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

September 10

Well Begun is Half Done

By Marsh Chapel

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Matthew 18:15–20

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Faith is the power to start over, in the midst of anxiety, and even in the throes of despair. Faith is God’s gift, and the message of the Spirit of the Christ. What the reason can never fully capture, and what the law can never fully define, faith gives: the power to struggle free of despair. Faith says: ‘Start again’… 

Faith inspires forgiveness. Of yourself.  And of others.  

The church is where the deep gladness of faith meets the world’s deep hunger for forgiveness.  Where forgiveness takes root, indwells, has a home, is known.  Where you are called to learn and speak the language of pardon, in all its glorious grammar, syntax and spelling. 

‘And throughout all eternity, I forgive you, you forgive me’ (Blake).  You are invited to growth in faith. Faith has as a first step, or at the least a very early step,  in pardon, in clemency, in forgiveness.  So today, in your first autumn steps, walk the sawdust trail of forgiveness.  ‘And throughout all eternity, I forgive you, you forgive me’. 

So the fierce prophet Ezekiel warns us and all.  Turn back.  Seek pardon, offer pardon, start with pardon.  And watch for first steps in pardon.  Your calling—is it your calling?—is pardon, clemency, forgiveness.  We begin so each Lord’s Day, every single week, with the prayer Jesus taught, ‘forgive us our sins (catholic), debts (presbyterians), trespasses (methodists), as we forgive’.  The hallmark of faith, the hallmark of the community of faith, is forgiveness. 

 You have ample space for practice.  All communities inevitably are riddled with endless contention and intractable difference.  A family, a dorm suite, a team, a business, a church, a country, a globe:  endless contention, intractable difference.  And the prophet warns, warns, that an honest, true, hard word needs sometimes to be spoken.  You need to stop that, because if you do not, the future is not good, for you, or others, or us, or all.  Ezekiel is a later prophet, on the edge of the divide between prophecy and apocalyptic, between politics and religion. ‘Turn back, turn back’. 

 If you had told me in 2015 that we as a country would spend the next nine years in verbal contest with one another, regarding three presidential elections, with no end in sight, with focus on and apotheosis even of a most disreputable cadre of personalities, cacophony of vitriol, and cascade of venom, I would not have believed it.  But I have now heard, and seen, and watch the worry birds fly morning by morning.  Things change. 

James Baldwin: ‘Nothing is fixed forever and forever, it is not fixed. The earth is always shifting and the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down the rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them, because they are the only witnesses we have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to one another, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with each other, the sea engulfs us, and the light goes out’…from Nothing Personal, 188)  

You may need to say a straight word to a roommate, teammate, suitemate or fellow inmate: ‘one of us is wrong and I think it’s you’.   Then follow with, ‘but maybe I am wrong, let’s talk’.  The moment we break faith with each other the sea engulfs us, and the light goes out. 

 The Psalms are chock full of pardon, clemency, forgiveness.  David, however many Psalms he did say, sing or write, knew the first step of faith, the first word in faith.  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.  Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Psalm 51: 10.  Sometimes we need to start over, begin again.  Sometimes that early step in faith invites a measure of mercy, a feeling for forgiveness. 

Annie Dillard: ‘The line of words is a hammer. You hammer against the walls of your house. You tap the walls, lightly, everywhere. After giving many years of attention to these things you know what to listen for. Some of the walls are bearing walls. They have to stay, or everything else falls down. Other walls can go with impunity; you can hear the difference. Unfortunately, it is often a bearing wall that has to go. It cannot be helped. There is only one solution, which appalls you, but there it is. Knock it down. Duck. Courage utterly opposes the bold hope that this is such fine stuff the work needs it, or the world. Courage, exhausted, stands on bare reality: this writing weakens the work. You must demolish the work. AND START OVER. You can save some sentences, like bricks. It will be a miracle if you can save some paragraphs, no matter how excellent in themselves, or hard won. You can waste a year worrying about it, or you can get it over with now. (Are you a woman or a mouse?) (The Writing Life, 73). 

Oh.  How I hate to scrap that sermon and start over.  I do.  But.  It cannot be helped. It might have been good, but it is not good enough.  Scrap it.  But it cannot be helped.  When it doubt throw it out. 

Faith means starting over, in life, in relationships, in work.  Every day. 

Which brings us to our gospel. 

 Our gospel dives deeply into the dark waters of pardon, of forgiveness, that for which we pray every Lord’s Day and every day. 

 Matthew relies on Mark, and then also on a teaching document called Q, along with Matthew’s own particular material, of which our reading today is an example.  He has divided his Gospel into five sequential parts, a careful pedagogical rendering, befitting his traditional role as teacher, in contrast to Luke ‘the physician’, whose interest was history.   We have moved from history to religion, from narrative to doctrine.  Matthew is ordering the meaning of the history of the Gospel, while Luke is ordering the history of the meaning of the Gospel.  You have moved from the History Department to the Religion Department.  Matthew has his own perspective. 

You may be interested or saddened to know that these several Matthean verses are found summarized from in this half verse from Luke: if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him (Luke 17:3).  Brevity is the soul of wit.   And the word church is used only twice in the Gospels, both in Matthew.  This is the life of the early church on display, late in the first century.  (Jesus after all loved both Gentiles and tax collectors, with passion and abandon.) 

 The word ‘ouch’ has a place in our lexicons and in our lives. 

The teaching is to begin alone, to speak privately to your sinful, trespassing, debtor sibling.  Then the teaching is to involve two or three others in the conversation,  Then, finally, the teaching is to turn to the whole ecclesia (hear ecclesiastical), the community as a whole.  One, few, more, many.  Okay. 

But what if the gospel here, in full and in fine, is not so much about tactics, but about mindset?  What if the way to forgiveness is not so much 1,2,3 as it is something far more universal, more permanent, more personal?  What if the real marrow of Matthew here is something like—‘when you have a problem, experiment;  when you try one thing and it doesn’t work, try something else;  in something as precious and lasting as forgiveness, maybe what most counts is not 1,2,3—go alone, go with a few, go with the community—as it is try some different things, experiment, if at first don’t succeed, try again, but in a different way? 

Maybe we are meant to hear, here, a summons to varieties of religious expressions. 

Hardly anything in life calls out experiment, creativity, and soul more than does forgiveness, whether we are talking about personal life or political life. 

This calling you may be feeling toward forgiveness, clemency and pardon this morning may require some creativity, some freedom of thought, some novel approach.  And you may be just the person to conduct the experiment.  Good for you.  In fact, you may be able to expand all of our repertoires of grace. 

Matthew is apparently fighting on two fronts, both against the fundamental conservatives to the right, and against the spiritual radicals to the left.  In Matthew, Gospel continues to trump tradition, as in Paul, but tradition itself is a bulwark to defend the Gospel, as in Timothy.  Matthew is trying to guide his part of the early church, between the Scylla of the tightly tethered and the Charybdis of the tether-less.  The people who raised us, in the dark, in the snows of those midnight blackened towns along the train tracks of the Lake Shore Limited, Albany to Buffalo, and on to Chicago, knew this well.  That is, with Matthew, they wanted to order the meaning of the history of the gospel.  They aspired to do so by opposition to indecency and indifference.  They attempted to do so by attention to conscience and compassion. Matthew emphasizes the role of law, of the law, of laws.   He is a legalist, whether or not he was Jewish (the general assumption, though some (I) would argue otherwise).  The church affirms and protects the conscience (repeat), in a personal way. 

“His name shall be called Jesus, for He shall save his people from their sin.” 

Many years ago, in late November a 26 year old woman died, a death tragic and needless.  She had come in the early snows of that November to our little church, for a few Sundays.  So the family asked us to do the funeral and burial, which we did.  But we learned later that they also had a long time earlier attended another church in a neighboring town, and a connection with the minister from that church, John, who had baptized the girl 25 years earlier, and who was, and probably felt, left out.  A week later the Episcopal priest nearby called and invited us to lunch.  ‘I just wanted to catch up with you both’.  The door opened on a priest in his clerics, a linen covered table with fine China and crystal, and a full meal.  We dined and talked.  And there was real grace.  Brushing the snow off the windshield that afternoon, I realized this older pastor was just trying to bring a little pardon, a little mercy, a little grace into a time of loss.  It didn’t build his congregation, or expand his budget, or add to his Sunday attendance.  He just had a sense, a calling to offer some mercy, in a time of hurt, over a common meal.  And 39 years 8 months later the memory is as clear as a bell. 

The pinnacle of our readings from Holy Scripture this Sunday is in Romans.  Paul, as he does in 1 Corinthians 13, so here in Romans 13, sings praise to the God of love, to love, for love, in love.  Forgiveness guides us to love.  Forgiveness is the heart of love, and love of forgiveness.  Forgiveness is the uber driver who gets us to the street of love. 

Mark Helperin: ‘I was graduated from the finest school, which is that of the love between parent and child…In this school you learn the measure not of power, but of love; not of victory, but of grace; not of triumph, but of foregiveness’ (Memoir from Antproof Case, 298)… 

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. 

Besides this you know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; 

The night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; 

Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. 

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. 

Faith is the power to start over, in the midst of anxiety, and even in the throes of despair. Faith is God’s gift, and the message of the Spirit of the Christ. What the reason can never fully capture, and what the law can never fully define, faith gives: the power to struggle free of despair. Faith says: ‘Start again’… 

Well begun.  Begin with forgiveness.  You’re half done, when so well begun. 

This in a particular, personal way may become your calling.  You may look in the mirror and see and say, ‘as hard as this is for me in general, I feel that I am called to be the salt of forgiveness and the light of pardon for those about me…Even though I am not good at it, I still feel called to it, called to grow in pardon, called to know well the grace of clemency, called to practice forgiveness.’ 

Frederick Buechner’s simple lines are oft-quoted, and should be: 

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. 

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. 

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

September 3

Alma Mater

By Marsh Chapel

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Matthew 16:21–28

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Class of 2027!  Family, and friends, and siblings and parents and all!  Welcome today to Boston University, which in a few short years you will come to name, come to call Alma Mater, soul mother, your soul mother.  The place where your young self gives way to your own-most self, your first self gives way to your second self, your early self gives way to your later self, where, may it be so, you come to yourself, you find yourself, you become aware, maybe fully for the first time, thanks to your soul mother, of your very soul.  

By their fruits ye shall know them.  As our President Kenneth Freeman said not long ago, we want to cultivate a sense of gratitude, an encultured sense of thanksgiving.  We do so by giving energy and wings to a simple phrase in American English, a lovely tongue, thank you.  Say thank you in prayer, in memory, in speech, in note, in letter in cyber text.  Let’s give some energy to ‘thank you’ this year.   

As our Provost Kenneth Lutchen said not long ago, we are here to form guide and shape others, not only to be an become intelligent people, but also to become intelligent people who go forth to make the world a better place. Intelligent people who go forth to make the world a better place.  The founders of Boston University, those Methodists of 1839, would smile to hear him say that. 

Every school and college in this BU community of 42,000 souls, has a role to play, and we say our own thank you, in advance, for the freedom, the financial and temporal and special and personal freedom to study, and for the fruit such study will produce: 

For the study of education 

Whose fruit is both memory and hope 

For the study of communication 

Whose fruit is truth 

For the study of engineering and computational and digital science 

Whose fruit is expanding global connection and safety 

For the study of management, business and economics 

Whose fruit is community 

For the liberal, metropolitan and general studies of art and science 

Whose fruit is freedom 

For the study of social work 

Whose fruit is systemic compassion 

For the study of law 

Whose fruit is justice 

For the study of art—music, dance, painting, drama, all 

Whose fruit is beauty 

For the study of hospitality 

Whose fruit is conviviality 

For the study of military and physical education 

Whose fruit is security  

For the study of medicine, dentistry, public health and physical therapy 

Whose fruit is wellness 

For the study of theology, the queen of the sciences, and its practices of religion 

Whose fruit is meaning, belonging and empowerment 

In this year may the family of Boston University—students, faculty, administrators, staff, alumni, neighbors all—become, by grace, thankful, thankful thankful for the freedom of such studies, which may make us:: 

healthier, more just, more connected, fairer, truer, sturdier, freer, gentler, deeper, safer, more compassionate, and more aware 

And how? 

All the world’s a stage. 

And all the men and women merely players; 

They have their exits and their entrances; 

And one (person) in his time plays many parts 

(W Shakespeare) 

And how? 

Walk. Listen. Read. (repeat) 


There is a great rush, a wind of life, energy, and hope with which every school year begins. May we not ever miss the privilege and joy of this Matriculation moment. Here you are, having bid farewell to mother and father, and said hello to your roommates. Your own life, your own most life, your second but truly first life now begins, or commences in another way. We should, all, remove our sandals, for this holy ground. ‘I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ In this moment of Holy Worship, Holy Scripture, Holy Communion, let us recall, Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts, heaven and earth are full of God’s glory. 

Spiritual life in college, as in all life, but in a particularly particular way, causes you to walk, to walk pretty, to walk in a certain way. You will walk in a moment down Commonwealth Avenue, whose more Eastern blocks Winston Churchill called ‘the most beautiful street in America’. He was not wrong. Like the heart beating lub-dub, like spirit and flesh engaged together, like ear and eye, mind and heart, sol y sombra, one two, one foot two foot, hay foot straw foot, you are on the trail. I take my hat off to you, and bow before you, as did St Vincent De Paul before his students, with the dim awareness that in your midst is genius, somewhere someone somehow. 

Boston is the country’s best walking city, a pedestrian palace of nature and culture. You know from the SAT the French phrase, ‘flaneur dans le rue’, to saunter down the street with no especial task, just the breathing joy of breathing, and so you are a flaneur of the spirit. Walk. Walk at dawn. Walk. Walk in the mid-day. Walk. Walk in the evening. Walk in the sunshine and especially the snow. But walk. And for those otherwise abled, guide the walkers with a sense of strength in difference.  Saunter on Newbury Street, and in the Public Garden, and all the way out the Emerald Necklace. 

Come Sunday, that’s the day, walk to worship, walk to church, walk to the Chapel. It is the one walk most needed, on which all the rest in some balefully unappreciated measure does depend. The ordered public worship of Almighty God is not a matter of indifference, at least to the current Dean of Marsh Chapel. You are child of God. Walk here and hear so.  And remember what it feels like.  Every three months my friend is given an knee injection to relieve pain.  On the day of the shot, he says, ‘at least for a time, I remember what it is like to walk pain free’.  That is what walking can do, and that is what worship is for, to remind you of who and whose you are. 


Now the spiritual life takes shape. Here you are. Come and listen. Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century set out his orders for his order, beginning with the first and most important. Listen. It is not what you see but what you hear that matters, lasts, counts, gives meaning. Faith comes by hearing not scanning. Hearing comes by the Word of God, not the words on a screen. The keyboard is not the window of the soul. What holds, molds, scolds, folds, for youngs and olds, is in the hearing. We have several regular worshippers, sight impaired, who will remind you, in their faithfulness, of the primacy of the ear. Listen. 

Listen for what is not said, for the dog that does not bark. Listen for what engages, and for what enrages, both. Listen to the sounds of silence. Listen for a word of faith offered in a pastoral voice toward the prospect of a common hope. Listen for a word of faith offered in a pastoral voice toward the prospect of a common hope. “Dad, I heard something fantastic the other day. It went like this…’ We have two ears, and one tongue. 

What Jesus said in 30ad is written down at last, and with a healthy dollop of interpretation, by Matthew in 85ad. There was a long line of listening, hearing, sharing, speaking, long before the writing.  The Scripture offers to hearing and faith the paradox of saving and losing life: you only have, only possess, only truly hold what you have the power, grace, freedom and courage to give away. If you do not have it, you cannot give it. If you give it, truly, you then show you have owned it.   These sayings were written down together in Matthew 16 because they shared a tag word—life. What can you give in exchange for your life? 

One side of the message is conservative: hold on, flee false forfeit, prize life now you have it). Whoever saves his life will lose it, and whoever loses is life will find it. The other side of the message is liberal: splash around with generosity, give with no thought of return, take up the cross, follow. The two teachings together are a paradox, an antimony, even, by some measure they are at daggers drawn. Which one for which day on which way will you say? I give you an unusual idiom, out of the freedom of American English: It’s up to you. It’s up to you.  Over time you will need them both, the more liberal and the more conservative. Over time, you will need them both. Listen. Tune your ear to God.  To learn which to choose and when demands, requires, the training of the ear 

Our dear friend, and ninth BU President, now of blessed memory, who died yesterday, Dr. Aram Chobanian, longtime Dean of our Medical School, the school now named in part for him, could listen.  He had the gift, the knack of that physician’s grace, the grace of listening, of the artful bedside manner.   


As today, so every Lord’s day, much is read, come Sunday. If you come to church here every Sunday for three years, you will hear the whole Bible, more or less, four lessons per week.  Free of charge!  You will hear.  One will read, read to you. A love of reading conjured in college—for this we pray for one and all.   Not scanning. Reading.  Not speed reading.  Reading every word.  Reading will take you out beyond and behind the twin towers of your birth. You have come of age in the shadow of the mists of COVID, class of 2027.   You were raised in part in the shadows of anxiety, depression, alienation, loneliness. Masked. You came to age under the aspect of ZOOM.  The loss was not face, the loss was voice.  The loss of voice to the omnivorous screen. But now you are at last in college, in part again to find your voice. 

Read. Thereby you escape the confines of the early 21st century. Are there no other escape routes? No. You read. While other party, you read. While others drink, you read. While others play, you read.   You will come to a great land that has been awaiting your arrival. It is the land of memory. It is the land of hope. See the meadow, bright in the morning! Memory. Hear the chorus of birdsong at dawn! Memory. Now you are ready to move into memory in reading.   Pick a favorite verse. Read it well enough to commit it to memory. One said last week, When you start to memorize you start to notice the things you notice, your own habits of attention, your habits of reading. As the congregation knows by frequent infliction, today’s epistle is one of mine. (Romans 12: 9-13). Reading will take you to a land of memory, the location of a deeper story. 

Read.  Start with Edward Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. You dwell in the tenth floor of a building whose first three stories were constructed with stolen land and enslaved labor, free land and free labor, for the benefit of anyone who had or used money, then or now. 

Read. You have the subsidized freedom, for four years or more or less, to think. Think things through. Think from the top down and the bottom up. Go where others are trying to think, and think with them. Challenge them. Question them. Press them. See what lasts. I am not afraid of the Gospel. It is the power of salvation to all who believe, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. As it is written, ‘the righteous shall live by faith’.  You remember what the bereft mother of a college age daughter said,in Charlottesville six years ago, quietly, said, gently, said truly, Think before you speak.  Think. 

Read.  Spiritual life—walk, listen, read, think—spiritual life true to your own-most self, is the only primary nourishment you will need for the next four years. Or the next forty. For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? ‘We are not simply to bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke in the wheel itself’ (Dietrich Bonhoeffer) 

Our Chapel leadership, Rev. Dr. Chicka, Rev. Dr. Coleman, Dr. Jarrett, Mr. Lee, will invite you:  to Create Space on Tuesday afternoon, and to 5pm Monday Dinner, and to Eucharist and Dinner on Wednesday, and to Choir on Thursday (auditions this week).  You are not alone.  You are not alone. You are not alone. 



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

August 27

A Moment of Inspiration

By Marsh Chapel

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Matthew 16:13–20

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A moment of inspiration. 

Peter was seized by a moment of inspiration.  

And you? 

Are we? 

Are we open to a moment of inspiration? 

Have you faith? 

Have you faith in Christ? 

Are you going on to wholeness? 

Do you desire to be made healthy in love in this life? 

Are you earnestly striving after it? 

Over the years, you, Marsh Chapel, have provided reasoned hearing for moments of inspiration, so not to be conformed, but to be transformed by the renewing of the mind, as Paul has it.  Think in four strands. 

 Some special ones have come as friends or students of ours, a strand of students from BU, as alumni if you will of Marsh Chapel have over time taken leadership in campus ministries near and far.  Your inspiration has borne fruit, with colleagues engaging campus life at Bates, at Tufts, at Bentley, at Emerson, at Middlebury, at St Paul at Syracuse, at American, at Emory, at University of Chicago, and elsewhere. 

 Your inclination to inspiration has borne fruit in voices of truth and love, here, over many years.  The historic strand of Methodism.  The gift largely of our time, though dating to Anna Howard Shaw decades ago, the strand of women in the pulpit.  International, and global strands, ecumenical and interreligious strands, all sharing an inclination to inspiration.  

 Your inspiration has also borne fruit in a fine, particular African American strand of preaching, dating to Howard Thurman and Martin Luther King (whose ‘Dream’ speech turns 60 tomorrow).  I can hear guest voices from that strand, that rich tradition, and picture them in our pulpit. I close my eyes and hear their cadences, their inflections, their pauses, their voices. Bobbie Mcclain.  Peter Paris.  Lawrence Carter.  Cornell William Brooks.  Elizabeth Siwo.  Dale Andrews. Peter Gomes.  Jonathan Walton.  Walter Fluker.  Christopher Edwards. Robert Franklin. Preeminently Robert Franklin. Ken Elmore.  And, after some serious pestering, without pause, of his gracious administrator, a wonderful gracious woman, our former Governor Deval Patrick. (She called on Friday to schedule a talk on Monday, saying…’You will be happy’.  Happy indeed!)

For this summer of 2023 the strand was from your extended family, your spiritual children, the children of Marsh Chapel who now lead and teach and preach, whether here or at Harvard or at Vanderbilt or in Rochester.  You have cast your bread upon the water, and some has come back to you, this summer.  We are still rightly judged by the kind of people we produce.  And grateful we are to Jessica Chicka,  Soren Hessler, Jen Quigley, Bill Cordts, Stephen Cady, Regina Walton, and Karen Coleman.  Marsh Chapel:  this summer our own family came home.  And they came to inspire us, and to remind us.  To remind us, to inspire us by reminding us.  Drew Faust, former Harvard President, has just done so with her autobiography, NECESSARY TROUBLE. 

Most of us most of the time need more reminder than instruction. So, as you think about discipleship and its costs, say each of these twice every morning… 
Faith is not a prize to achieve but a gift to receive. 
The gospel is not about success and failure but about death and resurrection. 
Cultural, racial and religious divisions are hard and real, today, and in first century Palestine. They must be faced and addressed. 
Sometimes the divine voice is and has to be harsh, like when a Father warns his son not to touch a hot stove. 
Food matters, really matters, and so, as in the sacrament is at the heart of our faith and faithfulness. 
Love brings happiness as those four young men from Liverpool reminded us: all you need us love. Love is the way to happiness. Nostalgia can block out curiosity. Nostalgia can eclipse curiosity. 

Love includes. Faith does not exclude. Hope includes. Love, faith and hope are like communion at Marsh Chapel. All are included. Sometimes an anthem can and will interpret the Gospel for the day, alongside the sermon.

You can see and hear these at your inclination, for your inspiration. And, now, thanks to one of our staff, whose name I cannot give you but whose initials are Chloe McLaughlin, you can listen to 799 services on podcast, starting with August 2008. You can listen for 47 days and 7 hours straight. Hm…that might be an ideal requirement for theology students…

Matthew teaches us, as does all Scripture. 

We are disciples.  The word means student.  Disciple means student.  Salve Discipuli.  Salve Magistra.   Discipleship means studentship.  The model of faithfulness recommended, particular in Matthew, and especially in Matthew 16, is the model of the student.  Perhaps if we simply said ‘studentship’ rather than ‘discipleship’, we would do better.  Perhaps we should and could see the courageous arrival of the class of 2027 as exhibit a, exemplum docet. 

Living right means learning together—in voice, in thought, in conflict, in Scripture.  Learning together. 

It is this driving preachment that causes Matthew to eviscerate Mark here.   Matthew in 85ad has taken a passage from Mark in 70ad and turned it upside down.   It is not so much the detail, by the way, of the manner in which Matthew and Luke revise Mark, chapter by chapter, which is important.  What matters is that they have the courage to do so, that they happily re-gospelled the gospel for their own day, to a fair thee well. 

No?  No?  Oh Yes. Yes, indeed.  Yes. 

(1)Mark in the passage calls Peter ‘Satan’.  Matthew calls him Rock.  (2)Mark has no mention of any church of any kind.  Matthew uses the word, the Greek word for church, ecclessia—not likely something Jesus would have said, and gives Peter keys to the kingdom.  (3)Mark has Jesus tell the disciples—the students—to keep it all secret.  Matthew rejects that secrecy, except for the title, messiah, and says, ‘preach it’.  Why?  Why does Matthew eviscerate, confound, gut, overturn his legacy, this inherited passage from Mark?  Answer:  he and his community are learning together…in a new time…in a different setting.  So they are learning, as are we. From voices.  From thoughts.  From conflicts.  And Matthew sternly tells his people:  for inspiration to take hold, take root and last, for us to become fully human we will need institutional grounding, support, protection, and sustenance:  family, neighborhood, school, church, university, country, globe.  And let me be clear about the church, Matthew’s Jesus adds, for all its troubles in every age:  the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. 

And one more thing, as we are learning together in voice, thought, conflict and scripture. Who do you say He is?  In your life. Notice the passage crashes away from the general and the philosophical—what do others say (general) about the son of man (philosophical).  Some say (general), the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the Prophets (philosophical).  Notice the move to the specific and the personal.  Who do you say I am?  Meaning for you today:  how are you going to live?  A life of studentship, or not?  Said Peter, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”  Remember this.  Peter is the one who most needed forgiveness, and full pardon he did receive.  There is forgiveness in life (repeat). And the church is the place where people like Peter, like you and me, who need forgiveness, find themselves forgiven.   That is your legacy in the liberal church. 

Matthew teaches us. 

That is, the tradition in Matthew 16, of Peter, the rock, on which the church—the commonwealth, the koinonia, the fellowship, the sharing, the community of faith, including right here and right now—is based, in Peter, on one thing.  Inspiration.  Are you open to a moment of inspiration? 

Peter was is called the rock, not for his consistency, not for his pedigree, not for his perfection, not for his physical strength, and certainly not for his swimming ability, where he is the rock as in sink like a rock.  Jesus calls him out because he is open to inspiration.  He has a moment of inspiration, and in that kind of inspired moment faith and the community of faith are born and bred.  ‘You are---the Christ’.  An indelible moment, of inspiration.  And for such inspiration, come Sunday, come any day, we need the gifts of the church:  the gift of quiet, the gift of courage, the gift of others around us to correct and challenge, and then, yes, scripture and architecture and music and liturgy and sacrament and all manner of grace, to keep us within earshot of…breath, the breath of God, spirit, inspiration.  

Our experience includes many fallow times and seasons, including these just now waning, if they are waning, from COVID.  But there are also powerful Petrine moments of inspiration.  That is the good news.  That is the gospel.  All, especially our arriving 18 year olds, need very much to hear this.  Every day invites inspiration. Remember Wilder’s Emily Webb, returning for one day to the land of the living: 

‘O Mama, look at me one minute as though you really saw me.  Mama 14 years have gone by.  I’m dead.  You’re a grandmother Mama.  I married George Gibbs.  Wally’s dead too.  His appendix burst on a camping trip to North Conway.  We felt just terrible about it–don’t you remember?  But, just for a moment now we’re all together, Mama.  Just for a moment we’re happy.  LET’S LOOK AT ONE ANOTHER’ 

‘So all that was going on and we never noticed.  Grover’s Corners.  Mama and Papa. Clock’s ticking. Sunflowers.  Food and coffee.  New ironed dresses and hot baths.  Sleeping and waking up.  Earth! You are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. 

A long time ago, by grace, a moment of inspiration arrived at the right time, and in the right way.  With one child at 18 months, and another on the way in a few more months, the draw toward doctoral studies would not abate.  We looked at the usual suspects, Boston and Harvard, Yale and Union, Drew and Duke, but for varieties of reasons nothing fit, nothing worked.  Then, one early winter snowy day, looking through the brochures of schools in the village library, a red booklet marked McGill came to hand.  And there, snow falling, of a sudden, that real kind of lived inspiration, a moment of inspiration, arrived.  The second largest French speaking city in the world, le Europe prochaine, the Europe next door, an excellent faculty, within geographic reach, at least south of the border, for our Bishop to arrange for service in churches there.  We could afford it.  We could imagine it.  We could reach it.  We could do it.  For all the challenges, it was doable.  The world is full of possibilities.  Life is full of unforeseen opportunities.  An hour of quiet, a different perspective, a little snow to still the soul and open the spirit, and, then, a moment of inspiration.  The shadow of Peter, the Rock, is not mainly in the administrative structures of the ecclesia, important as they are.  His shadow falls with delicacy and grace on you. 


A moment of inspiration. 

Peter was seized by a moment of inspiration.  

And you? 

Are we? 

Are you open to a moment of inspiration? 

Have you faith? 

Have you faith in Christ? 

Are you going on to wholeness? 

Do you expect to be made healthy in love in this life? 

Are you earnestly striving after it? 

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

July 9

Rest for the Soul

By Marsh Chapel

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Matthew 11:16-19,25-30

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Upon this summer Sunday, let us meditate on discipleship, and its gifts, and its expenses...its costs. Our gospel begins with the playful imagination of children in the marketplace.  St. Paul wrote in a similar way to his Corinthian congregation: 

God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty 

Discipleship costs more than wisdom alone. The walk of faith evokes and involves a rest for the soul, embracing imagination, the free play of insight, the province of children and saints. 

What a gift are the parables of Jesus!  He taught them in parables, says the Scripture, and without a parable he taught not one thing.   

Jesus stands in the marketplace.  He sees two warring groups of children.  All community is endless contention and intractable difference.  One group wants to play a game called ‘weddings’:  we have our pipes, we are ready to dance, come and join us, and let us play the game of weddings.  Another group wants to play a game called ‘funerals’:  we have our tears, our wailing, our gathered mourning clothes and forms, come and join us and let us play the game of funerals.  One game for the enjoyment of life preferred by Jesus himself, one game for the dour, self-discipline for life, preferred by John the Baptist.  Come and join!   

Yet neither group will give way.  Groups, as Reinhold Niebuhr taught us in Moral Man and Immoral Society, have a hard time changing direction, or giving way, or forgiving, or summoning an imagination ready for discipleship.  That requires a childlike heart.  It requires an imagination soaked discipleship. It requires the person whom you are meant to become.  And it costs. 

Did you ever know and love somebody who was always a bit on edge?  I mean a beautiful person with a heart of gold, who was run raw by the gone-wrongness of life?  This can be a rough world for a sensitive soul.  Someone who has an unquenchable passion for getting things right and for knowing when things are wrong.  A little of that can go a long way.  If your very hunger is for what establishes, rests, the soul, you can sometimes go hungry.  

Imagine with her eyes:  Every child in the community was attending a safe, well-lit, quiet school, where virtually all could read at the sixth grade level by the time they finished the sixth grade level.  Every sick person in the community had ample medical care, most of it preventive, and all of it shot through with a heavenly infusion of time, talent and money.  Every person of color in the community felt confident entering the public spaces—theaters, churches, stadiums, stores—in every corner of the community.  Every person is seen and heard as a real human being.  That is her—and perhaps your—vision. 

But around us, other.  Around us a frightfully warming planet.  Around us the generations deep effects of poverty.  Around us horrific hourly slaughter in Ukraine, without even a single honest report of total deaths 500 days later.  Around us the senseless needless shootings, gun deaths, to which we become inured.  Around, yes, and within us, the anxieties and distrusts of our time.  Imagine with her eyes, and feel with her soul.   

Today the gospel offers her, and you, a word of promise, with a note of challenge, a word of challenge with a note of promise.  Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden (challenge), and I will give you rest (promise). 

Here at the University, at the fountain of youth, we are blessed with intelligence, vigor, freedom, and reason.   

We want to be careful, and caring, though, so we pause here.  We educators sometimes tend to leave civil society to the rest of society. We have much freedom, but how we choose to use it, in relation to the rest of community and society, is another matter. We after all have that next paper to write, 50 pages of small print not including footnotes, titled with some version of the title, ‘Obscurity Squared’.  To do that, one needs a capacity to spend 12 hours a day alone in a library or in front of a computer screen.  To do that, to write that series of scholarly papers become books become resume become tenure become professor, can risk leaving aside, if we are not careful, or leaving to others, if we are not careful, the imaginative stewardship of forms of civil society… 

Girl Scout cookies.  Umpire work for the Little League.  Pinewood derby leadership.  A seat on the PTA.  Sunday worship.  Neighborhood watch.  Refugee resettlement work.  These we have to leave in the hands of others, or at least we think we do, those basic cultural building blocks that rest on a willingness to sit quietly in dull meetings, hoping against hope for the blessed refrain, ‘I guess we’re done for tonight’.  In civil society we have the chance to influence others, to be influencers, and to be influenced among others, in lasting, personal ways.  You want to speak to others, to convince others, to educate—good. But.  You cannot speak to others until or unless you speak for others.  To speak to requires first to speak for.  Others will not hear or heed you, and should not, in your speech to them, if they do not, with utter confidence, feel, feel, that you speak for them as well.  To speak for, you have to be with.  At breakfast.  Playing golf.  In book club. In church.  At the YMCA.  Then, only then, will you have enough funds in the relational bank when you need to withdraw some to say something that may then be audible. If you want people to hear you, preacher, you have to go and be with people, in visitation, on their turf, in community.  If you want to speak to others, educators, you will have to find a way to speak for others, not just to others.  This is the whole genius of American civil society, from the time of De Tocqueville.   Whether we will find, in the humiliations of an era whose leadership is shredding inherited forms of civil society on an hourly basis, the humility to go out and suffer with and for others, over the better part of the next decade, in order then to speak, is an unanswered question.  To get to an answer we may just need some imagination, costly imagination, in our discipleship, and some rest along the way.  Finding it, it will find us in receipt of a glorious rest for the soul, one of the real gifts of summers—the point of summer. 

Wisdom is vindicated by her deeds, saith the Lord.  In challenging promise, and in promissory challenge. Our Gospel lures us and lures our imagination forward, for discipleship.  Have we yet learned the lesson that what one meant—by an act, a word, a statement, a vote, say—is not all that such an act means?  We have experienced this lesson this tough truth, in the last several years. The lesson, that is, that what you in your heart meant by an act, a word, a statement—a vote, is not in fact the limit of what that act, word, statement or vote means:  in fact it is a small part, the greater part of the meaning being found in the effect, the impact, the historical influence of the deed. Wisdom is vindicated, known, in her deeds. Said our onetime Boston University Dean Ray Hart, The meaning of a text is found in the future it opens, the future it imagines, the future it creates. So too, the meaning of an act, a word, a statement, a vote, say, is found in the future, bright or dark, which it creates.  What you meant is not what it means.  For that, we have to listen to those harmed, or helped, by it.  Meaning is social, not merely individual, hence our use of words, our developed language, our investment in culture, our life in community.  You may have meant it one way, but its meaning is found along another.  Such hard, tragic lessons, to have to learn and re-learn, in our time. And relearn again, in 2023 and in 2024. 

 Here, Jesus is our beacon not our boundary.  Here Jesus is rest for the soul. Imagination is a costly dimension of discipleship that is waxing not waning, needed not superfluous, crucial not peripheral.  Our lessons today, Genesis, Psalms, and Romans, presage the Gospel, and draw our imaginations to forms of authority, and our engagement with them.  In Genesis, the authority in ancestry.  In Psalms, the authority in government.  In Romans, the authority in conscience.  In all these, the writers struggle to imagine a way forward, following the promising light of the beacon across the challenge of the boundary. 

Our parable brings us an invocation, a summer call to rest, rest for the soul. Pause and meditate a little this summer on your own enjoyment of play. Our esteemed Boston University colleague and beloved mentor, now of blessed memory, Peter Berger did so, in rumination about discipleship, years ago in his little book, A Rumor of Angels. He noticed moments of rest for the soul. I see some too. 1. I see grown men enthralled on a green field following a wee little white ball, which seems to have a mind of its own, for three or four hours in the hot sun.  2. I see grown women shopping together without any particular need, but immersed, self-forgetful, in the process of purchasing, God knows what.  3. I see emerging adults fixed and fixated, days on end, in a large puzzle on a long table. 4. Can you remember playing bridge in college all night long, to the detriment of your zoology grade?  Peter Berger: A. In playing, one steps out of one time into another…When adults play with genuine joy, they momentarily regain the deathlessness of childhood.  The experience of joyful play is not something that must be sought on some mystical margin of existence.  It can readily be found in the reality of ordinary life…The religious justification of the experience can be achieved only in an act of faith…B. This faith is inductive—it does not rest on a mysterious revelation, but rather on what we experience in our common, ordinary lives…Religion is the final vindication of childhood and of joy, and of all gestures that replicate these.  Last winter, one sophomore, breaking from study, said: “I played basketball today, on the intramural team—it was awesome.”  Rest to, and for, the soul. 

A wisdom vindicated, justified by her deeds, is a cost of discipleship.  (St. Luke in his version has changed the ending to ‘justified by all her children’—maybe an even closer memory to the marrow of, the history of, the parable.).  There is always a possibility of and for good.  In every day, there is a possibility of and for good. 

 Hear again the imaginative wisdom of Boston University’s own one time personalist philosopher, Erazim Kohak, in The Embers and The Stars, with whose epigram we conclude, this summer morning, to kindle and draw on a rest for the soul: 

‘Humans are not only humans, moral subjects and vital organisms.  They are also Persons, capable of fusing eternity and time in the precious, anguished reality of a love that would be eternal amid the concreteness of time.  A person is a being through whom eternity enters time.’ Op. cit. 208 

 Sursum Corda! Receive the Divine Gift of Rest for the Soul!  A challenging promise, and a promissory challenge.  

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

June 18

The Gospel of the Kingdom

By Marsh Chapel

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Matthew 9:35–10:8

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The authority of Jesus’ ministry is today transferred to disciples, ancient and modern.

Change is afoot, as James Baldwin eloquently sang: ‘Nothing is fixed forever and forever, it is not fixed. The earth is always shifting and the light is always changing, the sea does not cease to grind down the rock. Generations do not cease to be born, and we are responsible to them, because they are the only witnesses we have. The sea rises, the light fails, lovers cling to one another, and children cling to us. The moment we cease to hold each other, the moment we break faith with each other, the sea engulfs us, and the light goes out’.

The authority of Jesus’ ministry is today transferred to disciples, ancient and modern.

Today we meet Jesus on the hinges of the first Gospel, as the flow of the Gospel swings from Lord to apostles. In the announcement of this good news is included a measure of empowerment for each one of us. This is the kind of day on which, for once, for the first time, or for once in a long time, we may be seized by a sense of divine nearness. The kingdom of heaven is at hand. The kingdom of heaven has come near to you. When that sentence makes a home in a heart, or in the heart of a community, a different kind of life ensues.

Capture in the mind’s eye for a moment the sweep of the gospel read earlier. First. Jesus has been about, teaching and preaching and healing. His compassion abounds. The endless range of needs about him he unblinkingly faces. Second. Jesus calls and sends the disciples, and empowers them, and by extension he empowers us. The gospel will have been read thus, as it is thus read by us. He instructs and directs them in their work, where to go, what to do, how to be. Learning, virtue, and piety

together. Start at home, heal the sick, travel light. Third. Jesus expects and forecasts for them a less than utter victory in their work. They are to know how to shake dust from their feet. Fourth. Jesus warns that there will be a price to pay. The discipline that is the hallmark of the disciple here is named. Shall we not remember Jesus ministry? Shall we ignore the call and power offered here? Shall we forget the directions given? Shall we turn a deaf ear to the caution about consequences? We pray not. The main sweep of the gospel today is clear as a bell. Jesus gives power to his disciples. To you, and to me.

And yes, there is devil in the details of the passage. The material in our reading sends us into foreign territory. We have other words, whether only modern or both modern and more accurate, to describe unclean spirits. We recognize that the list of apostles, or disciples differs from other lists. (A free for all!) We are uncomfortably aware that Jesus himself, in other Bible pages, goes both to the Gentiles and to the Samaritans, and regularly and infamously so. We do not regularly meet leprosy. We carry no gold in our belts, nor silver, nor even copper. We are not pilgrim peregrinators who arrive in town and camp on a doorstep. We sense that the hard distinctions we make between disciples and apostles were not made by Matthew. We do not readily conjure up the vision of Sodom and Gommorah. We sense that the time of Matthew and his community’s persecutions under Domitian, 90ce, may have colored all or a part of this passage.

Nor are we to think that we should buy tunics or money belts or sandals or travel through towns in Israel or prefer judgment fall on Gomorrah. A confusion here will allow us to avoid the clear call of Christ upon our consciences in the main flow of the gospel. For the main point is crystal clear. To follow Jesus means…to take up where he and his earliest companions left off.

Do you love Jesus? Then you must do something for him.

Jesus has taught, preached and healed. This ministry he has bequeathed to his disciples, his apostles. We have been seized by the confession of the Church; we are Christians. Now his ministry, this ministry, is ours. Which part of this ministry draws you?

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. It may be that healing the sick has a medical degree of meaning, that raising the dead is about pastoral ministry in the Northeast where the church awaits

resurrection, that cleansing lepers is about including those on the outside of the social fence, that casting out demons is reminding people not to fear, not to fear. Good change can come. Real change is real hard but comes when real people really work at it. You could, rightly, challenge the interpretation. But the questions stands.

Where does your passion meet the world’s need?

What are you ready to risk doing, to plan for the worst, hope for the best, then do your most, and leave all the rest?

What are you going to give yourself to, to offer your ability, affability, and availability?

Who calls you, who called you, to your own real life, your ‘ownmost’ self?

Last spring, we honored our marvelous BU Chief Health Officer, Judy Platt, a physician who test by test got us through COVID. She mentioned that a book on her family table called to her, over the years, to enter medicine. A book about Albert Schweitzer.

A child organ prodigy, a youthful New Testament scholar, a young dean in his Alsatian theological seminary, a man whose New Testament books and articles I used with profit in my own dissertation a few years ago, a person whose own story has difficulties, Schweitzer’s life changed on the reading of a Paris Mission Society Magazine, and we went into medicine.

As a scholar, he wrote, of this passage, let us mark the words: He comes to us as one unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside, He came to those (men) who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word, ‘Follow me!’ and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.’ (QHJ, 389).

What he wrote of Jesus became his life. He left organ and seminary, studied medicine, and practiced in Africa for 35 years, calling his philosophy, ‘a reverence for life’.

Vocation leads to God. A decision about vocation leads to nearness to the divine.

Or perhaps you remember young woman from Rockford Illinois, Jane Addams. She grew up 140 years ago, in a time and place unfriendly, even hostile, to the leadership that women might provide. But somehow she discovered her mission in life. And with determination she traveled to the windy city and set up Hull House, the most far reaching experiment in social reform that American cities had ever seen. Hull House was born out of a social vision, and nurtured through the generosity of one determined woman. Addams believed fervently that we are responsible for what happens in the world. So Hull House, a place of feminine community and exciting spiritual energy, was born. Addams organized female labor unions. She lobbied for a state office to inspect factories for safety. She built public playgrounds and staged concerts and cared for immigrants. She became politically active and gained a national following on the lecture circuit. She is perhaps the most passionate and most effective advocate for the poor that our country has ever seen.

Of her work Addams wrote, let us mark the words: “The blessings which we associate with a life of refinement and cultivation must be made universal if they are to be permanent…The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain, is floating in midair, until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life.”

Christopher Lasch explained once the puzzle of Jane Addams’ fruitful generosity, let us mark the words: “Like so many reformers before her, she had discovered some part of herself which, released, freed the rest.”

Is there a part of your soul ready today to be released, that then will free the rest of you? Is there a backwoods, a quiet trail, a hidden meadow of meaning in your spirit, ready today to be the scene and site of such a release?

You may reminisce this morning, Father’s day, about one or more who raised you. And not all parents are the natural sort. Some are relational dads and moms. Our dad died on this date, June 18, 13 years ago, and his generation.

He and his companions in the ministry 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. Faith is not a prize be won, but a gift to be received.

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.

When we said, ‘that’s not fair’, he replied, ‘whoever told you life was fair’?

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. The conscience of the believer, he trusted, is inviolable.

Many of you remember today those who helped you become a person, a real human being, and even a disciple, with toughness in love and love in toughness.

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

Or, you may muse today, alert to costs in discipleship, about Juneteenth. Andrea Taylor Senior Diversity Officer at our beloved BU has taught us so much about the holiday, and about her generation’s marches toward freedom, encouraging us to read and learn. Say, Arthur Ashe’s brilliant memoir, Days of Grace. Say, Howard Thurman’s With Head and Heart. Say Cornellian Edward Baptist’s towering monograph, the single best available work in the area: The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. (He reminds us that we dwell in the tenth floor of a building whose first three stories were constructed with stolen land and enslaved labor, free land and free labor, for the benefit of anyone who had or used money, then or now.) Say Charlayne Hunter-Gault, My People.

One day nine years ago, here at Marsh Chapel after a winter funeral, later at the collation following the service, Charlayne Hunter Gault introduced herself. You may remember her, as we did, from her many and fine contributions to the PBS News Hour, with Jim Lehrer. She said, ‘I need to talk to you later about the 23 Psalm’, which I had used in the service. I was so pleased to meet her, and then so worried that I had somehow offended her, or that I had misrecited the pslam, or other, that the collation time passed anxiously. It needn’t have done. She wanted to recall a memory. A memory of her younger self. A self that heard a voice saying, ‘Follow Me’. At 18. The first African American to integrate the University of Georgia, 1961. The daughter of a Baptist minister. Alone in a big place, a strange place, a new place. Walking home the third night, there were taunts and threats. The University that day had even suggested she might want to go home, at least for a while. She went into her room, alone. She closed the door. She turned out the lights. And she waited, until quiet came. And then—it was the only thing that came to her mind—the prayer of David in Psalm 23 came to her. And she spoke the psalm, alone, afraid, uncertain, at night. ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.’ Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.’

Do you love Jesus? Then you must do something for him. Do you love Jesus? Then you will want to do something for him.

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

June 4

Communion Meditation- June 4, 2023

By Marsh Chapel

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Matthew 28:16–20

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

May 21

University Baccalaureate 2023

By Marsh Chapel

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Graduates of the class of 2023, as we gather, we celebrate your success, we honor our esteemed, excellent University leadership, we welcome your parents and friends, and we pause, briefly with you, to ponder the meaning of it all.  (Usually, I have the responsibility to speak to the Baccalaureate guest, and among other things gently but clearly remind them that they have just 15 minutes for the Baccalaureate Address.  Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and I feel their pain, only 15 minutes.  The wheels of justice grind slow but exceedingly fine!) So let me ask you to consider, briefly, three aspects of this high, holy moment, your graduation, all three of which are embedded in this Marsh Chapel, and embedded in the meaning of your study here. Learning. Virtue. Piety.  Life-Long Learning. Social Virtue. Transformational Piety. 

We have at Boston University a strange, superstitious tradition regarding the seal embedded in front of Marsh Chapel, which by legend is not to be stood upon prior to completion of courses, on pain, threat or supposition that one such misstep will block one’s progress toward graduation itself, or at least delay the degree, somehow.  

For a few minutes at this Baccalaureate 2023, let me upend my own, and perhaps your own, puzzlement, even disregard, for this tradition. Just for a moment.  For like a lot of strange traditions, this one about not stepping on the seal may have, oddly, a point.  For the seal has upon it three exacting words, words to live by, not just for a bit of life, but for the whole of life.  Potent words.  Words with electricity, juice, in them.  Words, three words, not to be treated lightly, tread upon, scuffed, sauntered over, mistreated, marked or mocked with disdain.  Words, three words, fit to carry for the memory of Commencement, the beginning of the road away from school. Words, three words with which not just to make a living, but also to make a life.  You and I do not believe in ghosts.  Yet…we have our own reasons, over time, to accord some measure of respect, respectful agnosticism, but respect nonetheless to the uncanny, to the numinous, to the strange, to the elusive, even when such are produced for us out of an odd legend.  For life is haunted by things we don’t see, things we don’t understand, things we cannot control.  Scripture and tradition acknowledge this—from the Midas touch to Lot’s wife.  

Here are three divine words, lasting truths, immutable markers of what matters, lasts and counts.  In the vigor of youth, and in the tempestuous vitality of young life, somehow, it may be, our students are on to something.  They are teaching us, and themselves.  They are chary of, wary of, disdain for the true, the good and beautiful, in places of the heart, of the soul, of the subconscious.  In good Shaker tradition, the heart follows the hand, their heart follows their feet.  Put your hands to work, and your hearts to God.  In three words.  

The first of these is learning. That means life-long learning.  As you entered the Chapel, above the portal, there is the sculpture of Mr. John Wesley, whose Methodist movement gave BU birth in 1839, and who sang, ‘unite the pair so long disjoined, knowledge and vital piety, learning and holiness combine, truth and love for all to see’. A kind of early One BU. He was devoted to learning, life-long learning, as have been many of our guests here, over these years. In 2018 John Lewis (of blessed memory), Anthony Fauci, Carmen Yulin Cruz Soto (mayor of San Juan) all reminded us of this, both in speech and in example. They embodied the civil rights movement, the challenges in Puerto Rico (remember the former president’s graceless remarks about Puerto Rico that year?), and the importance of science in health (though we could not yet see the pandemic coming, nor Dr. Fauci’s central leadership through it).  Experience is the greatest teacher, especially when it causes us to learn through disappointment, but also when it causes us to learn through generosity.   

Disappointment teaches us lessons that success cannot fathom.  Faith mainly comes from trouble. Mr. Wesley and his early band of Methodists learned to ‘watch over one another in love’, because life is so shot through with disappointment.  Wesley was 200 years after Shakespeare, but he would have known the aching hurts recorded in those monumental plays and poems. You read Shakespeare at some point at BU, and so recall his 66th Sonnet, awash in disappointment:  

Tired with all these, for restful death I cry,  

As to behold desert a beggar born,
And needy nothing trimm'd in jollity,
And purest faith unhappily forsworn,
And gilded honour shamefully misplac'd,
And maiden virtue rudely strumpeted,
And right perfection wrongfully disgrac'd,
And strength by limping sway disabled
And art made tongue-tied by authority,
And folly--doctor-like--controlling skill,
And simple truth miscall'd simplicity,
And captive good attending captain ill:
Tir'd with all these, from these would I be gone,
Save that, to die, I leave my love alone. 

 We learn through experience, including the experience of grace, the grace, say, to overcome disappointment.  That is faith, whether in secular or religious attire. 

 Likewise, we learn too through giving.  You only have what you can give away, what you have the freedom and power to give away.  You only truly possess what you have the liberty to give away. 

 So, 200 years after Shakespeare, along came John Wesley, teaching a tithing generosity, Mr. John Wesley who greets us at the door, coming and going.  

 This morning we gather up in prayer the experiences of four years and lift them all in a spirit of grace and peace. 

 This morning we embrace the graduates of 2023, as you commence with the rest of life, and lift them all in a spirit of grace and peace. 

 This morning we open ourselves to the world around us, and pledge ourselves to live not only in this world but also, and more so, for this world, for this world in a spirit of grace and peace. Horace Mann: “be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” 

 John Wesley was the founder of Methodism, the religious tradition that gave birth to Boston University in 1839. His motto: Do all the good you can. The words are simple:  that is significant.  The language is universal:  that is significant. The tone is thankful:  that is significant.  The phrasing is memorable:  that is significantWords fit for use morning by morning, day by day, year by year, all in a lifetime:  that too is significant.   

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can. 

Do all the good you can. 

 Learning, lifelong learning. 

The second of the three words embedded in the central, haunted Plaza seal, the occult and subconscious dark backdrop of life (life as Hobbes said that is solitary, nasty, brutish and short) the second of these words is virtue.  That means social virtue.  That means common, civic, communal virtue.  Your class has known the importance of shared, national virtue, which was needed to overcome a raging pandemic which impacted every one of you, every one of us.  Your class lived through the raging furies of January 6, 2021 which had the potential to impact every one of you, every one of us.  Your class lived through the surges of isolation, anxiety and depression, which continue to challenge us. 

Well, we have a second permanent guest in Marsh Chapel a fellow who knew much about this.  He is in the back corner, on the pulpit side, up in stained glass.  Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln.  He is reminder that virtue is the bedrock of shared, national, social, cultural life.  Real leaders have virtue. Virtue is not optional in a nation’s leadership.  Shun mendacity. We may differ about the size and scope of a budget, or the most apt programs in foreign affairs.  But we cannot differ about telling the truth, about personal virtue, about lies, including big lies.  Personal virtue, especially in leaders, is the basis for national virtue.  Class of 2023, in warning, we say:  do not be fooled, here.  A house divided against itself, on this, cannot stand.   

Remember who you are and whose you are.  Listen to the few paragraphs of Lincoln’s greatest words.  Listen for the anaphora in the beginning, and the epistrophe at the end. Listen to the gravity and realism, but listen also, out of a dark corner and hour, for the hope. 

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.  

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.  

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. 

Both history and mystery are at the heart of a regard for virtue, and at the heart of any real college education.  

Virtue, social virtue.  

The third of these three words is perhaps the strangest to our ears, but maybe the most important.  It is piety. That means transformational piety.  This year Jonathan Eig has published Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Perilous Power of Respectability). King lived to transform.  Real piety is transformative. The piety here, the faith here, in your BU old bones, is transformational, not just personal, but transformational piety. 

My dad was born in the same year as King, and was here as a student at the same time.  My dad was raised by a single mom, with no dad at home.  But not all of our parents are natural parents.  Some are relational parents.  He met a teacher, a homiletics teacher, here at BU, who became such, a relational not natural parent, and so when their first child was born, they gave him the middle name, ‘Allan’, after that teacher, Allan Knight Chalmers.  He is the rascal speaking to you now.  None of us got here alone.  Others helped, others practiced a transformational piety.  Thank one, two or three of them today, if you have a chance.  

There is no greater voice, near or far, of transformational piety, than that voice celebrated in the heart of our plaza.  For your meditation, here are selected epigrams from your fellow BU alumnus, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.   

When it gets dark enough you can see the stars. 

 Say that I was a drum major for justice, for peace, for righteousness.  

 Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. 

 Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase. 

 I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. 

 The moral arc of the universe is long but it bends toward justice. 

 I have a dream that one day my four children will be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. 

 ‘You’ve got to have a dream, if you don’t have a dream, how you gonna have a dream come true?’  Have some dreams, even if, as Nina Tassler told us in 2016, you have to edit your dreams.  It would be great to have some of the children of King—Rafael Warnock, Deval Patrick, Marilynne Robinson, Barack Obama--here in autumn 2025 to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the dedication of Marsh Chapel.  May we find the grace to seek and serve his cause of justice in the years to come. 

 A story, one of transformational piety, which King repeatedly told, is of Marian Anderson. She was awarded an honorary degree here at Boston University in 1960, a black opera singer, whose voice was perhaps the greatest of all in the last century.  But it was her mother who made it possible:  I remember when Marian was growing up, and I was working in a kitchen till my hands were all but parched, my eyebrows all but scalded. I was working there to make it possible for my daughter to get an education. 

One day somebody asked Marian Anderson in later years, “Miss Anderson, what has been the happiest moment of your life?  Singing in Carnegie Hall? Performing for the Kings and Queens of Europe?  When Toscanini said a voice like yours come only once in a century.  No…No…No...And she looked up and said (smiling) quietly, “The happiest moment in my life was the moment I could say, “Mother, you can stop working now.” Marian Anderson realized that she was where she was because somebody helped her to get there. (MLKing, “A Knock at Midnight”).   And somebody helped you too. 

Piety, transformative piety.  

Learning. Virtue. Piety.  Personal. National. Global. Lifelong. Social. Transformative. They are your words, now, now that you have crossed the seal, your words chiseled in the stone of Marsh Chapel, your words, embodied in the beauty of this chapel, with Wesley and Lincoln and King.  Nod to Mr. Wesley, President Lincoln, and Dr. King, in sculpture and window and monument, as you depart.  But class of 2023, carry them in memory, not for a day, but for a lifetime.  

Let love be genuine 

Hate what is evil 

Hold fast to what is good 

Love one another with mutual affection 

Outdo one another in showing honor 

Never lag in zeal 

Be ardent in spirit 

Serve the Lord 

Rejoice in your hope 

Be patient in tribulation 

Be constant in prayer 

Contribute to the needs of the saints 

Practice hospitality 

 Class of 2023:  Bon Voyage! 


-The Boston University 2023 Baccalaureate speaker was The Rev. Dr. Robert Allan Hill, Dean of Boston University's Marsh Chapel

May 14

This I Believe 2023

By Marsh Chapel

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John 14:15–21

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Text of the reflections is unavailable at this time.

May 7

Communion Meditation- May 2023

By Marsh Chapel

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John 14:1-14

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This morning we think of our students, as classes end and exams begin, and especially our seniors, with whom we gather up in prayer the experiences of four years and lift them all in a spirit of grace and peace. 

This morning we embrace the graduates of 2023, who began in 2019, as they commence with the rest of life, and lift them all in a spirit of grace and peace. 

This morning we open ourselves to the world around us, and pledge ourselves to live not only in this world but also, and more so, for this world, for this world in a spirit of grace and peace. Speaking of grace, this morning we offer you a prayer, a grace, written by John Wesley. Wesley was the founder of Methodism, the religious tradition that gave birth to Boston University in 1839.   

His grace exemplifies that tradition: 

The words are simple:  that is significant 

The language is universal:  that is significant 

The tone is thankful:  that is significant 

The phrasing is memorable:  that is significant 

It is a prayer fit for use morning by morning, day by day, year by year, all in a lifetime:  that too is significant: 

 Gracious Giver of all good 

Thee we thank for rest and food 

Grant that all we do or say 

May in thy service be, this day 

Next week, our honored ‘This I Believe’ speakers will continue this tradition, in a spirit of grace and peace:  Allison Brown, Madison Boboltz, Hannah Hathaway,  Allison Imbacuan, Marian Karam Diaz—congratulations! 

This morning we think of our congregation, our community of faith, brought together by the gospel, and its preaching, by the gospel, and its sacrament, by the gospel and its resurrection mystery. 

We are children of those who shared with us the gifts of wonder, morality and generosity.  In mystery. 

John is a mystery.  It is odd that John has no record of the Last Supper, in his account of the passion. It is odd that John demotes Peter from his regular central role. It is odd that the gospel carries no remembrance of parables. It is odd that hardly anything of the standard ministry of Jesus, usual gospel fare, appears here. It is odd that the humanity of Jesus has virtually disappeared into the bright eternal light of his form in John, “God striding upon the earth”. It is odd that the New Testament would include a Gospel so fully at odds with its three synoptic cousins. Cousins, not siblings. It is odd that John, by the main, has no use for the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist. Where would the church be without birth to cleanse and guilt to absolve? It is odd that the Gospel we read today is shaped around seven stunning miracles, and four impenetrable chapters of teaching. It is odd that a Gospel so wildly different from the rest of those in the Bible should have made the cut, and been included. If you think having Ecclesiastes—which rejects, contradicts and humiliates much of the rest of the Hebrew Scripture—included there is a strange thing, then multiply that odd presence by 20 or 50 and you have a sense of how different is John. Nor in church nor in academia have we yet begun to account for the radical freedom and difference of this nonconforming gospel. It is odd. 

What remains, as we consider our church, our chapel, our community, our common table?  

A testimony to the power of relationship remains. John 14 sets aside predictions, instructions, and demonstrations, found here in the other gospels. Here relationship, relationship alone, remains. The relationship of Father and Son. The relationship of departed and devoted. The relationship of doubter and disciple. The relationship of community and pastor. The relationship of faith and works. The relationship of Jesus and his own.  

Things that really matter are ultimately relational, whether that relationship is with others, with self, or with God. Our friends give
us ourselves. Our instincts give us ourselves. Our sense of presence gives us ourselves. So this morning let me directly ask you to think about your close relationships, your work relationships, and your relationship to God. In these relationships you may overhear the humming, mysterious allure of service.   

Your relational gits, Marsh Chapel community, and your communal duties are significant and challenging.  They include needs, plans and hopes, all part of our shared communal duties: 

Needs: Boston University needs from Marsh Chapel, Religious Life (5) 

* Sunday Worship Excellence, *All University Events Ceremonial Leadership, *Pastoral Care at Death, *Religious Life Ministry, Program and Oversight, *University ‘Identity’, in History and Hope 

Plans:  Marsh Chapel and Religious Life Strategic Plan 2023 Summary (5) 

The envisioned mission of Marsh Chapel is be a heart in the heart of the city, and a service in the service of the city.  Our use of President Merlin’s epigram means city as the global city, and service as worship and work.   Our foci guiding this envisioned mission are voice, vocation, and volume.  As in other iterations of our strategic plan (2006, 2009, 2012, 2017), we take our lead from the new, refreshed Boston University Plan, especially its own five-fold foci:  academics, research, globality, diversity, community. 

Hopes:  75th Marsh Chapel Dedication Anniversary (‘25) Goals (5, 200, 100, 1, 4) 

 $5M deanship endowment completed.  200. 200 students in worship.  100.  100,000 weekly contacts (building use, worship, newsletter, website, radio listenership, internet listenership, pastoral contact, other).  1.  One annual BU Religious Life Day (perhaps climate related). 4. Infrastructure advances (Live Stream; Digital Ministry; Organ; Elevator etc.).

These needs, plans and hopes involve us all, including those listening from afar.   


This morning with glad hearts we think of the three children to be baptized just following our service today.  Please stay and join us in the chancel, after our greeting in the narthex.  Bring along a hymnal.  We will speak then of baptism, a sacrament… 

We will remember an ancient, beautiful teaching, the Didache, which word simply means teaching, composed in the early second century, it may be, a younger cousin of the gospels of John and Matthew: 

There are two ways, one of life and one of death, but a great difference between the two ways. The way of life, then, is this: First, you shall love God who made you; second, love your neighbor as yourself, and do not do to another what you would not want done to you. And of these sayings the teaching is this: Bless those who curse you, and pray for your enemies, and fast for those who persecute you. For what reward is there for loving those who love you? Do not the Gentiles do the same? But love those who hate you, and you shall not have an enemy. Abstain from fleshly and worldly lusts. If someone strikes your right cheek, turn to him the other also, and you shall be perfect. If someone impresses you for one mile, go with him two. If someone takes your cloak, give him also your coat. If someone takes from you what is yours, ask it not back, for indeed you are not able. Give to everyone who asks you, and ask it not back; for the Father wills that to all should be given of our own blessings (free gifts). Happy is he who gives according to the commandment, for he is guiltless. Woe to him who receives; for if one receives who has need, he is guiltless; but he who receives not having need shall pay the penalty, why he received and for what. And coming into confinement, he shall be examined concerning the things which he has done, and he shall not escape from there until he pays back the last penny. And also concerning this, it has been said, Let your alms sweat in your hands, until you know to whom you should give. 

This morning we think of this season, Eastertide, the season of resurrection.  The resurrection of Jesus is more than resuscitation. The witness of the church, of this church too, is that God has decisively acted in history by Christ to forgive sin and to vanquish death. Nor is Christ's being raised a form of healing, only, or translation, only, like the experiences of Lazarus or Elijah. No, this is the first fruit of the new creation, the beginning of the new age, whose outpost is the church. God's invasion, beachhead, incursion into history, the divine d-day is announced today 

It is in this vein, 60 years after the first Easter, that our fourth Gospel writer preaches. All the aforementioned, bodily resurrection, he receives and assumes. But he has other fish to fry, morally spiritual fish to fry. For the author of John, the accounts today of absence and presence have become moral stories. Directions for some to believe and go home, for others to recognize and say something. There is a "finesse" to venerable memory that, in its delicate lightness, touches truth more truly than younger recollection. Johns shows us some of this kind of "finesse". Some historians avoid an historic, that is bodily, or mystically vocal resurrection, because they focus on causation. Resurrection is not a historical category in the general sense. Philosophers, sociologists, scientists, cannot fathom resurrection, because it challenges the basic categories of their work. Which it does. Many others, avoid resurrection for another reason, the primary reason for the rejection of the Gospel in any case. Resurrection creates responsibility. If we are all merely creatures of biology, sociology and history, conditions over which we have no control and upon which we have no influence, then we are not free and therefore we are not responsible. We are not subjects. There is a reassuring side to this thought. While we receive no praise, we also avoid any blame. Nothing much changes anyway. Our conditions cause our behavior. "I really do not want to go to church because I know at some point somebody will ask me to do something."  

But conditions are not, necessarily, causes. Our sinful human condition is not necessarily a warrant for ongoing sin. Our mortal human condition is not ultimately an unalterable death knell. Easter means forgiveness and heaven!  

Contrary to historical determinism, in the historic teaching of the church, on resurrection, the opposite is true. God has freely acted in raising Jesus, and has thus opened the way for response. We are free to respond. And there is the rub.  

It is not, finally, we who have the power to question the resurrection. It is the resurrection that questions us.  

"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going." 

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" 

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." 

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

April 30

The Bach Experience- April 30, 2023

By Marsh Chapel

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John 10:1-10

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RAH:  The name of God's act is resurrection. Without it our faith is in vain and we are still in our sins, trapped, enslaved, the creatures of various conditions beyond our control or understanding that steal our freedom, and so our humanity. More. Without resurrection there is no response, because there is no responsibility at all.  But with resurrection there is joy, there is freedom, and there is response. 

John 10 today shows us the fullness of emptiness, presence in absence. John has always more than one opponent or contestant. He is fighting always on two fronts. So much for tradition, so much for culture. So much for depth, so much for breadth. So much for Judaism, so much for Gnosticism. So much for church and so much for community. So much for memory, so much for experience. John contrasts the freedom of Christ with fragile, formulaic faith. Things do not always fit into little boxes. The Hurricane winds of change, the reaches of pandemic and post pandemic, say, rearrange every manner of dwelling. 

The Gospel of John, more than any other ancient Christian writing, and in odd contrast to its prevalent misunderstanding abroad today, knew the necessity of nimble engagement of current experience, and the saving capacity to change, in the face of new circumstances.   The community of this Gospel could do so because they had experienced the Shepherd, present, ‘here’, here and now.  In distress, we hold onto divine presence, we hold onto the Shepherd– hic et nunc. Speaking, and hearing.  They found that in speaking of the Shepherd: ‘he is here’.  ‘I am…’  That is all, still, we have, the voice.  Utterance.  ‘I am…’  The ‘here’ is in the hearing.  Can you hear that?  It begs to be heard, here. Come in and go out and find pasture. A resurrection moment.  

Which may bring us to the Cantata this morning, a joyful, even jolly, happy piece, befitting its Christmas birth, and also embracing our Easter rebirth.  Mark this day!  So shouts the Cantata, and so it reminds us of the precious gift that is every one day.  Dr. Jarrett, how today does the music shape, form, mold and teach us? 


SAJ:  The name of God’s act is Resurrection. And what is resurrection? Rebirth, renewal. The chance to grow. The chance to grow again. This is the Grace of God, freely given. This last Sunday of April, a gentle rain falls outside, nourishing the earth’s annual rebirth. The rain falls freely to the earth, just as God’s grace. Freely given.  

By God’s grace, woman and man were created in a garden long ago. And by God’s grace, he created them free, and free they have remained. Freed daily to choose Grace. What would you choose?  

God’s grace revealed anew in a Bethlehem manger, a second Adam: Light and life to all he brings, ris’n with healing in his wings. Mild he lays his Glory by, born that we no more may die, born to raise the sons of earth, born to give them second birth.  

The name of God’s act is Resurrection. Second Birth, a covenant renewed. Verbum caro factum est et habitavit in nobis. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Will you follow him? Will you choose God’s grace?   

Grace is the central theme of Bach’s Christmas cantata written in Weimar in 1714. “For the dawning radiance reveals itself to you as the light of grace.” 

“Let us then ever trust in Him and build upon His grace.” 

“May we ever walk in grace.” 

As with the two fronts of John’s Gospel, so too, our cantata embraces the paradox of God’s majesty clad in the humility of the manger; our Salvation born of a lowly Virgin, homage paid by the Shepherds. And in the fullness of time, our Prince of Peace, will arrive in Jerusalem not on a mighty steed, but a humble donkey. Ride on, King Jesus! “Ride on in majesty! In lowly pomp ride on to die; bow thy meek head to mortal pain, then take, O God, thy power and reign.” 

The name of God’s act is Resurrection. A saving Grace. A healing Grace. Freely given, that we might be freed of sin and death. Christians, etch this day in metal and marble stone. Mark this day. Mark this day, for God’s grace. Will you choose God’s grace, will you embrace it?  

How will you respond to cynicism? Negativity? Hopelessness? Fear? Will you simply acknowledge? Why not “Yes, and . . .” Choose it, yes, and proclaim it. Freely given that we might be free. So Christian, Mark this day. Choose Grace. Choose Resurrection. Proclaim Renewal. Live in Resurrection.  

Soar we now where Christ has led, Following our exalted Head, 

Made like him, like him we rise, 

Ours the cross, the grace, the skies.  

Alleluia. Alleulia.   


RAH:  As one for whom Christ died, and for whom God has raised him from the dead, now in the hearing of this good news, you have responsibility. You are free. You have the power to respond. Our past has been forgiven and our future has been opened (Christ has overcome sin and death). But that leaves you holding the bag, if not the burial cloth. Ability to response, response-ability, is forever set loose on Easter.  

I heard again our own Inner Strength Gospel Choir, in their 50th anniversary celebrations and fellowship and concert this weekend, in their honoring of our own Herb Jones in 20 years of leadership, and their response and responsibility to one another, over decades, and to faith welling up from that resurrection ‘inner strength’.  Mark this day! 

I talked with a young couple not long ago, just after their son was born. Early in the morning the contractions began. Panting and blowing and praying and waiting, the birth progressed. Suddenly-miracle! - ruddy and pink and crying and blinking there appeared a new born. You can revisit that moment, that sense of the miraculous.  Mark this day! 

I remember devotions in a meeting, given by a young man who has a telescope. When he was nine his neighbor taught him about the heavens. On a clear night he would call over next door, "Mikey come on out. I've got my scope. It's clear. Let's listen to the stars." Listen to the stars…Mark this day! 

I read Isaiah Berlin on his life mission. "Collisions, even if they cannot be avoided, can be softened. Claims can be balanced, compromises can be reached; in concrete situations not every claim is of equal force: so much liberty, so much equality; so much for sharp moral condemnation, and so much for understanding a given human situation; so much for the full force of law, and so much for the prerogative of mercy; for feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, healing the sick, sheltering the homeless. Priorities, never final and absolute, must be established." Is there a time in history in which, we would have been more receptive to the mission of softening collisions?  Mark this day! 

 I hear the voice of Harry Belafonte, bringing us southern charms, warm breezes, music for dancing and dreaming, a voice for the ages, now given over to heavenly rest, to joy, to resurrection.  Mark this day! 

Therefor let us ever trust Him 

And build upon his Grace 

For He has bestowed upon us 

What now delights us forever 

-Dr. Scott Allen Jarrett, Director of Music