What are we looking for?

Homily for Sunday, August 5, 2018
Pentecost 11
John 6:24–35

key-2312481_960_720Writing in the third century, Origen of Alexandria compared the Scriptures to a mansion filled with rooms, but with a twist: the key to unlock to the door to one room was often kept in another.  So, for example, the key to unlock the room that is I Corinthians might be in the room that is Hosea.  Or the key to unlock Matthew might be in Deuteronomy, and so forth.  I think the key to unlock John chapter 6—from which we’ve just heard—is found in not one, but two, other places.  The first is the book of the prophet Amos, in which Amos writes:

The time is surely coming, says the Lord…
when I will send a famine on the land;
not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water,
but of hearing the words of the Lord. Continue reading

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Letting Go

Homily for Sunday, June 24, 2018
Pentecost 5B
Mark 4:35–41

FullSizeRender (7)Last year at this time I was on sabbatical, riding my bicycle around the Great Lakes.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been revisiting my journals and remembering the trip.  Four weeks ago (last year), on Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, after a few weeks of being in the woods on the north sides of Lakes Huron and Superior, I finally pulled into Duluth, Minnesota.  (Given where I’d been, arriving in Duluth felt like arriving in Paris!)  On June 11 Shaw flew into Duluth with his bicycle, and the two of us started the ride back east.  Last week, on June 16, we kayaked at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Lake Superior off Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  And a year ago today—exactly one year ago—Shaw and I were in the middle of Lake Michigan, crossing over from Milwaukee to Muskegon, in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Continue reading

Able to Hear It

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
June 17, 2018
The Third Sunday after Pentecost—Proper 6B

Ezekiel 17:22–24
Psalm 92:1–4, 11–14
2 Corinthians 5:6 –17
Mark 4:26–34

mustard seedsMy Friends: A story is told about a young man who reported to his Freudian psychoanalyst that he had a recurring dream in which he always smoked a cigar.  Because he was not a smoker of any sort, the man was convinced that the cigar must have some hidden meaning for his neurosis.  Freudian psychology, after all, held that every object in a dream—especially in a recurring dream—has a symbolic meaning very often linked to some childhood trauma or inhibition.  So, the patient and his analyst spent a good deal of time and effort exploring the possible significance of that “dream-cigar” with no success at all.  Finally, after several fruitless—and expensive—sessions, the exasperated psychoanalyst threw up his hands and exclaimed, “You know, sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar!” Continue reading

Love Personified

Homily for Sunday, May 27, 2018
Trinity Sunday
Preached at Bethany Convent, Arlington, MA

Yosemite-el-capitanIn rock climbing circles, John Long is legend.  Now 64, Long was one of the first to “free climb”—that is, to climb without ropes—famous rock faces such as the Paisano Overhang at Suicide Rock in California, the so-called Hangover at Tahquitz Rock, also in California, and the east face of Washington Column in Yosemite (also in California).  In 1975—on Memorial Day weekend—he and two friends completed the first ever one-day ascent of El Capitan, the famous granite monolith in Yosemite.

Looking up from the bottom of El Capitan, and then looking out 2,500 feet up, Long writes:

You stumble into the forest and wend through the pines that finally open up, and there—before you, above you, around you—a sea of granite soars straight [up], stunning for its colors and sheer bulk; and terrible for the emptiness that sets in your gut as your eyes pan up its titanic corners and towers. Continue reading

Encountering God’s Essence (and Energies)

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
May 27, 2018
Feast of the Holy Trinity—Year B

Isaiah 6:1–8
Psalm 29
Romans 8:12–17
John 3:1–17

Trinity circle croppedMy Friends:  We have come to that Sunday of the Great Church Year that nearly every clergy person dreads: Holy Trinity Sunday.  Having just celebrated the Feast of Pentecost at the end of the Great Fifty Days of Easter last week, with its celebration of God’s gift of the Holy Spirit to the nascent Church of Jesus Christ, we are now bidden by our liturgical calendar to contemplate and glorify that greatest of all mysteries—God’s self-revelation as a Trinity of Persons—before we cross the threshold into the season known as Ordinary Time.  This movement, of course, implies that we have already been immersed in the extraordinary since the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the Great Church Year.  And indeed we have, as we have celebrated every one of the great mysteries of our redemption and salvation with each passing feast day and each special season for the Spirit.  Some will say that with Trinity Sunday, our liturgical calendar has saved the best for last; others might claim that the Church has given us today the “mother of all the mysteries” of our Christian Faith.  I subscribe to both of these points-of-view. Continue reading

Division and Reconciliation

Homily for Sunday, May 13, 2018
Easter 7B
1 John 5:9–13
John 17:6–19

“That they may be one, as we are one.” — John 17:22

Christ_Taking_Leave_of_the_Apostles-Ducchio di BuoninsegnaOver the past weeks we have been “cherry picking” our way through the first letter of John, reading from chapter 1 here and chapter 3 there; from chapter 4 here and from chapter 5 there.  This “cherry picking” is understandable because the letter itself is not a model of coherence.  Unlike John’s Gospel—which came from the same early Christian community as did 1 John, and in which each and every word seems to have been thought through, weighed and intentionally chosen—the first letter of John seems “from the hip,” as it were: more emotional, with less concern for a formal cohesion; more—perhaps—defensive. Continue reading

Going Back

Homily for Sunday, May 5, 2018
Easter 6B
Acts 10:44–48
John 15:9–17

“While Peter was still speaking, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who heard the word.”
“Just as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.”

bakery-3056086_960_720I am a fan—and as of this moment an out-of-the-closet fan—of the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column, which I read every Sunday.  A year ago January, one Betsy Verecky, now in Nashua, New Hampshire, but at the time living in Brooklyn, chronicled her crush on the hipster owner of a local bakery.  In her essay, “Boy, What a Fabulous Baker” [Jan 20, 2017], Verecky tells of her first visit to the bakery where she was smitten, not only by the baker’s friendly manner and muscular forearms, but by his bread: Continue reading