Doubting Thomas

Homily for Sunday, April 23, 2017
Easter 2A
John 20:19-31
“Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God.’”

doubting-thomas-duccioToday’s gospel lesson is the familiar story of “Doubting Thomas.”  (Each year the Second Sunday of Easter uses this lesson, from the end of John.)  As I said last Sunday, doubts are a normal and healthy part of faith.  A healthy place to be is in tension with, on the one hand, the Bible’s stories and Church’s teachings about Jesus’ resurrection, and on the other hand our own doubts and skepticism about the resurrection.  I compared navigating the tension between these to be akin to a ship navigating its way between rocks.  The temptation is, when still off in the distance, to jump ship, as it were – or to try to convince our inner “captain” to turn around or to maybe incite a “mutiny” – rather than sail forward and risk the “rocks” of resurrection.  But I noted that, if we sail forward and learn to navigate the “rocks,” we come to a place where we are not so much concerned about what “really” happened at Jesus’ resurrection, a place where we are not so much concerned either about what may be in our own future after we die, but a place rather in which we are focused on the “now.”  And in this Easter “now” we discover that we can live fearless of death.  Mot that we don’t fear death – I think the fear of death is normal, and I have a hunch that all healthy people have at least some fear of death – but a place in which we learn to live beyond our fears.  And I suggested that it is in this “now” that Mary Magdalene lived, she who was not afraid to be present at the crucifixion or the tomb, and who – as soon as Jesus said her name – was brought back into the “now” such that she could notice – and savor and relish – the presence of the risen Christ. Continue reading

Bones and All

Homily for April 16, 2017
Easter Day
John 20:1-18

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’”
Preached by The Rev. Todd Miller

icon-jesus-christ1“So, Miller,” said my one of colleagues, as he sidled up to me at clergy conference, “Bones and all?”  “Absolutely!” I said, laughing at the way he asked me if I believed in Jesus’ bodily resurrection.  “Absolutely!  Bones and all!”

An answer which is of course the “right” answer, and the Church’s “answer.”   The answer upon which all Christian doctrine hangs – “On the third day he rose again,” we say in the Creed.  The answer upon which all Christian hope relies:  “If Christ has not been raised, then we are of all people most to be pitied,” Paul writes (I Cor 15).  “Absolutely,” I say, “‘Bones and all!’” Continue reading

Grief and Gratitude

Homily for Thursday, April 13, 2017
Maundy Thursday
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Preached by the Rev. Todd Miller

1200_thomas_shawWhen our former Bishop, Tom Shaw, was diagnosed with the brain tumor that would take his life, he said that his first reaction to the news was gratitude:  “Thank you, God, for this extraordinary life that you’ve given me.”

Tom’s reaction to the news of his terminal condition reminds us that there is a very short distance between grief and gratitude.   Most of us most of the time, when we are faced with a loss, tend to take the long road between the grief and gratitude – the road of shock, anger, denial, depression, and bargaining – before arriving at acceptance and maybe gratitude.   But the distance between grief and gratitude is actually very close. Continue reading

No Matter How Dead We May Be…

Homily for April 2, 2017
Lent 5A
John 11:1-45

The Raising of Jairus's Daughter, 1885 (oil on canvas)In one of his more famous homilies, Augustine preached on the three times that Jesus raised someone from the dead.  The first time is the raising of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5.  Jairus’ daughter was dead in the house, notes Augustine.   Her death symbolizes the sins that we commit only in thought, that are “in the house” and unseen.   The second time is the raising of the son of the widow of Nain, in Luke 7.  When Jesus encounters the son and the widow, his body is being carried outside the city for burial. His death symbolizes the sins that we actually commit – they are “outside the city” and can be seen by others.  And the third time is the story we just heard in this morning’s gospel, the raising of Lazarus.  Lazarus has been dead three days, and Augustine says he symbolizes sins that have become habitual, that have festered so long that there is a stench.   The punch line – to which Augustine builds and delivers as only Augustine can deliver – is that no matter how dead we may be, Jesus is able to raise us to new life. Continue reading

The Cross is Life and Peace

Homily for Sunday, March 26, 2017
Lent 4A
John 9:1-41

Preached by Fr. Miller at Bethany Convent, the Order of St. Anne, Arlington, MA

I’ve heard it said that, in the East, “religion” is concerned with wisdom, and in the West, with sight.  This morning’s Gospel – the story of Jesus healing the man born blind – is clearly of the West and our concern with sight.

easter_vigil_mass_2015_163_op_760x508But I don’t want to begin with sight.  I want to begin rather with something we all experience, something that has on some level brought us here this morning, that has led us to be Christians, to “walk in the way of the cross” and to hope in resurrection.  That something is suffering.  And I want to look at suffering from the context of the early Church’s catechumenate, the process whereby candidates were prepared for Baptism.  For the most part, this year’s Lenten lectionary is the same lectionary that was used by the early Church during Lent for the preparation of candidates for Baptism at the Easter Vigil.  Candidates would have been in the catechumenate two or three years, and these final Sundays offered a final push of preparation for their Baptism.  Taken as a whole, these Scriptures present in a nutshell the process of awakening to fuller life, of experiencing “resurrection.”   To sum up:  The candidates would have gone from being in the “wilderness” and discovering that Jesus had a wilderness experience, too (Lent 1); to being in the dark with Jesus, as was Nicodemus (Lent 2); to being in the light with Jesus, as was the woman at the well (Lent 3); to being able to “see” with the man born blind (today); to experiencing resurrection, as did Lazarus (next week). Continue reading

The Blind Who See

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
March 26, 2017
The Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year A

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5: 8-14
John 9: 1-41

My Friends:

034You are probably familiar with the old saw that “there are none so blind as those who fail to see.”  Our reading this morning from the Gospel according to Saint John is an obvious case in point.  The whole lection turns on the irony that the man born blind sees and understands Jesus’ true identity as the “Son of Man” and the “light of the world,” while Jesus’ sighted opponents, “blind guides,” completely fail to grasp the obvious power and sanctity of this man of God.  Even if they were unwilling to go as far as the blind man in asserting that Jesus is indeed the “Messiah,” the “Christ” of God, they know that their own tradition is not lacking in “signs and wonders” performed by the many prophets of God.  And Jesus seems to anticipate his opponents’ willful ignorance because he goes to the trouble of mixing his saliva with mud and applying it to the blind man’s eyes. He could have simply commanded the restoration of his sight, as he does on other occasions in the Gospels, but, because the folk medicine of Jesus’ time invested saliva with medicinal qualities, he goes to the extra trouble of making the special poultice.  Then he orders the blind man to rinse his eyes in the pool of Siloam, the collecting pond for the waters of the holy city Jerusalem, originating in the “living waters” of the Gihon Spring and passing through the Temple precincts—all highly symbolic places of special holiness in Second-Temple Judaism.   And for those with “eyes to see” among St. John the Evangelist’s community of Jewish-Christians approximately seventy years later, the anticipation of the “illumination” that comes with Holy Baptism would have been obvious as well.  Jesus gives the blind man not just his physical sight; he gives him spiritual vision as well.  The “Christ” is the “light” by which we see light; the primordial light of the Creation that enters the cosmos even before the celestial bodies in the Genesis story of creation.  In a culture so steeped in Temple and Torah, the failure to understand the meaning and import of Jesus’ “signs and wonders” can only be described as obtuseness at best, and incorrigible ignorance at worst. Continue reading

Drawing Near to Jesus

Homily for Sunday, March 12, 2017
Second Sunday in Lent

aptopix_groundhog_day_31044-23e3bLent is a bit like the movie “Groundhog Day.”  “Groundhog Day” is about the arrogant big-city weatherman sent to small-town Pennsylvania to cover Ground Hog Day and who is rude and condescending to the locals.  Because of his attitude, he must relive February 2 until he gets it “right” – until he develops some humility and charity.  Lent is like “Groundhog Day” because every year Lent offers the same prayers, the same hymns, and – on a three-year cycle – the same Scripture readings so that we might get it “right” and develop more humility and charity.

But Lent is different from “Groundhog Day” because Lent offers a clear path as to how we can get it more “right.”  Sunday by Sunday, over the course of Lent, the Scriptures take us by the hand and lead us, step-by-step, progressively deeper into relationship with Jesus. Continue reading