It’s Predictable!

Homily for Sunday, October 22, 2017
Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost

GivinghandsandredpushpinTwo weeks ago Professor Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago won the Nobel Prize in economics.  Thaler’s work questions the conventional economics paradigm that people make rational choices with their money.  “People are human,” says Professor Thaler, and we often behave irrationally.  Professor Thaler’s contribution—and the work for which he won the Nobel Prize—is that we humans are predictably irrational.  For example, when gas prices fall, mainstream, “rational” economics suggests that we would enjoy the savings from cheaper gas, but instead we buy the more expensive gas.  Or when it’s raining, mainstream, “rational” economics based on supply and demand suggests that we would pay more for umbrellas, say $6 instead of $5.  But we don’t.  Or—in perhaps his most famous example—even though we know it’s good to save for retirement, the vast majority of us don’t. Continue reading

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Bending toward Mercy

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
October 15, 2017
The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 23A

Isaiah 25:1–9
Psalm 23
Philippians 4:1–9
Matthew 22:1–14

My Friends:

Throne_of_Mercy_-_Cambrai_Missal

Throne of Mercy: Cambrai Missal

Those of us who have had the privilege of working with young adults as parents, teachers, or both know just how difficult it often can be to set appropriate expectations and boundaries while, at the same time, creating the necessary framework for exploration, genuine growth, and development in freedom.  The so-called “wonder years” are not always so wonderful, especially in those times and circumstances when we must set limits, speak the truth in love, and hold our charges accountable and responsible for all their choices—good and bad—all the while communicating, by word and action, our unconditional acceptance and love.  Like God—whose throne, according to the psalmist, is rooted and grounded in “justice and mercy”—we too are often challenged to give love its direction from justice, and to temper pure justice with the quality of mercy.  No easy task, as many of us know from hard experience!

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Blessings for all Creation

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
October 8, 2017
Proper 22A: The Blessing of the Animals & Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi (Transferred)

Isaiah 5:1–7
Psalm 80:7–14
Philippians 3:4b–14
Matthew 21:33–46

St.Francis 2 (2)My Friends:  We warmly welcome among us today—and with great enthusiasm—our enlarged congregation of all things bright and beautiful; all creatures great and small.”  We do this to celebrate the great, October 4th feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the most popular and beloved saints of the Christian faith.  So our Holy Eucharist this morning will include an additional, now annual rite here:  the “Blessing of the Animals.”  But before we do that, I want to say just a few things about blessing; about Saint Francis of Assisi; and about our concern and our charge to care for all of the “very good” Creation that God in God’s love and goodness has given us, and which Saint Francis so dearly and deeply loved.

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Entertaining sorrow

Homily for Sunday, October 1, 2017
17th Sunday after Pentecost
Philippians 2:1–13

This morning’s homily is for those of us who are in the second half of life.  You know who you are.  You are in the second half of life perhaps because of age, but more because you have glimpsed something of your final horizon.  This glimpse can happen to anyone at any time, but most often happens at a time of loss or when things fall apart.  This morning I’m going to do something unusual and tell you right from the get-go the point of this homily.  The point it this: if we are able to accept, and even embrace, death in everyday life, then we have the possibility of living our lives without fear, in freedom and with joy.

Girl and Grief- Nord Friedhof, München-x1klima

Girl and Grief; photo credit: x1klima

When I say “death in everyday life” I mean those moments of loss that happen to us every day.  Even the youngest know something about loss—losing a game, a cherished toy, an argument.  And as we grow older, the stakes of loss become higher: we didn’t get the grade we wanted, we didn’t make the sports team, we were turned down for a date, we didn’t get into the college we wanted, we didn’t get the job we wanted, we don’t earn the salary we expected, our marriage isn’t quite what we envisioned, our relationship with our kids is what we had hoped for; the death of a parent, a divorce, the loss or diminishment of a physical ability, the death of a spouse, and finally our own last illness and death.  Every day we “die” in some form or another; there is no escape.  Death is part of being human; death is part of everyday life. Continue reading

Nurturing Vows

Homily for Saturday, September 30, 2017
Celebration of Marriage
Juan Angel Castañeda-Merced and Paul Steven Henry

California_Pinot_noirIn the 2004 movie Sideways, Mile and Maya (played by Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen are sharing a quiet moment and a glass of Pinot Noir.  Maya asks Miles:

So why are you so into Pinots?  They’re like a thing with you.

Miles reflects for a moment and then responds:

It’s a hard grape to grow, as you know. It’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early.  It’s not a survivor like Cabernet that can grow anywhere and thrive even when it’s neglected.  Pinot needs constant care and attention, you know?  And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world.  And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Continue reading

Getting enough

Homily for Sunday, September 24, 2017 preached by the Rev. Todd Miller
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 20:1–16

blueberriesLast month in a beautifully-written article in the Times, Norwegian-American biologist Hope Jahren tells of visiting Norway and picking wild blueberries.  “When I was 23,” she says, “my Norwegian relatives taught me how to sit still.”

During the long sunlit evening in the summer of 1992, my cousins would lead me across the farm to the edge of the forest, each of us lugging a folding chair.  There, in a scraggly bramble of wild blueberries, we would set them down a few yards apart, each in our own little patch.

For hours, we faced south, bathing our faces in the golden Arctic light, a dreamy brightness that persisted past midnight.  Every few minutes, we’d reach down, pluck a berry and pop it into our mouths.  You could find us there most every night during July, starting at 10 o’clock. Continue reading

Forgiving from the heart

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
September 17, 2017
The Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 19A

Genesis 50:15-21
Psalm 103:1-13
Romans 14:1-12
Matthew 18:21-35

Joseph_Forgives_His_Brothers

Joseph forgives his brothers  (Providence Lithograph Co., 1907)

My Friends: The great American writer and humorist Mark Twain once quipped: “Forgiveness is like the weather.  Everyone is always talking about it, but no one ever seems to do anything about it.”  Indeed, this is the situation to which rabbi Jesus seems to speak directly in today’s reading from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, that most Jewish of the four canonical Gospels. In fact, because of the structure, themes, and the distinct Hebraisms of this Gospel, many biblical scholars believe it was originally written in Hebrew and only later translated into Greek.  Be that as it may, within a framework so typical of early rabbinic Judaism, Saint Matthew has the disciple Peter—the usual spokesman for Jesus’ inner circle of disciples—question his “Master Teacher” on behalf of the group concerning the Book of Leviticus’ requirement “not to hate your brother in your heart” and “to love your neighbor as yourself.”  They very much want to hear his interpretation of the gathering Oral Torah on this very important matter.  Jesus, after all, has made forgiveness the centerpiece of his teaching by joining it to the Shema’“Hear, O Yisra’el, ADONAI is our God, ADONAI alone.  You shall love ADONAI your God with all your heart and soul and strength, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two mitzvot,” these “commandments,” “hang all the Torah and the Neviim,” that is, the “Law” and the “Prophets. Continue reading