Letting Jesus In

Homily for December 24, 2019
Christmas Eve
Luke 2:1–20

Nativity scene headerIf anybody had told us beforehand how difficult it would be, I’m not sure we would have done it.  Or, rather, if we had had any reference point for what people told us—because, surely, somebody had tried to tell us how difficult it would be, and we couldn’t hear it—I’m not sure we would have done it.  But each of us had had pets when we were younger, so, surely, we could be parents (right?). Continue reading

From Brokenness

Homily for Sunday, November 24, 2019
The Last Sunday after Pentecost (Christ the King)
Luke 23:33–43

lachish_relief2c_british_museum_3In the British Museum in London, in the “Department of the Middle East,” lining the walls of room 10b to be precise, is a series of ceiling-high stone reliefs from the 7th century BCE depicting the destruction of the Judean city of Lachish by King Sennacherib of Assyria.  Lachish was Judah’s second city, about 30 miles southwest of Jerusalem, and the Assyrians destroyed it as they marched toward Jerusalem.  In the Assyrians’ own words… Continue reading

Ready for the Challenge?

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
November 3, 2019
All Saints Sunday

Daniel 7:1–3, 15–18
Psalm 149
Ephesians 1:11–23
Luke 6:20–31

craven-scott-craven-our-townMy Friends: In Thornton Wilder’s play Our Town, the character of the Stage Manager says that “wherever you see human beings gathered together, there is a whole lot of foolishness going on.”  And the proof of this insight is probably no more evident than in the news media these days, and I am not referring to the daily press coverage of criminality and corruption in every quarter of our nation’s capital. Continue reading

Open Doors

Homily for Sunday, June 9, 2018
Day of Pentecost
Acts 2:1–21
John 14:8–17, 25–27

Cocoanut Grove fire (BPL)

Photograph courtesy the Boston Public Library

Did you notice, when we came into church this morning, that the church’s doors open outward?  All church doors open outward.  And (if we are up to code) all church doors have breaker bars so that we can’t be locked in.  Which is good because, in case there’s a fire, it means we can get out.


Old timers in these parts—and I mean old timers; those of us who are in our 80’s are probably still too young to remember—often will remember two significant events from Boston’s past: the “Great New England Hurricane of 1938,” and the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire in 1942. Continue reading

The Resurrection of the Body

Homily for Sunday, April 21, 2019
Easter Day C
John 20:1–18

Tribute in Light

(U.S. Air Force photo/Denise Gould)

This morning I am going to do things a little differently: I am going to tell us the point of the homily right now at the beginning, and then I’m going to go back and make it.  The point of the homily is this: the bodily resurrection described in the Gospels is not so much about Jesus’ bodily resurrection as it is about our bodily resurrection.  And to give a little “teaser” in the form of a blatantly partisan statement… More than the other evangelists, John “gets” it. Continue reading

Being Found

Homily for Sunday, January 6, 2019
The Epiphany
Matthew 2:1–12
Preached at St John’s, Newtonville

Rainer_Maria_Rilke2C_1900As a young man in his early twenties, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke traveled with his girlfriend and her husband to Russia.  Whether it was the Russian land or people, or Rilke’s encounter with the Orthodox Church, or perhaps his travel arrangements that led to an extraordinary burst of creativity, we don’t know.  What we do know is that upon his return, over the course of 25 days, Rilke wrote his Book of Hours, 67 poems that grew out of his prayer at that time.  They are wonderful!  Here are the openings lines of #45:

You come and go. The doors swing closed
ever more gently, almost without a sound.
Of all who move through quiet houses,
you are the quietest.  (I, 45) Continue reading

Looking on the Infant Jesus

Homily for December 24, 2018
Christmas Eve
Luke 2:1–20

Nativity stained glass-St. Mary Star of the Sea Duluth MN

The Nativity, stained glass, St. Mary Star of the Sea, Duluth, Minn.

In “Five Minutes That Will Make You Love Classical Music,” a New York Times piece from this past September, the Times asked eighteen different people—critics, composers, performers, conductors—which five minutes of classical music would they play to help somebody fall in love with classical music.  On the list were pieces such as the Finale from Stravinsky’s Firebird suite, the final Trio from Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier, and “Liebestod,” from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, among others.

In addition to these “warhorses” that I might have expected were others that caught me by surprise.  From Ravel’s Shéhérazade was the ridiculously beautiful aria “L’indifférent.”  It’s absolutely gorgeous, with a text perhaps too racy to share from the pulpit on Christmas Eve…  Anna Clyne’s Lavender Rain, a piece for violin written after the death of her mother, is 4 ½ minutes of music so simple—an ascending and then descending scale, basically, with a few chords for color—that it shouldn’t move one to tears, but it does.  And Couperin’s Les Barricades Mystérieuses, in an arrangement for winds, is a playful series of dissonance and resolution that, again, is so simple that it shouldn’t be so beautiful, but it is. Continue reading