Finding the real Jesus

Homily for Christmas Eve, 2017

Nativity stained glass-Calvary Episcopal Church, Summit, New JerseyWhat do you need to be done with in your relationship with Jesus Christ?  Let me say that again: “What do you need to be done with in your relationship with Jesus Christ?”

And we all have a relationship with Jesus Christ!  Just as there is no such thing as a non-response to an invitation—even not responding to an invitation is a form of response—so there is no one who does not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus invites all of us to draw closer; we all have a relationship with Jesus Christ!

It may seem odd on Christmas Eve to consider what we need to be done with in our relationship with Jesus Christ, a day when we celebrate beginnings and Jesus’ entering in to human life.  But perhaps Christmas is just the occasion to ask ourselves what we need to be done with in our relationship with Jesus Christ, for—if we are to take in the new life offered to us in Jesus—we first need to make room for that life. Continue reading


“Who are you?”

Homily for Sunday, December 17, 2017
Advent 3B
John 1:6-8,19-28

Otis_Redding_(3)Several years ago [June 9, 2015] on the Diane Rehm show, Rehm interviewed Mark Ribowsky about his latest book, a biography of Otis Redding (Dreams to Remember: Otis Redding and the Transformation of Southern Soul).  During the interview Ribowsky told how, before Otis was “Otis,” he had a minor singing career doing covers of fast-moving, high-energy rhythm and blues numbers.  Otis was known in particular for doing covers of Little Richard, whose music was best sung not only fast but also at high volume.  Of Otis at that time, Ribowsky said:

When Otis started, he wasn’t yet ‘Otis…’  He was Otis in voice but … all he could do was cover Little Richard songs.

His march to fame took a turn one day by happenstance, when Otis drove Johnny Jenkins, another musician, to an audition for the owner of a record company in Macon, Georgia.  Ribowsky recalls:

So [Otis] goes in there, leaning against the wall because he doesn’t know what to do.  But here’s Otis for you.  Even when Johnny is singing, he’s saying to Al Jackson, Jr., the great drummer, “You think they’ve got time for me?”… Continue reading

Witness to Hope and Truth

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
December 10, 2017
The Second Sunday of Advent—Year B

Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13
2 Peter 3:8-15a
Mark 1:1-8

Preaching_of_St_John_the_Baptist - Domenico_Ghirlandaio

Preaching of John the Baptist, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1449–1494

My Friends: While we will never know the details of John the Baptist’s preaching, one thing is quite certain from this morning’s Gospel: John must have been an arresting and remarkable figure because Saint Mark tells us that “people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.”  Even if we admit some hyperbole in this account of the Baptist’s preaching, it appears that John made quite an impression on all manner of folks from both the countryside and from the capital city.  Then, as now, this was a remarkable feat:  artisans and sharecroppers, together with urban dwellers and religious elites, were prompted to “repent,” to “confess their sins” and to “be baptized” by him.  And they were doing it in droves!  What preacher would not be willing to do almost anything for that result? Continue reading

Letting God In

Homily for Sunday, December 3, 2017
Advent 1B
Isaiah 64:1–9


The Annunciation, Leonardo da Vinci

The season of Advent is a season filled with beauty.  Advent’s anticipation of birth and new life is beautiful.  Advent’s stillness and quiet are beautiful.  The Collects of Advent—like we heard this morning: “Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life…”—the Collects are beautiful.  Advent’s music—“Sleepers, wake,” “Lo, he comes with clouds descending,” “O Come, O come, Emmanuel”—Advent’s music is beautiful.  Advent’s art—like the “Annunciations” of Fra Angelico, of da Vinci, or of Botticelli – the art is beautiful.  Advent is a season of beauty! Continue reading

The Just Judge

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
November 26, 2017
The Feast of Christ the King — Year A

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24
Psalm 95:1-7a
Ephesians 1:15-23
Matthew 25:31-46

Wall CommunionMy Friends: Two  years ago—and  well before the current contagion of faux populism unleashed its virulent strains of xenophobia, nativism, ethno-nationalism, and incivility into our national life—CBS’s weekly news-magazine 60 Minutes broadcast a highly anticipated interview with Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston.  Cardinal O’Malley is one of the nine cardinal-advisors that Pope Francis’ has appointed to his new “kitchen cabinet,” and the Cardinal is the only American prelate on that body.  Because of this position and his personal friendship with Pope Francis, Cardinal O’Malley is regarded by many as a spokesman for the Pope.  He is also a fierce and passionate advocate for the poor, for immigrants, and for refugees. Continue reading

In Times of Crisis

Homily for Sunday, November 19, 2017
Twenty Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 25:14–30

student with smartphone illustrationOn Wednesday, December 6, at the Newton South auditorium, the Newton Public Schools will host a forum, “Living in a Smartphone World: What does it mean for students, families and educators?”  The inspiration for the forum was an article in the September issue of the Atlantic Monthly, “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?”  The panel discussion will be hosted by Boston Globe writer Beth Teitell, and will include both Newton educators and outside experts.

To read the Atlantic article is to hear alarm bells sounding.  The author, Jean Twenge, is a professor of psychology at San Diego State.  Twenge cites a number of studies to show that, since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, high schoolers “hang out” less with friends, date less, get less sleep, and are less likely to have a driver’s license.  And…they are also more likely to feel left out, to feel lonely, to be depressed, and to have been bullied (cyber bullying).  But… despite “compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are…making them seriously unhappy,” Twenge writes, good luck trying to pry the iPhone out of your teen’s hands.  The average teen spends two and one half hours each day on electronic devices, and Twenge reports that nearly all of her undergraduates sleep with their phone.  “It’s not an exaggeration to describe iGen as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades,” she says.  “The twin rise of the smartphone and social media has caused an earthquake of a magnitude we’ve not seen in a very long time, if ever.” Continue reading

Waiting for God

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
November 12, 2017
The Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost—Proper 27A

Amos 5:18–24
Psalm 70
1 Thessalonians 4:13–18
Matthew 25:1–13

dark-981352_960_720My Friends: Two weeks ago, as I sat in my physician’s waiting room for my annual flu shot, I overheard a telling conversation between another patient and the receptionist.  Actually, to say that I “overheard” the conversation is much too generous a characterization: the woman spoke in such a loud voice, and with such dramatic gestures, that her remarks were clearly intended for all of us in that small room.  She announced with great fanfare that she absolutely hated this time of year when we turn back our clocks and the darkness comes early in these parts.  “It’s just terrible for those of us with Seasonal Affective Disorder,” she brayed, “and I just can’t stand it!”  Since I was in a generous mood, I suppressed my default misanthropy and attributed her histrionic behavior to dismay over having just received that unexpected diagnosis. Continue reading