The World Turned Upside Down

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
June 4, 2017
The Feast of Pentecost (Whitsunday)

Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
John 20:19-23

My Friends:

51ytyz5c1nl-_sy344_bo1204203200_A few years ago, Newsweek magazine published a cover story called “The Changing Face of the Church.”   This provocative and prescient article chronicled both the now-familiar decline of the Christian faith in Western Europe and in North America, and the burgeoning of that same faith in Africa, Latin America, and even in Asia.  According to the article, there were, for example, seven times more Anglicans in Nigeria alone than there are Episcopalians in the United States of America.  And, if recent communiqués from places as diverse as Canterbury Cathedral in England, the Episcopal Church Center in New York, and even our very own Diocesan offices in Boston are to be believed, we can only conclude that our chief pastors are realizing what we in our local congregations, especially in the Northeast—often dubbed the “graveyard of the churches”—have known for a very long time:  All is not well in the Church outside the global south; the “household of God” in these parts is shrinking; and we Christians can no longer continue to engage in business as usual.  And this is not a matter of crisis for the Anglican Communion alone.  This precipitous decline is occurring in every so-called mainline Christian denomination, including the Roman Catholic Church, whose US membership would also be plummeting if not for the influx of largely Hispanic immigrants, thanks be to God.  The hopes and dreams of the failed “Decade of Evangelism”—in which we were to have doubled the size of the Anglican Communion in Western Europe and North America notwithstanding—we have only to look around us every Sunday in our local congregations to behold the sad wages of post-modernity, scientism, and secularism for the Church.  Where are our young people or, for that matter, where are our neighbors?  I, for one, sometimes feel as if I am living in some local version of the Incredible Shrinking Church (sic). Continue reading

The Word is Near You

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
May 28, 2017
The Seventh Sunday of Easter – Year A

Acts 1:6-14
Psalm 68:1-10, 33-36
1 Peter 4:12-14, 5:6-11
John 17:1-11

My Friends:

resurrectionWe last encountered this morning’s mysterious “two men in white” at Jesus’ empty tomb, in the eerie half-light of early Easter morning, as the myrrh-bearing women made their way there to anoint Jesus’ hastily buried corpse.  There, the two men posed a question to Jesus’ distraught and grieving disciples:  “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how he told you, while he was in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise.  And they remembered his words, according to Saint Luke’s Gospel, and returning from the tomb they told this to the Eleven and to all the rest.” Continue reading

Many Dwelling Places

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
May 14, 2017
The Fifth Sunday of Easter – Year A

Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14: 1-14

My friends:

Despite the rare grace-note of Pope Francis’ successful apostolic visit to Egypt two weeks ago, following the Palm Sunday bombing of two Coptic Orthodox churches by ISIS terrorists, interreligious and ecumenical relations have been strained in recent years by news of mounting terrorism, nativism, and xenophobia—all  in the name of religion.  As I thought about and prayed this morning’s readings from the New Testament, I did so against this backdrop of mounting anxiety and frustration over religiously-inspired terrorism and fanaticism worldwide.  Car-rammings, shootings, and knife attacks by Palestinian terrorists against Israeli Jews, accompanied by cries of “God is Most Great” in Arabic, are almost weekly occurrences now in the State of Israel and the holy city Jerusalem.  ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT-RELIGION-CRIME-FILES Israeli-Jewish extremists, in turn, continue to vandalize Muslim and Christian properties in Galilee and Jerusalem.  These so-called price-tag attacks against Muslim and Christian foundations are perpetrated by fanatical West Bank Israeli settlers any time the State of Israel’s government even thinks about making serious concessions to the Palestinian national movement in the longstanding Arab-Israeli conflict.  In South Sudan, Christians and Muslims are slaughtering thousands of men, women, and children in a tribal civil war and famine now on the brink of repeating the horrors of the 1990s Rwandan genocide.  Over two million children alone have been displaced in the “ethnic cleansing” there.  In Nigeria, despite the prisoner swap of 103 of the 276 schoolgirls abducted from their dormitories by Boko Haram—which means “the West is forbidden”—many of the remaining young hostages have been forced to convert to Islam, don the hijab, chant the Qur’an, and become pregnant “child-brides” or worse, suicide-bombers for their terrorist captors.  In the interim, 2000 more children have been kidnapped and abused by these terrorists.  Iraqi Sunni Muslims at the behest of ISIS continue to maim and kill their Shi’a neighbors in terror attacks surpassing the death-toll at the height of their civil war following the American invasion.  And, to be perfectly honest, I often feel that I want to vomit now every time I hear God’s name taken in vain by Islamist terrorists shouting “Allah’u’ Akbar,” “God is Most Great,” as both sides in the Syrian civil war fire rockets at hospitals, buses full of evacuees, and other civilian targets, while the government forces of the war-criminal Bashar al-Assad attack their own people with barrel-bombs and sarin gas in that six-year civil and proxy war that has resulted to date in almost a half-million civilian deaths and four million refugees.  I find those words every bit as repulsive as the Christian Crusaders chanting “Deus Vult,” “God Wills It,” as they rode through the streets of Jerusalem and slaughtered thirty-thousand Jews and Muslims following their capture of Jerusalem in the twelfth century CE. Continue reading

Abundant Life Without Want

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
May 7, 2017
The Fourth Sunday of Easter – Year A

Acts 2:42-47
Psalm 23
1 Peter 2:19-25
John 10:1-10

My Friends:

good-shepherd-thomas-aquinas-2-christ-with-lambsThieves and bandits; gates; gatekeepers; and shepherds—who can blame those Galilean fishermen and Jesus’ early disciples for their failure to understand his “figure of speech” in this morning’s Gospel according to Saint John?  If it was difficult to grasp in Jesus’ world, where sheepherding in rural Galilee and the hill country around Jerusalem is still a common sight, how much more confusing must it be for ninety per-cent of the world’s population who, like us, dwell in cities?  And while I don’t profess to have any first-hand experience in the matter, I have learned several things about sheep and sheepherding that are important for grasping Jesus’ message in this morning’s Gospel—then and now. Continue reading

The Real Presence of Christ

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
April 30, 2017
The Third Sunday of Easter – Year A

Acts 2:14a, 36-41
1 Peter 1-17-23
Psalm 116:1-3, 10-17
Luke 24:13-35

My Friends:

laveteThe Christian “Holy Land” within the modern State of Israel and the Palestinian territories has rightly been dubbed the “Fifth Gospel” because it testifies so dramatically and so eloquently to the reality of the resurrected and glorified Jesus Christ. The site of this morning’s reading from the Gospel according to Saint Luke is no exception, and a journey to that place is often the last stop on the itinerary of every Christian pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  And for many Christian pilgrims over the centuries, it has served as a capstone experience of the continuing “Real Presence” of Jesus Christ in his Church and, especially, in the Holy Eucharist. 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

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