  Still, there are some outstanding features of the Lukan biblical theology, which we may simply name as we set forth. First, Luke displays a commitment to and interest in history, and orderly history at that.  Both Luke and Acts are cast in a distinctive historical mode. In fact, Luke has his own schemata for sacred history, in three parts: Israel, Jesus, Church: the time of Israel, concluding with John the Baptist; the time of Jesus, concluding with the Ascension; the time of the church, concluding with the parousia, the coming of the Lord on the clouds of heaven, at the end of time.  Second, Luke employs and deploys his own theology, or theological perspective, including this emphasis upon history and the divine purpose in history.   Third, Luke highlights the humanity and compassion of Jesus in a remarkable way. The Christ of St. Luke is the Christ of magnificent compassion, embodied in the humility of a birth among shepherds.  The poor, women, the stranger, the injured, those in dire need all stand out in Luke, as the recipients and subjects of Jesus’ love, mercy, grace and compassion. Fourth, Luke carries an abiding interest in the church.  Ephesians says that ‘through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principles and powers.’ That catches the spirit of the author or the third gospel and of the Acts to follow.  History, theology, compassion, and church are hallmarks of Lukan biblical theology.

Our apocalyptic passage today, so colorful and wild, still, at heart, fully acclaims the gospel as did St. Luke so long ago.  That is, indicative precedes imperative.  Indicate precedes imperative, in history, theology, compassion and church. We first use the indicate mood, long before, and in some cases entirely without, our currently preferred theological mood, the imperative.  The gospel, happily, acclaims in the indicative, not the imperative.  The gospel is about what God has done, first, not about what we might do, a distant second, if that.  Indicative precedes and preempts imperative.  What God has done outlasts, outshines, overshadows, outranks, outdoes what we might do, or not.  That is what makes the gospel good news, rather than just news.  It is a large loss that so much biblical theology, including Lukan biblical theology, of our generation has lost this sense, and has eclipsed the indicative of the divine compassion with the imperative of the human.   What God has done.  What God has done. Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you."

And let us hold most closely the divine compassion in Luke.  At every turn, there is a return to the least, the last, the lost; those at the dawn of life, those at the twilight of life, those in the shadows of life.

Notice, record, the way Luke puts it, beginning, middle and end:   He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree, he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away…The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God…What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?…Sell your possessions and give alms; provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old…When you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame and the blind…You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just…Said Zacchaeus, ‘behold Lord the half of my goods I give to the poor’…They contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty…

In all this, and more, Luke draws on the well-springs of inheritance from the Older Testament, the Hebrew Scripture.  The Bible, fore and aft, trumpets justice, economic justice, justice for the poor, and for all! If all we had were the poetry of that shepherd boy from Tekoa, Amos, that would be sufficient.

Compassion resides in the heart of St. Luke’s gospel, a passion for compassion that wells up into a yearning for justice, one the five rumors of angels our beloved Peter Berger, of blessed memory, did acclaim.  Justice delayed is justice denied.  Let justice roll down as waters.  We now have further voice and space to recognize the arrival of justice, in remembering and celebrating Juneteenth, now a national holiday

Our own Andrea Taylor, BU Senior Diversity Officer,  reminded us on June 13, 2022:

Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day or Jubilee Day, memorializes June 19, 1865. On this day, Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved Black people that slavery was formally abolished by President Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. Still, two and a half years later, Black people in Galveston toiled under the horrors of slavery until Union soldiers came to enforce the President’s order.  

Since that date, African Americans recognize Juneteenth as an opportunity to commemorate the resilience of their ancestors and the ongoing struggle for racial equity. From sharing family stories to sipping on red drinks that symbolize the perseverance of their predecessors, Juneteenth ushers in unique ways to celebrate the monumental impact that the Black community has had on the United States and beyond.

Last year, Boston University added Juneteenth as an official holiday on the University’s calendar to make BU “the diverse, equitable, and inclusive community that best embodies our values,” President Robert A. Brown announced in a letter sent to the University community.

Dean Elmore views this change as a sign of hope.“I say I’m hopeful from the standpoint of people digging into the narrative and understanding the wisdom and knowledge Black folks have.” He believes the celebration can be an opportunity for individuals who are not familiar with the holiday to learn more about Juneteenth and engage with its history…   

…And, then, on  6/15/22: This year, as individuals and communities seek to reunite as we come out of the pandemic and as you enjoy normal family connections and gatherings, try to imagine the depth of feeling experienced by slaves in the 19th century when they were freed and able to reunite with family and friends separated by slavery and subsequent family disruption in the Jim Crow era. 

Or listen to our own Rev. Dr. Karen Coleman:

Juneteenth and Emancipation Day—both markers of history—signified freedom for enslaved people in America. What I thought as a child was that Lincoln freed the slaves and one day you were enslaved and the next day you were free. While in the beautiful mind of a child one would wish that was the truth, what I learned from my family’s oral stories was that, unlike the fast rate of speed of news stories today, it was word of mouth carried by those who journeyed trying to find their missing family members. But once former enslaved people heard the word, they mobilized into action and began to set a course for their independent lives.

As individuals, and as a country, we continue to try to grow in our own passion for compassion, now including the celebration of Juneteenth, and our ongoing appreciation and understanding of its meaning and significance.  It is a glimmer of hope, of some substance, to add this to our shared calendar.  For all our natural and inevitable worries, morning by morning, about pollution, Putin, pandemic, politics, prejudice, pistols and pensions, the seven or seven of our daily anxieties, yet we can recognize and celebrate that some change, some progress, some days, does come.  This is one.

Our forebears, our mothers and indeed our  fathers, whom especially we honor today, did guide us forward.

Senator Rafael Warnock, whose mentor Dean Lawrence Carter of Morehouse is part of our extended Marsh Chapel family, remembered his father the other day, in moving oratory.  It was a call for us to do the same, to see in those who raised us a measure of what God has done.  In prayer I trust you will do so this afternoon.

To wit, in the spring of 1973 six freshmen from Ohio Wesleyan University drove a large Oldsmobile in the rain, across eastern Ohio and Central Pennsylvania, bound for a lake cottage in upstate New York.  We had planned to meet my father there for a late dinner, and the beginning of a summer break.  But in the driving rain on route 80, the car went over an embankment.  Passengers and luggage went in all directions.  I had been bringing two white lab mice, in an open bucket equipped with a drip water dispenser, as some sort of gift for my younger sister.  After the crash the mice were gone, the car drivable but without windshield wipers, and the six freshmen rightly frightened.  We inched along in the rain in silence.  Memorably and humorously, about an hour into the silence a roommate in the front seat started shouting and screaming at the top of his lungs.  It turns out that at least one of the mice had survived, and was crawling up his left leg.  We inched along in the rain in further silence, one headlight, no wipers.  Near dawn we turned down the camp road to see lights burning, and a little smoke coming from the chimney.

Dad had paced all night, after we had called to tell him our delay, and greeted us with a fierce joy.  He fixed us a lumberjack breakfast.  As we went to sleep, I could see him stoking the fire, before going off to work, to meet the challenges of 1973, after a sleepless night.  The challenges of 1970’s, by the way, included war, reproductive rights, racism, nuclear weapons, impeachment, division, and inflation.  Hm. A familiar list. Just before dozing off, I heard him singing, heading off to work: “Every time I feel the spirit moving in my heart I will pray.  Every time I feel the spirit moving in my heart I will pray”.

This was a mere twenty years after he was graduated from BUSTH, 1953, having arrived in summer 1950, just six months after Marsh Chapel was dedicated in March 1950.  (We have an upcoming 75th anniversary of this dedication to celebrate here in a few years).

That song at the hearth and from the heart still resounds, rings out, true of Dad’s life and faith.  It is important for us, and especially for the coming generations, to remember clearly how our forebears lived, and what they lived for. Take a moment to do so this afternoon.  COVID has stolen much of such communal remembrance. Lost are those who lose access to their own best past.  Happy are those who find access to their own best past.  In that personal song of spirit, experience, and prayer were many of the cherished beliefs and values for which he lived, by which many have lived, by which many of your forebears lived.

Here are some of them.

Dad lived in the openness, the magnanimous freedom of grace, the freedom for which Christ sets us free, on which we are to stand fast, and not to be enslaved again.

He lived convinced of the lasting worth, the ultimate value of persons and personality.

He lived and taught that love means taking responsibility.

He placed the highest premiums on marriage, family, children, and friends.

He had a rare, great capacity for friendship.

He could be restless with and critical of those perspectives which narrow the wideness of God’s mercy.  And he could be restless with and critical of those practices in personal and institutional life which did not become the gospel, were not becoming to the gospel.

He trusted that wherever there is a way, there is Christ, wherever there is truth, there is Christ, wherever there is life, there is Christ.

He honored his own conscience and heart, and expected others to do the same, for  the conscience of the believer is inviolable.

Many could testify to the toughness of his love and to the love in his toughness.

And as I heard him say, circa 1990, during a meeting in the Oneida Methodist church sanctuary, ‘because I am loved, I can love’.

Dad nearly died in September of 2008.  In November of 2008, as he recuperated, I saw him one morning learning to walk all over again, with my mother ever present and loving alongside.  It was a miraculous sight, as was the rest of his healing.  As is all healing.  He told us in those days about a vision or dream he had had, in the coma.  I share it with you to close, not as evidence of eternity, for heaven neither needs nor admits of evidence from us, but rather as evidence of a longing for eternity, and so a comfort and an encouragement.  What I would give to see my parents again. He said that in the hours near death he saw a kind of light, shining through what he described as a lattice work.  “Behind and around me I could hear voices”, he said…so…

 And he said, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

 Sursum Corda.  Hear the Gospel: Jesus sent him away, saying, "Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you."


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

June 5

Communion Meditation- June 5, 2022

By Marsh Chapel

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John 14:8–17, 25–27

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A written text of this sermon is currently unavailable.

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

May 15

‘This I Believe’ Meditations

By Marsh Chapel

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John 13:31-35

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Text of the reflections is unavailable at this time.

May 1

Communion Mediation- Sunday, May 1, 2022

By Marsh Chapel

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John 21:1-19

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The Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord;
we are his new creation by water and the Word;
from heaven he came and sought us that we might ever be
his living servant people, by his own death set free.

Jesus speaks to us today from the edge of the shoreline.  His voice, although we often mistake or mishear or misunderstand it, carries over from shore to sea, from heaven to earth.  For the souls gathered here today, that voice—His voice—makes life worth living.  Within earshot of His voice there are no merely ordinary nights or days or catches of fish or meals or questions or answers or friendships or loves or losses.  Within earshot of His voice there are no merely ordinary moments.  When the Master calls from the shoreline, “children…have you…cast the net…bring some fish…have breakfast”, no one who hears will dare ask, “And who are you?”.  We dare not.  For we know.  Jesus speaks to us today from the edge of the shoreline.

His disciples stumble through all the magic and grit of a fishing expedition.  Many of us still find some magic in fishing, though few of us have had to depend on this sport for sustenance.  Still—we know the thrill of it!  And the disappointment.  The roll of the boat with each passing wave.  The smell of the water and the wind.  The feel of the fish, the sounds of cleaning, the sky, a scent of rain:  this is our life, too.  All night long, dropping the nets, trawling, lifting the nets with a heave.  And catching nothing.  The magic comes with the connection of time and space—being at the right place at the right time.  How every fisherman would like to know the right place and the right time.  It’s magic!  The tug on the line!  The jolt to the pole!  The humming of the reel!  A catch.  And woe to the sandy-haired, freckle faced girl or boy (age 12 or 90) who cannot feel the thrill of being at the right place at the right time!

John Stewart Mill once wrote that understanding the chemistry of a pink sunset did not diminish at all his profound sense of wonder at sunset beauty.  In fact, we might add, real understanding heightens true apprehension.

Easter is a season of new beginnings. The promise of resurrection is upon us.  Resurrection disarms fear.  Resurrection ignores defeat.  Resurrection displaces and replaces loneliness.  Resurrection will not abide the voice that whispers, “There’s nothing extraordinary here.  There’s no reason for gaiety, excitement, sobriety or wonder.”  Resurrection will not abide the easy and the cheap.  Resurrection takes a day-break catch, a charcoal fire, a dawn mist, fish, bread, and hungry, weary travelers, and reveals the Lord present, and Peter at the table.

The failing of this world, whether we see it more clearly in the superstition of religion, the idolatry of politics, or the hypocrisy of social life, has its root in blindness to the extraordinary.  Because we are unholy, we think God must be, too.  But hear—and today taste—the good news!  The King of love his table spreads.  And the humblest meal becomes—Breakfast with Jesus.

Called forth from every nation, yet one o’er all the earth;
Our charter of salvation: one Lord, one faith, one birth.
One holy name professing and at one table fed,
to one hope always pressing, by Christ’s own Spirit Led.

Raymond Brown taught us that 21 is an added account of a post-resurrectional appearance of Jesus in Galilee, which is used to show how Jesus provided for the needs of the church. The gospel never circulated without 21, which is an Appendix, supplement, or epilogue, including many stylistic differences, though the material drawn is from the same ‘general reservoir of Johannine tradition’, and is part completion and part correction? (RAH). Ecclesiastical and Eucharistic and Eschatology form the symbolism of the chapter.  C H Dodd taught us: ‘The naïve conception of Christ’s second advent in 21: 22 is unlike anything else in the Fourth Gospel’.  CK Barrett suggests that chapter 21 be read as if it were a metaphorical account of the birth of the early Christian church for the purpose of explicating the different, yet equally important, roles of Peter and the beloved disciple, penned by a second author (577). Read this way, we are to see the disciples as “catching men”, in “pastoral ministry and historical-theological testimony” (587).

That is, the Gospel of John ended originally with Chapter 20: These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and believing you may have life in his name (John 20:31).   And in all the twenty chapters, we have a glorious celebration of Jesus, Spirit, Cross, Resurrection, Life, Word, Love, Truth.  But not a word about church. Not a single word about institutional life, nor about leadership, nor about organization, nor about just how one is supposed to live, with others, by faith, in community.  For John, a new commandment is sufficient:  love one another.  For John, a new reality abides:  Spirit.  Live in the spirit and love in the spirit and all will be well and all will be well and all manner of thing will be well, as Hildegard wrote centuries later.

But sometime in the years and decades following the conclusion of John in chapter 20, a later writer added our reading today.  Why?  Well, because it turns out that only love and spirit alone are not enough.  You need leadership.  So, Peter is rehabilitated and jumps into the lake fully clothed.  You need evangelism.  So, we have the quintessential symbol of evangelism included, fish and fishing and catch of 153.  You need stewardship.  So, we have the quintessential symbol of stewardship, the tending of sheep, with the unwritten subtext being the joy of tithing.  Do you love?  Then feed, then tend, then feed, then tend.  Along comes John 21, most probably a later addition, to amend by insertion: in a word, institutions matter.

The gospel today for us today is a ringing challenge, asking in the season of resurrection, just how faithful we have been to the care and feeding of the institutions in life that make life worth living.  We have had a frightful reminder of this word in faith over the last two years.  Read our Dean of Public Health, Sandro Galea, and his ringing challenge this week that we get religion, get religion, about investment in public health AND ITS INSTITUTIONS, including the Center for Disease Control.  We have had a frightful reminder and ringing challenge through this last year, following January 6, that we get religion, that we get religion about attention to democracy AND ITS INSTITUTIONS, including the Congress of the United States.  But you, friends, have had the benefit of such reminders and ringing challenges before.  Do you remember Baccalaureate Sunday, May 2018, here in Marsh Chapel?  After nine days and evenings of remembrance of the Martin Luther King Jr., the month before, including sermons by Governor Deval Patrick and Dr. Cornell William Brooks, come late May, we had two special guests, one sitting three pews from the pulpit, and sitting two pews from the narthex.  One a harbinger of health and its institutional needs, and one a greeting from government and its institutional needs, both honored in a prescient way by BU that year.  In front of the pulpit, John Lewis. Back by the narthex, Anthony Fauci.  Beloved, hear the Gospel of John 21:  institutions matter, they really matter

Though with a scornful wonder the world sees us oppressed,
by schisms rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
yet saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, “How long?”
But soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song.

The church as an institution matters.  Ask John Wesley.

The government as an institution matters. Ask John Lewis.

The post office as an institution matters.  Ask Ben Franklin.

Public Health organizations as institutions matter.  Ask Sandro Galea.

The CDC as an institution matters. Anthony Fauci.

The European Union and NATO as institutions matter.  Ask Vladimir Zelensky.

And one more.  Jesus came to save us from our sins, not from the need to use our minds.

Marsh Chapel as an institution matters.  The public ordered worship of Almighty God is not a matter of indifference, to you, nor to the current dean of the Chapel.  Come Sunday, in worship, one may hear and heed an intervening word, and be saved from lasting loneliness, abject anxiety, deep depression, or worse.  Community, meaning, belonging, empowerment, all are here, and you, beloved, you are offering these things, week by week.  Otherwise a college campus becomes a place with contact but not connection, a place with contact but nof fellowship, a place of contact without communion. You have something to offer, nothing to defend, and everything to share.

Institutions matter.

Mid toil and tribulation, and tumult of our war,
we wait the consummation of peace forevermore,
till with the vision glorious our longing eyes are blest,
and the great church victorious shall be the church at rest.

Therefore, Christian people, as we work and fight, play and pray this week, let us resist with joy all that cheapens life, all that dishonors God, all that mistakes our ordinary sin for the extraordinary love, power, mercy and grace.   Let the sacrament sustain and nourish us.  In Remembrance.  In Presence.  In Thanksgiving.  Let the sacrament sustain and nourish us.  In bread and cup and life.

Let the institution, the institution, of Holy Communion this day sustain and nourish us. Let the institution, the institution, of Holy Communion this day sustain and nourish us. Let the institution, the institution, of Holy Communion this day sustain and nourish us.

Yet she on earth hath union

With God the Three in One

And mystic sweet communion

With those whose rest is won

O happy ones and holy

Lord give us grace that we

Like them the meek and lowly

On high may dwell with Thee.

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

April 17

Easter Presence

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to hear the full service

Luke 24:1-12

Click here to hear just the sermon


But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

He went home, amazed… (Gk: thaumazon) …He marveled, he wondered, he was rocked by amazement.  Peter, the rock on which the church, and the faith of the church, are built, here, in this verse added by a later scribe, went home…amazed.  There is no God language here.  No G-O-D.  There is no theological language, no God-talk here.  On Easter.  On Easter!  No.  If such God-talk makes you skittish, uncomfortable, makes you question whether you have a place at the Easter table, hear today’s Gospel: Easter sings Presence. Easter sings presence!

One summer some years ago our family made a three-day trip to Maine.  We stopped in Kennebunkport and swam in the ocean.  That day the newspaper carried a little book review of a short book called On Presence.  The review noted that the book had been written by Ralph Harper, an unknown Episcopal priest in Maryland, who also taught a religion course at the local college.  The book won a prestigious prize.  The author was quoted as saying, among other things, ‘After preaching almost every Sunday for the past 31 years, I know how hard it is to say anything honest’.  I stuffed the review in my shirt pocket.  I finally bought the book (though nine months later).  The book is about presence, sense of presence and practice of the presence of God.  It is about being amazed, amazed as was Peter.

Harper writes, we have too short a time on this earth to pass up any chance to find words and images to live by.  I believe almost everyone is capable of being moved by some person, place, (part of) nature, or individual work of art.  Of course, there is instability and incoherence in and about us all the time.  There is also the inexhaustible store of Being to keep us permanently in awe.

Harper writes, "Not everything can be said easily, except claims of absolute affirmation or denial. In time, most things can be said clearly, at least. And some of these things are so important that we should do everything we can to make them clear. Presence is one of those things. It is not a word that we should allow anyone to rule out of our vocabulary." (120)

This is our first Easter together since 2019.  It is good to see you.  Here is the Easter Gospel after two years in the Covid cave:  Easter Presence.

Howard Thurman, the Dean of Marsh Chapel, Boston University, 1953-1965, found God through poetry, through psalms, and through paintings.  Last week, Samuel Wells, formerly of Duke Chapel, and now in the pulpit of St. Martin the Fields, began his sober sermon, ‘Preaching in Perilous Times’, a meditation on the 23 Psalm, with, yes, Howard Thurman.  Presence, say in a poem.  A sense of presence, say in a psalm.  The practice of presence, say in a painting.

That is, our beloved former dean, Howard Thurman, was a poetic theologian, a theological poet.  Presence, his sense of presence, his practice of presence, intimate to the natural world, made him so.  He was 100 years ahead of his time 50 years ago, so he is still 50 years ahead of me!  Late at night, along his beloved Daytona Beach, he remembered walking alone and with his feet in the sand.

He wrote, ‘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 consciousness.  Death would be a small thing I felt in the sweep of that natural embrace.’

Presence.  Presence of mind. (A great phrase).  It happened that a wonderful, beloved professor died in mid-lecture.  Later, the fifteen students from the class were gathered.  After initial awkwardness, there was a full presence in the room as they spoke.  One spoke a soliloquy on trauma and grief.  One gave a soliloquy on connection in hardship. One spoke a soliloquy on pride and love.  One gave a soliloquy on how others, his faculty friends, who had known him so much longer, might be hurting so much more.  ‘Let’s go visit them and offer our condolences’, one said.  And they did.  It was a powerful, poetic moment.  Where did we ever get the idea that 20-year-olds cannot say and do great things?

Presence.  Presence of mind. Last week Gerda Weissmann Klein, died at age 97, a survivor of the holocaust.  Before he was taken from her in 1942, her father implored her, if she was taken, to wear her ski boots, which she protested because it was summer.  But she did so.  By 1945 she was being marched 350 miles.  She survived, ‘in part she said because while many others wore sandals, she had her ski boots…and her imagination’ (NYT 4/9/22).

Today, Easter, 2022, may you discover or be discovered by such poetry, such presence of mind.

Dean Thurman was a lover of the Psalms.  Presence, his sense of presence, his practice of presence, intimate to the natural world, led him so. You cannot find, or know, Thurman without worship, sacrament, prayer, singing, spirituals, preaching—without religion.  And particularly the Psalms.  He had a favorite, or two.  Perhaps you do as well.  Pick two and learn them by heart this year.

Where can I go from your spirit?
Or where can I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
If I take the wings of the morning
and settle at the farthest limits of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light around me become night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is as bright as the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

A sense of presence.  Samuel Terrien taught us:  Presence….does not alter nature, but changes history…through the character and lives of women and men….The elusive presence of…a walking not a sitting God, a God nomadic, hidden, elusive and free…a God of tent not temple, of ear not eye, of name not glory…a God who creates and calls out a spiritual interiority, a commission by command…a God of time not space, of grace not place…whose faith allows one to translate love for God into actual behavior in society…(393)

 Yet for some, perhaps for you, come Easter, the three letters, G-O-D, may be more fence than doorway.  Not only the agnostics and apophatics, but also, and more-so, the average person, the ‘reasonable man’ of insurance law, often stumbles on those three letters.  And here in part is why:  if God is God, he is not good, and if God is good he is not God.  That is, it is a hard to square the concentric circles of love and power, power and love.  20,000 innocent civilians have been slaughtered this month in Mariupol alone, according to recent estimates. We are tuned in because they lived in homes like those in Boston.  They shopped in stores resembling our own.  They used social media and the internet as do you.  They rode transit, owned cars, vacationed in Barcelona, spoke multiple languages and were part of the new or renewed Russian appetite for slaughter.  If God could stop that and didn’t, he is not good.  If God would stop it and couldn’t, he is not God.  For some, hence, the three letters, G-O-D, are more fence than doorway.  Nor does it help that our halting, partial overtures to a sound, liberal, biblical theology have left us shorn of vocabulary. Sin. We hardly name it.  Death.  We rarely face it.  The daily threat of meaningless.  We barely conceive it.  And then along comes a five-year political crisis for American democracy.  And then along comes a two- year hibernation in the COVID cave.  And then along comes Ukraine, with a whiff of nuclear bombast, nuclear bomblast, in the air.  January 6. 1 million dead. A corpse with hands tied behind the back. Creation, we see.  Salvation, we assume.  But fall?  The fallenness of creation?  The abject, dire, need, one beggar telling another where both can find bread, the impossible possibility in fallenness of salvation?  We were absent that day, or took another course, not that there is any.  Or we thought we had bigger fish to fry.  We in five years, in two years, in five weeks and two days, have had a refresher course in the need for liberal biblical theology.  Sin is the absence of God.  Death is the absence of God.  Meaninglessness is the absence of God.  But you, it may well be, are not at ease with those three letters.  They seem a fancy, a fiction, an antique mistake.

Sometimes they seem so to me, too—though in fact and full I hold fast to the ancient traditions and language—yet sometimes they seem so to me, too, at least given our current cultural, linguistic incapacity, our cultural, linguistic exclusion of the three letters, GOD. So, the Gospel offers an Easter gift, a saving one, another word, that means GOD, but may say so better, at least for some, for a time, in our time.  The word is PRESENCE.   A back porch entry, not a front porch one.   With Thurman, and with Peter today, you may find wonder, marvel, and amazement, in presence.  Peter was amazed…

Today, Easter, 2022, may you discover or be discovered by such a sense of presence, perhaps this season a doorway for you to faith, rather than a fence.

 Thurman was a painter.  He did paint with brush and canvass, and loved to depict penguins, among other figures.  Presence, his sense of presence, his practice of presence, intimate to the natural world, led him so.  But they were the verbal paintings, the metaphors in speech, that were his greatest gifts.  One favorite was ‘a crown to grow into’.  A crown is placed over our heads the for the rest of our lives we are trying to grow tall enough to wear.

Sometimes, as Ralph Harper wrote, we need the height of presence: “When I am moved by a painting or by music, by clouds passing in a clear night sky, by the soughing of pines in the early spring, I feel the distance between me and art and nature dissolve to some degree, and I feel at ease. I feel that what I know makes me more myself than I knew before. This is how the saints felt about God, and I see in my own experience elements that I share with the saints and prophets, the philosophers and priests.” (6)

Our grandmother loved Brother Lawrence, and his book, The Practice of the Presence of God.  (John Wesley also loved the book).  Brother Lawrence was a 17th century Carmelite lay brother, who was injured in battle, and became a household servant, a valet, a cook, a dishwasher.  My grandmother grew up near Cooperstown, driving a horse and buggy to the milk station, skating on the Hudson, once all the way to Poughkeepsie, later on driving a car like she drove a horse and buggy, side to side, born 25 years before suffrage, posting little notes on her kitchen door like, ‘do one thing:  there, you’ve done one thing’, and, ‘do you know who I like to cook a big meal for? ANYBODY’, teaching the Sunday school class no one else wanted, for 6th grade boys, wearing out the Jehovah Witnesses when they came to call (‘can’t you stay a little bit longer’?), with her detailed, exacting knowledge of the Old Testament, and in all and with all, living day by day to ask respectful questions, and then listen intently to the responses.  She loved the dishwasher of the 17th century.

He was all about presence.

Brother Lawrence: ‘the time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were on my knees.

Brother Lawrence: ‘do not be discouraged…often, in the beginning, you will think that you are wasting time, but you must go on, be determined and persevere in it until death, despite all the difficulties.

Today, Easter 2022, may you discover or be discovered by such a rhetorical portrait, a word painting, a new favorite or an old one.


Presence.  A sense of presence.  The practice of presence. The faithfulness of Marsh Chapel, its fine lay leadership past and present, the beauty of its sanctuary, and its gifts of friendship for those near and far, are a lasting grace and help us.  In a world in which there is so much wrong, we need one another to help us hold fast to what is good—a poem, a psalm, a painting. Even today.

But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.

He went home, amazed…(Gk: thaumazon)…He marveled, he wondered, he was rocked by amazement.  In Easter Presence, may we too marvel, wonder and be rocked by amazement.  It is Easter!  Can you allow a bit of presence to touch your heart?

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

April 10

The Bach Experience- Sunday, April 10, 2022

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to hear the full service

Luke 19:28-40

Click here to hear just the sermon

Dean Hill:

It is not so long ago that we greeting Jesus at his nativity, singing carols and lighting candles of hope.  It is not so long ago that we witnessed his growth in wisdom and stature, in the knowledge and love of God, while as a teenager he taught in the temple.  It is not so long ago that this mighty young man Jesus stooped, fully human, for baptism in the surging river Jordan, the river of death and life.  It is not so long ago that we saw him take up his ministry among us, preaching and teaching and healing.  It is not so long ago that with Peter and James and John we saw him ascend the Mountain of the Transfiguration.  With him have we walked this Lent, step by step.

And now it is time to take the full measure of this Man, and to have the courage to let Him take our full measure, too.  The crisp air and vistas of the mountain pass have fed our souls.  But now it is time to head home, and turn our face to Jerusalem.

The road down the Mount of Olives, or down any mountain, can tax the traveler.  It reminds us all of earlier homecomings.

Odysseus walking the last few miles to Thebes.  Socrates walking to the center of Athens and the cup of hemlock.  Richard the Lionhearted sailing the English Channel, heading home.  A prodigal son, scuffling up the last mile of country road toward a dreaded homecoming, as we heard two weeks ago.  You, returning at last to whatever you have long avoided, wandering as you have in the Galilee of the rest of life.  At last, there is the Emerald City, and the road home.

Today, I raise just one question.  What was Jesus’ state of mind, what was on his mind and heart, as he entered the Holy City?

It is perilous, even arrogant, at this late date and from this great distance, to try to imagine Jesus’ state of mind as he descends the Mountain and enters the City.

Albert Schweitzer, before he went of to heal the jungle sick, showed convincingly how inevitably errant are most such attempts.  We paint our own inner lives into the life of Jesus, when so we try to see what cannot be seen in Scripture.  And yet, particularly at this point in his journey, at the entrance into the Holy City, and on the threshold of his own death, we are haunted—are we not?—by the desire to see what Jesus saw and feel what he felt and sense what he did sense, coming home.

Now Jesus is walking down into the city, down off the mountain, and down into the heart of his destiny.  He is going to his grave.

Some of the Gospel today, as Jesus heads home, is too true to be good.  He is not at home, not at home, in a world of injustice, abuse, violence, and death.  For him, in such a benighted world, there is no place like home.  He is not at home under the rubble of Ukraine.  And need to recall and recover our own tragic sense of life, and our own use of biblical terms like sin, like death, like the threat of meaninglessness.

As are we all, though it seems sometimes to be a conspiratorially well-kept secret.  We all are walking down the lenten mountain and into our lasting, our last future.  Every one of us is going to die.  We are going home.

Here is a possible sentiment in Jesus’ heart and mind as he descends the Mount of Olives.

He looks back upon his ministry and feels that there is no place like home.   He has found no lasting nest on earth, no lasting crib, no lasting domicile.   He has found opposition and rejection.  He has encountered misunderstanding and criticism.  To a harsh world he has brought a gentle manner.  To a wolfish world he has brought the labor of love.  To a selfish community he has brought the summons to service.  To an inconsistent dozen disciples, he has brought the steady presence of peace.   He has not found a home, not here.   There is no place like home, for Jesus, descending the Mount of Olives.   He has even said of himself, “foxes have their holes, and birds of the air their nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Some of greatest sentences ever written in English are devoted to a similar ennui, a similar existential vagrancy, Hamlet’s soliloquy, ‘to be or not to be’

And those of you who have been shot out of the saddle, riding for a righteous cause, as you dust yourselves off and bind your wounds, do so in the best of company, in the company of the crucified, for whom, on this green earth, as yet, there is no place like home.   But let me ask you something.  What other saddle would have rather ridden?  Some losing causes are worth support even in defeat.  I would rather be shot out of the right saddle than to canter comfortably all the live long day in the wrong saddle.  So dust off, bind the wound, and get ready to ride again.  We have not a person, dollar, idea or dream to spare, locally, nationally, or globally.  Not one.  And it is, let us confess it, an uphill pull.  But there is no other saddle you would ride in, for all the risk.  This is the place to be!

This hunger for home, this is what Paul meant:  this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.

Our beautiful Palm Sunday Bach Cantata may arouse again this hunger for home.  Dr. Jarrett, how best shall we listen this morning?


Dr. Scott Jarrett

This slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. A slight momentary affliction. One could be forgiven for thinking it a little churlish of Paul to categorize the human condition as a momentary affliction. Especially if our only solace is acceptance of a future heavenly home that can only be verified by faith. That’s a tough one.

With our loud hosannas and palm branches waving, we commemorate Christ’s triumphal entry to the city of Jerusalem, riding on a lowly donkey. In a few days, we’ll recall the events of the upper room, a dear friend’s betrayal, another’s denial and recusal. We’ll observe the manipulation of a populace through lies and falsehoods – alternative facts, perhaps? We’ll observe the original washing of hands – an abdication of responsibility – moral ambivalence, a giving up and giving in when the fight becomes too difficult.

Today we offer Bach’s Palm Sunday cantata Himmelskönig sei Wilkommen. Beyond enjoining ourselves to those who shouted Hosanna in Jerusalem centuries ago, Jerusalem is in our hearts, and the Salem of joy, our eternal rest. Cantata 182 is a triumph of charm, sweetness, humility, mercy, and fortitude, a joyful dance. Listen for Bach’s interpretation of a royal French overture – no trumpets or drums here. Christ’s entry on a humble donkey represented by solo recorder and violin with pizzicato strings. Utterly charming and affecting. A Lutheran theology, a Bachian melody, an invitation to acknowledge our need for salvation, a joyful acceptance and confidence of the redeemer’s grace and mercy, all that we might take up the Banner of Christ’s Cross and Passion to be Christ for and with one another throughout all our momentary afflictions.


Dean Hill:

Whittier’s poem:

I know not what the future hath of marvel or surprise

Assured alone that life and death God’s mercy underlies

 And so beside the silent sea

I wait the muffled oar

No harm from Him can come to me

On ocean or on shore


I know not where His islands lift

Their fronded palms in air

I only know I cannot drift

Beyond His love and care

April 3

Communion Meditation- April 3, 2022

By Marsh Chapel

Click here to hear the full service

John 12:1–11

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Keep it for the day of my burial…

Sometimes a single, personal experience of someone’s sacrificial living and giving can make a lasting, transformative impact.  And sometimes, perhaps Lent 2022, an encounter with a truly radical spirit, with whom you and I may not always agree, can cause one, you?, as we said last week, to come to himself.

 In the Holy Scripture there rise up moments in recognition of loss…that can become lines into the future.

One cascades upon us in Psalm 46…

Another falls upon us in Romans 12…

Another rises up and out of Psalm 121…

Still another can be found in any of the great poets, as with Frost and his mordant poetic lines…

Likewise, in these verses of John 12, there lingers an essence, a fragrance that eludes description. Why did Doestoevsky choose these verses as frontispiece to his greatest novel, Crime and Punishment? John seems to have distilled a potent nectar, more potent than that found elsewhere, from his knowledge of loss. Why are these verses so haunting?

I believe they astound us so, because they reflect a doubledeath. I believe the sense of glory found in the cross here comes from the hard lesson of loss, in a little church, somewhere in Turkey, turned out of the synagogue, and losing or about to lose, long after the death of Jesus, their last link with the primitive church. In the cross, in their loss, they saw both the death of Jesus, and the death of their beloved disciple, their beloved preacher, their pastor, John. The fourth Gospel is so strange and so startling because it operates at two levels, first that of Jesus and second that of John.  After decades of pastoral care, guiding them through change, leading them out ofthe synagogue, protecting them from their own worst selves, reminding them of Christ the Lord, and showing them how to walk in the light, the towering figure of their beloved preacher was overtaken by death.

First they lost Jesus, then they lost John. Both losses hurt with unspeakable pain. But here is what they learned: love carries us through loss. Love carries us through loss. Love outlasts loss. In fact, only self opening love can bring any meaning through loss!

You know this Gospel in your bones, in the old bone structure of Marsh Chapel. For you too have known the loss of Jesus, and the loss of a beloved disciple, an originating pastor, who guided and lead, and reminded and showed, and at last was overtaken by death. You too know about the two level drama of faith, the loss and love of Jesus Christ our Savior, and also the loss and love of a beloved disciple who built the Chapel, who located it on Commonwealth Avenue, who helped us through a depression and a war, who had a vision and built a building.. And then, he died. He is buried right under our pulpti, his ashes and those of his beloved wife  are interred here. And every moment of loyal offering, and every baby baptized, and every couple married, and every moment of eucharist, and every funeral service bringus back here, to the twin shadows. The cross of Christ and the ashes of Daniel Marsh.

We can feel the Gospel, the Fourth Gospel, the Gospel of the Fourth Gospel, here.

Sometimes a single, personal experience of someone’s sacrificial living and giving can make a lasting, transformative impact.  And sometimes, perhaps Lent 2022, an encounter with a truly radical spirit, with whom you and I may not always agree, can cause one, you?, to come to himself.

Sometime ago we knew, not well, but well enough a man who embodied Irenaeus saying, the glory of God is a human being fully alive.  Born of two Irish immigrants in 1926, John Joseph Murray, by the time we crossed his path 65 years later, exuded life.  Says my friend, I don’t have to drink the whole ocean to know it is salty.  Salt.  Salt and light he was.  An Army veteran.  A father of 8.  A rising star in a great corporation who quit on the spot when that business invited and funded Joseph McCarthy to speak in Syracuse.  He marched with MLK in 1963.  Then a leader in research and in national management circles.  A weekly voice in the Thursday Morning Roundtable, a breakfast for city leaders.  But it was his smile, it was his vigorous bicycling, it was his bee-keeping, it was his presence and advocacy at pretty much every significant critical gathering in that decade, it was his full partnership with his wife Nancy, it was his neighborly gracious friendship, it was all these and other marks of humanity that linger, now a month beyond his death.  Sometimes, and often early in young adulthood, something happens that quickens, inspires, frees, empowers, illumines, changes a person, for the better and for life.  That is Word and that is Sacrament.  Reading his obituary a fortnight ago, one came upon a remarkable record:  John was a proud “Christian Brother boy” too, graduating from Manhattan Prep and Manhattan College. On John’s first day at the Prep he was exposed to Dorothy Day through her newspaper The Catholic Worker. He read it and was hooked. She exposed him to the impact of mercy on hopelessness and set him on a path of peace and justice. He felt he had three crucial mentors in his life: Dorothy Day, Father Charles Brady and, the best of his life, his wife Nancy. (Syracuse Obituary for John Joseph Murray,  One part of him, at a young age, once freed up, freed up the rest of him.

Keep it for the day of my burial…

Sometimes a single, personal experience of someone’s sacrificial living and giving can make a lasting, transformative impact.  And sometimes, perhaps Lent 2022, an encounter with a truly radical spirit, with whom you and I may not always agree, can cause one, you?, as we said last week, to come to himself

In the Holy Scripture there rise up moments in recognition of loss…that can become lines into the future.

New York Times January 21, 2022:  Hundreds of people gathered at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to celebrate an important moment for Catholics in New York. Cardinal Timothy Dolan delivered a homily on the life of one of their own, Dorothy Day, a native New Yorker and anarchist writer and activist who died in 1980.

The sermon last month represented the end of a 20-year inquiry by the Archdiocese of New York on whether Ms. Day should receive sainthood, a question the Vatican will ultimately decide…

Ms. Day loved the church and its rituals and devoted her life to the Gospel, which she felt drove her to renounce material possessions and commit herself to a life of activism on behalf of the poor, a devotion to pacifism and opposition to both capitalism and communism. She often described herself as an anarchist.

Presence.  Thanksgiving.  Remembrance.  Presence.  Thanksgiving. Remembrance.

 As in Psalm 121…

As in the Canadian Creed…

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

March 27

Lenten Series 2022: The Work of Dorothy Day

By Marsh Chapel

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Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

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We listen to St Luke this year.  We do so, one step at a time, one Sunday at a time, one episode, teaching, exhortation, miracle, or, as today, one beloved, venerable parable. at a time.  Still, there are some outstanding features of the Lukan horizon, which we may simply name as we go forth.   First, Luke displays a commitment to and interest in history, and orderly history at that.  Both Luke and Acts are cast in a distinctive historical mode.  Second, Luke employs and deploys his own theology, or theological perspective, including this emphasis upon history and the divine purpose, or better said, divine meaning, in history—on this more in a moment.   Third, Luke highlights the humanity and compassion of Jesus in a remarkable way.  The Christ of St. Luke is the Christ of magnificent compassion, embodied in the humility of a birth among shepherds.  The poor, women, the stranger, the injured, those in dire need all stand out in Luke, as the recipients and subjects of Jesus’ love, mercy, grace and compassion.  Fourth, Luke carries an abiding interest in the church.  Ephesians says that ‘through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the principalities and powers.’ That catches the spirit of the author of the third gospel and of the Acts to follow.   It is this feature of Luke, the Lukan passion for compassion, upon which our passage has centered this morning.  So, we are taught:  know history, think for yourself, love the church, have compassion.  Dorothy Day, our Lent 2022 theological conversation partner, would have agreed.

Now I put it to you:  how long has it been since you have had a prodigal thought?  The prodigal son is prodigally reckless in departure.  But he is prodigally excellent and ecstatic in return.  His negative prodigality in descent is eclipsed by his positive prodigality in resurrection.  How long has it been since you have come to yourself?

Though no one says so, and to my knowledge no one has yet so written, Luke 15 may be the most Gnostic of chapters in the New Testament.  It is about gnosis, self knowledge, coming to oneself. As the Gnostics taught, we are trapped in a far country, a long way from our true home, like a man who has squandered his birthright, and moved from light to darkness.  As the Gnostics taught, we are meant to get home, to get back home, to get back out from under this earthly, fleshly, pig slop bodily existence, and back to higher ground, to heaven, to the heaven beyond heaven, to the land of light, to the loving father, like a prodigal son returning to the home that is truly his.  As the Gnostics taught, there is just one way to get back home, one key to the magic door.  That way and that key is knowledge, self knowledge, the knowledge of one’s own self—whence we come, wither we go.  As the Gnostics taught, salvation comes from this sort of esoteric, personal, soulful knowledge.  When he came to himself…

It is jarring, I give you that, to admit that this most traditional and most popular and most orthodox of parables may well have grown up outside the barn, outside the fences of mainstream Christianity.  But there is nothing orthodox about the prodigal and his coming to himself.  His is truly a prodigal thought.  I need to get back home.  Back to the land of light.  Back to the pleroma.  Back to the God beyond God.  No ‘Christ died for our sins’, here.  No ‘lamb of God’, here.  No settled orthodox Christology here.  No cross, no gory glory, no Gethsemane, no passion of the Christ, here.  It all comes down to self awareness, to awakening, to a moment of clarity.  When he came to himself. The parable of the Prodigal Son is the most Gnostic, most heterodox, most Johannine of them all.  Stuck here in the middle of Luke, read here in the middle of Lent, interpreted here in the middle of March.

The Gospel challenges us to come out from hiding.

You cannot hide behind a distrust of organized religion today.  The prodigal thought soars beyond that.  You cannot hide behind a disdain—often altogether true and righteous--for clergy, for formality, for robes and choirs and altars and candles.  This prodigal thought pierces all that.  You cannot hide behind the hideous moments in religious and Christian history—many there be—as a way to fend off the gospel, at least not this morning.  The knife cuts deeper, to the deeps, to your very soul.

Nor can you even hide behind a critique of Roman Catholicism today.  Prodigal thought soars beyond that.  You may reject the celibacy of the priesthood, the sacrifice of the mass, the subordination of women, and the infallibility of the pope.  But many, very many, Catholics do the same.  No, the gospel undercuts your smart but narrow critique, and asks about your soul.  You do have one you know.

Luke 15 asks whether you are coming to know yourself?  Are you?  This is the parable, oddly enough, that calls the seekers’ bluff.   Today the Gospel attacks where you have finally no ready defense.  It moves to your mind, your soul, your own most self.  Dorothy Day would emphatically agree.  In this very hour, we are caught in an awful dilemma, a tragedy of global proportions today.  We pray for those seasoned sober leaders, President Biden and others, seeking somehow to balance a rigorous resistance to heinous, unprovoked warfare and slaughter in Ukraine, with a measured restraint to keep this horror from becoming a global conflagration.  At the least we can find ways, say through UMCOR, to support refugees, now with our means, and perhaps later with our spaces.  Dorothy Day would admonish us to do so.

The Work of Dorothy Day

How surprised, stunned, even, we were to learn that the Roman Church itself has this winter proposed her for consideration for sainthood, after 20 years of study.  Not only her life, troubled as it was, nor only her faith, radiant as it was, has brought this consideration of canonization.  More than either of these, it was Day’s work that did so.  Hers was a work life of continuous experimentation.  In a way, she embodies our parable today.  We think of her obedience, as with the figure of the older son at the end of the parable.  But her life began much closer to the waywardness of the younger son with which the parable begins.  In a way, as with the prodigal, and strangely, that early prodigality somehow quickened in her a prodigious generosity, a prodigality of work.  Our biographer guides, Loughery and Randolph, often cited in these sermons, have taught us so.

For instance, after WW II, Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers began to experiment with farming, with country living, including a purchase in Newburgh, NY.  She was a 21st century soul, ahead of her time in world consciousness, in ‘thinking globally, acting locally’, in communal living, in critique of technology, in continuous experimentation, and, in Newburgh and elsewhere, in love of nature and regard for the natural world.  And she wanted people to learn and go, to grow and move.  Of the Catholic Workers Houses she said, This is a school.  No one is meant to stay here forever. (251)

 For instance, later in her life, Dorothy Day received a visit from the famous author Evelyn Waugh.  A friend had encouraged him to enjoy all the great good things in New York, but also to make sure to see the poor of the city, and especially to visit with Day.  He offered to take her to a fine restaurant, one she in fact had known well over the years, but she declined, inviting him rather to a simple restaurant, and then to visit the hospitality house nearby.  Waugh’s biographer later wrote:  Waugh encountered in…Day a personality as tough and autocratic as his own, yet infinitely less selfish—a disarming combination.  Confronted by this genuine ascetic whose entire working life was devoted to practical charity, he discovered a more sympathetic version of a close friend’s argument:  that the aims of Christianity and capitalism were fundamentally opposed.  It was not an idea he cared to ponder for long, but he retreated to the Plaza somewhat chastened (238).  Sometimes a single, personal experience of someone’s sacrificial living and giving can make a lasting, transformative impact.  And sometimes, perhaps Lent 2022, an encounter with a truly radical spirit, with whom you and I may not always agree, can cause oen, you?, to come to himself.

For instance, The Catholic Worker began as a newspaper, but fairly quickly expanded into a movement.  The movement, with Dorothy Day at the head was devoted to hospitality, and hospitality in particular for the poor.  Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day were committed to radical hospitality for the poor.  ‘Voluntary poverty brought into living practice the radical egalitarianism preached by Jesus’. (150)…’There are three things you have to accept about very poor people who have lived on the street…they don’t smell good, they aren’t grateful and they are apt to steal’ (152).

The work with and among the poor, it should be emphasized, was every bit as much about the spiritual development of the worker, as it was about the care of the needy.  The houses of St. Joseph offered hospitality to the guests, and spiritual formation to the workers.  And the conditions in these houses were very rough.  As the Catholic Worker movement, publication and hospitality and all, began to expand, so did Dorothy Day’s work in public speaking, which would consume much of her life over the next forty years or so.  Hers was a wide angle vision, a high hope, a global voice: If working men and women were solely concerned with better wages for themselves and not with larger ideas about community, societal change, and our God-ordained obligations to one another, the labor struggle would mean nothing in the long run (181).

 For instance, an especially striking outgrowth and outcome of her earlier work with the Catholic Worker emerged with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.  For Progressive Catholicism worldwide, the Spanish Civil War produced the horns of a very difficult dilemma.  On side were the republicans of Barcelona and elsewhere, like Hemingway’s Robert Jordan, committed to liberty and justice and progressive treatment and care of the poor. On the other side were those who supported the Church, the Catholic Church, and its traditions and clergy and history and culture.  One Progressive.  The other Catholic.  Spain tore American Progressive Catholicism in half.  Support the Church and stomach Franco, or support freedom and stomach Stalin.  She and her communities were torn apart from both sides.  She largely sided with the republicans, but not enough to satisfy everyone.  Still, the Catholic Worker movement and paper, like Allan Knight Chalmers and others, voiced and continuously retained a strong, clear utterly pacifist position through the Spanish War, the Second World War, the Korean Conflict and the War in Vietnam. This split the movement.  The Detroit, Cleveland and Boston houses agreed with her; the Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles houses did not (199).

For instance, by the 1950’s, Day and The Catholic Worker were involved in opposition to nuclear war, arms and weaponry.  Some of us grew up with weekly air raid drills, in which all in the elementary schools were sent to sit underneath our desks in preparation for a nuclear attack.  Day and her community chastised this (in hindsight clearly misguided) practice because it purpose, she asserted, was allowing the government and the military-industrial complex to render the unthinkable thinkable and therefore less in need of an immediate solution (264).  Our own experience of January 6 is similar, to take what would be utterly unthinkable, the assault on and desecration of the nation’s capital, and to normalize, or accommodate, or make space in the mind and the culture for such travesty.  In a year, already, we have seen just how successful that kind of project can be.  One ongoing, continuous aspect of her work came through acceptance of many invitations to speak, lecture, occasionally to preach.  And she had influence.  After Michael Harrington wrote The Other America (1962), he included in the preface: It was through Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker movement that I first came into contact with the terrible reality of involuntary poverty and the magnificent ideal of voluntary poverty (297).

Born, recall, in 1897, Dorothy Day was vibrantly active in the late 1960’s, in opposition to the war in Vietnam, the ultimate heartbreach for Dorothy Day the citizen as well as Dorothy Day the Catholic, shattering hopes formed fifty years earlier that her country would ultimately use its power and prestige for greater ends (308).  Born in 1897, her view of the youth of the 1960’s was anything but starry-eyed…(including) acerbic comments about the long haired, sexually active, drug-indulging young women and men she encountered so frequently in New York and on her travels (315).  She made time to visit, and admire Haley House, here in Boston, and said in ringing oratory: Our present capitalist, industrialist system is inhuman and wicked (330)…we don’t measure our success, we don’t despair and we don’t judge; we simply do the work God intends us to do.(336).  These are steadying late pandemic words for us, in 2022.  Do the work God intends us to do.  Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly.  And she found time every Saturday afternoon to listen to the broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera.  The work with the poor continued on: A Catholic Worker house, unlike a Salvation Army shelter or city shelter, would expect nothing, demand nothing from (the poor).  Many of us, myself included, might well have difficulty with this.  Yet she was not a 21st century feminist, at least not in the standard sense.  Poverty, race and religion were more important to her that gender (349).  She spoke in public for the last time in 1976, suffering a heart attack that year, the same autumn some of us began seminary, up the street at UTS.  St Joseph House and Maryhouse remain, four decades after Dorothy Day’s death, exactly where they have always been, but surrounded now by chic eateries, high price co-ops, boutique hotels and chain stores (360).  One wonders.  Could Dorothy Day cause us to come to ourselves?

 We give Day the last word: “We must practice the presence of God. He said that when two or three are gathered together, there he is in the midst of them. He is with us in our kitchens, at our tables, on our breadlines, with our visitors, on our farms. When we pray for our material needs, it brings us close to his humanity. He, too, needed food and shelter; he, too, warmed his hands at a fire and lay down in a boat to sleep.”

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

March 20

Lenten Series 2022: The Faith of Dorothy Day

By Marsh Chapel

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Luke 13:1-9

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Ah the fig tree. From the fig tree learn its lesson. You know what it means to be a fig tree in the New Testament. It is like being a turkey in late November, or like being a green beer on St. Patrick's day. You know you are going down.

People step aside when they hear that the story is about a fig tree. They step back ten feet, because they know what is coming.

Sure enough, at least at the outset, doom descends. In stomps the owner. Stomp, stomp, stomp. Fee fie foe fum. Yes, we know what is coming. I have seen this lousy, lazy, no good, flee bitten moth eaten, barren, fruitless, faithless, heartless, ruthless fig tree for three years, and nothing. Where is the fruit? Where is the beef? Show me the money! Yes, we have a sinking feeling about the old fig tree, having heard a sermon or three. Is there not fruit? And here it comes… Cut it down, throw it in the fire, off with their heads.

And in the other Gospels, that is that. One dead fig tree, and let it be a warning to you. I came not to bring peace but a sword. Not a jot or a tittle will pass away. Woe to you…

Which is, of course, what makes today's lesson so interesting. Guess what? It's not over, at least according to Jesus in Luke 13. No, it's not over, yet. This is the Gospel according to Yogi Berra. "It ain't over 'til it's over". With a little cunning and creativity, a little psalmist and saint in him, this lowly vinedresser says, "Well, hang on a minute…" There is something there. He sees something. Something alive, something at work, just beyond our comprehension.

Hope, stubborn and maybe even unreasonable, is what the vinedresser in our parable displays. He has a certain confidence, perhaps a confidence born of obedience to a great and loving Lord, yet still a confidence that where there is a will there is a way, no matter what the immediate cornstubble evidence suggests.

One struggles to intuit why this altered fig tree parable was so important for Luke and Luke's struggling church. As we saw last week, all these chapters 10 to 20 Luke has added to Mark's asperity. They must have had singular meaning for Luke's church fifty years after Jesus' death and resurrection. Perhaps, perhaps, the parable is meant to give trusting patience to those who are waiting out what scholars call the "delay of the parousia", or the expected but not actualized return of Christ on the clouds of heaven (1 Thess. 4-5). "Give me just a little more time…" sings the gardener.

Let it be, he says. Let it be.

His is not a naïve view, stubborn, maybe, unreasonable, perhaps, but not naïve. No, he recognizes that there comes a time when it is too late in every venture. He recognizes that the power to kill and give life is not his own. He recognizes that human labor and human investment is required for any progress. He recognizes the messiness of manure and dailyness of water, the messiness of history and the dailyness of grace. He recognizes that hope for the future is confidence, finally, not in human wisdom, but in divine grace. He recognizes the rigid limits of nature and history. He is a realist.

But he trusts, senses, hopes that there is something there, something alive, something not quite phenomenal, something just beyond our comprehension.

You could compare his sense, his hope, to a March day when it is still winter. Yet, there is a sense, a feeling. There are geese flying past, v by v. There is a blueish tint in the evergreens. There is more light and better light. There is wind, but not with quite the bite. One can fairly taste the maple syrup brewing miles away. Spring is coming.

Give me just a little more time, he asks. Do you have the feeling that he will ask the same a year from now, if things are no different? Well, yes. He harbors an inexplicable but crucial sense of trust that things will work out.  Our Uncle David used to say, with a grin, ‘It will all work out.  Or else it won’t’.

Here in Luke, not judgment, but grace is affirmed, not death but life, not authority or force, but growth and change.  In Luke 13, the question of ‘Why?’ is set aside in favor of the challenge to repent.  Governmental terrorism, in the hands of Pilate, and natural accident, in the case of a Tower in Siloam, are simply admitted to be what they are—utterly random in impact.

In the parable, the gardener points away from past performance and points toward future potential.  Time.  Time is given.  A time of reprieve, a time of reckoning, a time of recollection, a time of restoration.  Time heals.  There is impending judgment, but there is time for change.  This is Luke’s own material.  This is Luke’s own toddler, budding attempt to deal with what John, alone, later, in full adult fashion, addressed, the church’s abject disappointment that the expected return of Jesus, on the clouds of heaven, ‘before this generation passes away’ (Luke 21:32) has not happened.  The first century is ending and Jesus has not returned.  In the main, Luke simply continues to hold out hope, soon and very soon, of the traditional expectation.  Not here in the parable of the fig tree.  Here he finds, channeling his inner Fourth Gospel Spirit, the possibility that more time may be a good thing.  We would all say so, 20 centuries later, since more time has become our time!  The Greeks taught us that life is long.  Give it just a little more time.  Not: Especially, and perilously, too authoritarian and too inflexible, and too inerrant, a view of the Holy Scripture.  Scripture entirely alone, not Scripture in tradition by reason with experience.  No, says Luke, change, over time, can come and can become lasting goodness.

We who wrestle to support leaders who balance resistance with restraint, resistance to naked and brutal warfare of choice with restraint to retard such from becoming global conflagration, we need some measure of such hope. Hope is one gift of today’s gospel.

Dorothy Day

Hope is one gift of today’s gospel. The other is faith.  Hope and faith, the gifts of grace today.

Our Lent 2022 conversation partner is Dorothy Day.  Our guide to her life, faith and work is Dorothy Day: Dissenting Voice of the American Century. John Loughery and Blythe Randolph.  New York:  Simon and Schuster, 2020.  The citations in these sermons are from this recent, excellent biograpy. As we saw las week, Dorothy grew up in a non-practicing Protestant home. But when her daughter was born she determined to locate herself in faith, and in the Roman Catholic faith tradition. She found faith, and was found by faith. She did so in a remarkable but typical way:  she approached a nun whom she saw crossing the street in Staten Island.  Sister Alyosia.  The sister  provided reading material, catechisms, an interview with a priest. Tamar was baptized the next year, 1927 (Lughery and Randolph, 111).  Dorothy herself was baptized six months later.

‘Faith in God and Christ as the Redeemer, a belief in Transubstantiation and the life to come, the veneration of Mary and the saints, delight in saying the Joyful Mysteries and the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary, a willingness to be guided by a confessor and to accept the role of confession and absolution in a redeemed life, respect for the papacy and a two-thousand-year-old tradition: indeed, it wasn’t ‘a little’.  It was everything. (116)…Religion was the necessary corrective to the ‘narrow hermitage of the self’ that characterized modern life with its imprisoning walls of egotism and alienation.  A fellowship of faith spared one the desolation of aloneness. (Loughery and Randolph, 120)

            Yet the major influence in the composition of Dorothy’s faith, over time, came from an eccentric philosopher and activist, Peter Maurin.  A word on Maurin: What Peter wanted to talk about was the Church, Catholicism, the state of the world, the salvation of souls, the extent of the compassion Christ asked of us, the intellectuals he had known in France, American’s attitudes toward poverty and the impoverished, his plans for a Catholic newspaper, Dorothy’s evident potential as a writer and leader, and the need for more discussion and debate about what a Christian life looked like—the ‘clarification of thought’ was his favorite phrase (133).

            Both Maurin and Day were greatly influenced by the work of Jacques Maritain.  Maritain deserves more attention even today.  By whatever combination of lasting influences, Maurin and Day came at last to create the lasting publication, The Catholic Worker, published first in 1933 in the depths of the depression, and which still exists and still sells for a penny.  At its height it had 100,000 subscribers (Loughery and Randolph, 141).  One of its first extended interests was the coverage of the Scottsboro Boys case, one of whose primary exponents and supporters was Allan Knight Chalmers, who became a BUSTH professor of homiletics, and from whom today’s preacher received his middle name.

            In sum, the very basic, rudimentary aspects of Christian faith lived out in the Catholic tradition were crucial for her.  Daily, weekly mass.  Prayer.  The Rosary. All.  Her biography put it this way:   During times of stress, Dorothy found solace in the rosary and her attendance on daily mass, of course, and from conversations with her confessor and with those people…who understood her point of view (276)…For more than thirty years she read biographies of those whose lives she found instructive about different paths to holiness, the saintly and the venerable—e.g. Augustine, Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, Philip Neri, Francis de Slas, Vincent de Paul, Cardinal Newman, Rose, Hawthorne Lathrop, Theresa of Lisieux (Loughery and Randolp, 289).

Faith.  Hope.  Hope and faith, the gifts of grace today.

Wrote Dorothy Day:  “What we would like to do is change the crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, of the poor, of the destitute. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world.” 

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