A Challenging Relationship

Homily for Sunday, October 14, 2018
Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost
Mark 10:17–31

key-2312481_960_720Just before Labor Day and the beginning of the school year, in a New York Times article titled, “Here’s Your Assignment,” a group of writers shared which books they would like to see in a high school reading curriculum.  John Green (author of Turtles All the Way Down) said he would like to see Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower.  “It’s a brilliant, endlessly rich dystopian novel that pairs well with 1984 or The Handmaid’s Tale,” he writes.  Elaine Welteroth, the former editor of Teen Vogue, nominated Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.  “The history of our country has always been taught from the perspective of the colonizers,” she wrote, “but this book sets out to present the untold stories of the victims of colonization.”  Sabaa Tahir (An Ember in the Ashes) suggested Nicola Yoon’s, The Sun is Also a Star.  Andrew Solomon (The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression) gave his nod to Stanley Milgram’s Obedience to Authority.  Yaa Gyasi (Homegoing) suggested a collection of poetry, Good Woman, by Lucille Clifton.  Reading through the maybe ten suggestions on the list, I was surprised to see that one author, Tara Westover (Educated: A Memoir), had suggested the Bible.  Of her choice Westover wrote: Continue reading

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Tending to the House

Homily for Sunday, October 7, 2018
Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost
Mark 10:2–16

painted ladies 2.jpgI know that in this morning’s gospel lesson Jesus talks about divorce.  I know that Jesus—quoting from this morning’s lesson from Genesis—says, “‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’… What God has joined together, let no one separate.”  And I know, given our experience of marriage and divorce, be it our own experience or that of someone close to us, this passage is challenging.  And I want to get back to this passage, but first…  I want to talk about neighborhoods, homes, and urban renewal. Continue reading

Unless You Become Like Children

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
September 23, 2018
The Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost — Proper 20B

Jeremiah 11:18–20
Psalm 54
James 3:13–4:3, 7–8a
Mark 9:30–37

My Friends:

Jesus with Children stained glassBy now, all of us have likely seen far too many images of Jesus Christ that I like to refer to as the “Swedish Jesus”: that is, Jesus portrayed with blond hair and blue eyes, surrounded by a crowd of adoring, happy children.  And yet, we know that such a depiction is both a complete and a literal misrepresentation of Jesus of Nazareth, a first-century, Mediterranean Jewish artisan living under Roman occupation in the Roman province of Syria.  He was entirely embedded in his west Asian religion and culture, and his little world consisted of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee, with occasional incursions into adjacent Greco-Roman cities, as we have heard over the last two weeks.  He lived, along with everyone else, in what we in the West now call the “Middle East.”  His cultural background included a system and hierarchy of honor at least as old as the patriarchs of the Hebrew Bible, and persisting to this very day in that part of our world. Continue reading

Little Opportunities

Homily for Sunday, September 16, 2018
Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost
James 3:1–12

No one can tame the tongue—a restless evil, full of deadly poison… The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell.”—James 3:8 & 6

Now that I have everybody’s attention, you may be seated…

dancing-flamesI bet, hearing today’s passage from James, that I am not the only one feeling somewhat discomfited.  For me, not a week goes by—often not even a day— in which I haven’t said something that I wish I could take back, to either say differently or to not even say at all; and I bet I’m not alone.  But I don’t want to begin there; rather, I want to begin with two stories and then a quote.  The two stories are both set in the American South, both are about young men, and both involve a death. Continue reading

Meeting the human Jesus

Homily for Sunday, September 9, 2018
Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost
Mark 7:24–37

Jesus_wanted_poster

Cartoon by Art Young (1917)

Occasionally in The New Yorker—very occasionally—there is a piece about Jesus.  For example, I remember several years ago a cartoon in which Jesus is standing on top of a mountain preaching to a crowd.  A man in the back of the crowd says to his friend on the right: “’Love your neighbor as yourself?’  So, Jesus is a socialist.”  And there was the very irreverent—and very hilarious— piece by Paul Rudnick in which he imagines what it would have been like if Jesus had a wife (and from her point of view).  In “My Man,” “Melissa” describes how the two met: Continue reading

Joy in Repetition

Homily for Sunday, August 19, 2018
Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost
John 6:51–58

hummingbird-feedingPrince Rogers Nelson, the late singer-songwriter better known as “Prince,” once said, “There is joy in repetition.”  I was brought to mind of Prince’s words in July when, while visiting my dad in New York state, I watched a hummingbird out his window.  The tiny bird returned again and again to my dad’s feeder, wings abuzz, feathers glinting in the sun, its long beak taking quick sips as it bobbed and weaved around those plastic flowers at the base of the feeder.  Mostly quick sips—playful and teasing, as though flirting.  But then, every so often, it hovered for what seemed like a hummingbird eternity and thrust its beak in deep, taking a long quaff, before flitting off to a nearby branch.  Where it recovered for a few panting seconds… and then returned to the feeder to do it all again!  And then again!  I may be imagining it, but I dare say there was an exuberance—a joy—as the hummingbird perched there on the branch, chest thrust out, proud in his plumage, darting to the feeder again and again.  “There is joy in repetition.” Continue reading

A Course on Love

Homily for Sunday, August 12, 2018
Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost
Ephesians 4:25–5:2

Right here, right now, I am coming out… as a fan of the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column.  The weekly column is, in the editors’ words, “about contemporary relationships, marriage, dating, parenthood… any subject that might reasonably fit under the heading ‘Modern Love.’” “Modern Love” has no single columnist, nor even a group of columnists; rather, essays are submitted by the public and winners chosen by the editors.  Highlights from past years include essays such as: Continue reading