Searching for Intimacy with God

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
October 16, 2016
The Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 24C

Genesis 32:22-31
Psalm 121
2 Timothy 3:14-4:5
Luke 18:1-8

My Friends:

8111420340_3eedc8bd24_bIt will come as no surprise to any who know me well that I am neither an athlete nor an ardent sports fan.  However, when I began my tenure as a teacher and chaplain at Saint Mark’s School twenty years ago, I felt obligated to attend all manner of athletic competitions, especially those involving any of my handful of student advisees.  And so, at the tender age of forty-five, I saw—believe it or not—my very first soccer, hockey, lacrosse, tennis, and wrestling matches.  This “brave new world” of athletic competition came to me as quite a revelation.  I can vividly recall my horror and alarm as I watched my first hockey and lacrosse games:  young men with sticks engaged in what appeared to be savage battle with one another.  The real eye-opener, however, came at my first wrestling match.  At first, I completely recoiled at the sight of wave after wave of grimacing young men apparently mauling and choking one another.  Yet, after that first shock of horror, I suddenly realized that in slow-motion, this fight might easily be misconstrued as a loving embrace.  In fact, all of these sports—but most especially wrestling—involved both struggle and intimacy:  the cornerstones of any significant and meaningful relationship. Continue reading

Healthy and Authentic Relationships

Homily for Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Wednesday in the 22nd Week after Pentecost
Luke 11:42-44

“You tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds,
and neglect justice and the love of God.”

mint-521401_960_720Today’s gospel text is a call to authentic relationship with Jesus Christ.   “Authentic” relationship with Jesus is not about rules and regulations – it’s not about tithing “mint and rue and herbs of all kinds” – but is about doing justice and loving God.  To be sure, there are rules and regulations in the Church, as there are in any institution, and we are called to follow them as best we may.  But it is important to keep in mind that the goal of these rules, the aim of our institution, is human health and wholeness, “justice and the love of God.” Continue reading

From Grief to Thanksgiving

Homily for Sunday, October 9, 2016
Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 17:11-19

“’Were not ten made clean?  But the other nine, where are they?”

christThis morning, I’m going to preach two homilies.  First, I want to speak to today’s Gospel text, and then I want to say a word about the Blessing of the Animals that we are about to do.

We preachers can easily turn this morning’s gospel – the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers –  into a pedantic reminder of the importance of saying “thank you.”  When we do, our homilies often come across as lengthier, maybe slightly more refined, versions of what our mother told us when we were kids:  “Remember to say ‘Thank you.’”  More creative preachers might point out that the leper was a Samaritan – an outcast – and say something about Luke’s concern for the marginalized.

I have preached both of those sermons, and I want to do something different this morning. Continue reading

Only Servants Doing Our Duty

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
October 2, 2016
The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 22C

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-10
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

My Friends:

mustard_plant_bangladeshAlmost twenty years ago during the first of my twelve subsequent visits to the Land of the Holy One, I was very eager to collect anything that I might share with the students in my Heirs of Abraham course to make the Bible come alive for them.  So, when we came upon a field of blooming mustard plants, I took some of their almost microscopic seeds to show my students.  Unfortunately, there was no way for me take home a mulberry tree because such trees grow to a very large and bushy height in Galilee.  Besides, I would never have made it through US Customs hauling a mulberry tree along with my luggage.  While Jesus’ disciples would have immediately caught this morning’s contrasting images drawn from their familiar world, we must rely upon the flora and fauna more common to us in these parts.  So, in your mind’s eye this morning, picture a pumpkin seed beside a giant oak in full bloom for comparison. Continue reading

Waking Up to Abundance

Sermon for September 25, 2016
Pentecost 19
1 Timothy 6:6-19
(Romans 3:23-24)

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have… pierced themselves with many pains. – 1 Timothy 6:10

Note that Paul does not write that “money is a root of all kinds of evil,” but rather that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”  An important distinction!

But I don’t want to begin there.  I want to begin instead with something I’ve noticed that I tell myself almost every morning when I wake up.  Nearly every morning when I wake up, I tell myself two things: first, “I didn’t get enough sleep,” and second, “I don’t have enough time.”  Sometimes the first is actually true – I didn’t get enough sleep.  But the second, never.  On any given morning I have exactly the same amount of time I did the previous day, the same amount of time that every other person has that day, the same amount of time that every person has had every day for centuries. I have 24 hours! Continue reading

Rise Up and Follow Jesus

Homily for September 21, 2016
Feast of St. Matthew
Matthew 9:9-13

Caravaggio completed his “Calling of St. Matthew” in 1600 for the chapel of the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome, where it remains today.


There are many artistic elements on which we could focus in this painting:

  • Caravaggio’s use of light. Notice how a beam of light breaks in on the dark (like Christ had just surprised a group of gangsters in the back room).  The light slants across the painting and illumines the tax collectors’ faces.
  • Christ’s pointing hand. When I look at this painting, the first thing I see is Jesus’ hand.  Commentators say the hand is identical to Adam’s on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
  • The “Zoro-like” face of Christ, half obscured. The partially-lighted face of Christ is not unkind, but neither is it kind.  Jesus’ expression is all-business; he is a man on a mission.   The obscuring of his eyes creates a sense of mystery; Matthew does not – indeed, cannot – know what lies in store.
  • The cross in the window above Jesus’ hand. The juxtaposition of cross and hand foreshadow the crucifixion.
  • Matthew’s legs already moving. Notice how Matthew’s legs are already in motion; despite still being seated, he is about to stand and follow.

Continue reading

Honest Wealth

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
September 18, 2016
The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 20C

Amos 8:4-7
Psalm 113
1 Timothy 2:1-7
Luke 16:1-13

My Friends:

parable-of-the-unjust-stewardAmid all of the name-calling, mud-slinging, vulgarity, and demagoguery of the current US presidential election campaign, any meaningful discussion of income inequality has receded into the deep background and the white-noise of what now passes for political “discourse” in America.  So, it may be worth remembering that Thursday marked the “eighth anniversary” of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the beginning of the “Great Recession,” described by politicians, economists, and pundits alike as the worst economic catastrophe in the nation’s history since the “Great Depression” of the 1930s.  And, even so, lobbyists are still hard at work to eviscerate any meaningful structural reforms that seek to prevent another such calamity in the future.  Meanwhile, extreme income inequality in America continues to surge and is likely to get much worse over the next ten years as the United States struggles to adjust to a post-industrial, globalized economy dominated by free trade, robotics, and the revolutionary innovations of the digital age.  With most of the financial gains of these last eight years going to the top ten-percent of the population, one economist after another has pronounced that the “good old days” of a burgeoning economy and an expanding middle-class are gone and will likely never return.  Some economists even estimate that the divide between the “haves” and the “have-nots” in America is headed toward a 20 to 80 ratio within the next decade—precisely the divide that exists right now in China between the 20% of its population living in the economically booming cities and the 80% still toiling in the vast Chinese countryside.  Almost 47 million Americans—15% of the population, most of them women and children—are now living in poverty; the top 1%  of Americans possess 23% of the nation’s wealth; and the 400 richest Americans have a combined net-worth larger than the monetary value of the entire Russian economy. Continue reading