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

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

Our Season of the Spirit

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
March 5, 2017
The First Sunday of Lent – Year A

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

My Friends:

maxresdefaultIf you have been paying close attention to our election campaigns—at every level of government—over recent years, you will have noticed that we Americans seem to have a great hunger just now for “hope” and “change.”  Many candidates for elected office—some more strident and vulgar than others—have even made these elusive realities the explicit watchwords of their campaigns with such slogans as “Hope”; “Change You Can Believe In”; and “Make America Great Again.”  And this is hardly surprising in the wake of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression; widening income inequality; amoral globalization with its random winners and losers; and the protracted and continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, together with ancillary military operations in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and in Iraqi Kurdistan against ISIS.  And just when we in the west thought that the “Cold War” was a thing of the distant past, the world’s two largest nuclear powers are in a stand-off once again in east central Europe—this time in Ukraine, Crimea, and the Baltic nations—in what The New Yorker magazine has just this week officially dubbed the “New Cold War.”  War, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, economic recession, environmental degradation, predatory globalization, and expanding income inequality have made it clear to all save the most obtuse that our present course is simply unsustainable at every level of world governance.  We now need deep, structural changes and a new international system as a matter of mere species survival. Continue reading

This House is Bigger Than We Think

Homily for Sunday, February 26, 2017
Last Sunday After the Epiphany
Matthew 17:1-9

funhome-1cFun Home,” the heartbreaker / tear-jerker Broadway musical that recently closed, is a detective story of sorts about a lesbian cartoonist trying to understand her recently-deceased father and, by extension, herself.  “Fun Home” won five Tony awards in 2015, including Best Book of a Musical for the playwright, Lisa Kron.  In just a moment, I will tell what Ms. Kron said upon receiving her award, but it might make more sense if I first say something about the musical.

While “Fun Home” is a coming out story of a daughter who comes to terms with her sexuality, and while “Fun Home” is a coming of age story about a daughter trying to understand her father’s death, a suicide, “Fun Home” is bigger than a coming out or coming of age story.  As New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley says, “Fun Home” has a universal appeal that “comes from its awareness of… that element of the unknowable that exists in all of us… [and] how we never fully know even those closest to us.” Continue reading