Season of Forgiveness

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
April 15, 2018
The Third Sunday of Easter—Year B

Acts 3:12–19
Psalm 4
1 John 3:1–7
Luke 24:36b–48

Duccio di Buoninsegna-Appearance while the Apostles are at Table

Appearance while the Disciples Are at Table —Ducchio di Buoninsegna

My Friends: If we post-moderns often find it difficult and challenging to appreciate and to understand fully the events described in the New Testament’s narratives about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances, imagine the astonishment and consternation of those first witnesses to these things.  Our reading this morning from the Gospel according to Saint Luke is made even more pointed and dramatic when we recall the incidents that immediately precede and follow it.  When Jesus suddenly appears in the midst of his disciples in this morning’s Gospel, he finds them already in excited conversation around his earlier appearances to a handful of them on Easter morning and subsequently to two of them on the road to Emmaus that evening.  Then, following the incident described in this morning’s Gospel, Jesus brings his motley band of followers to Bethany—just beyond the Mount of Olives—blesses them, and, to their great astonishment, is taken up into the full presence of God before their very eyes, no longer restricted by time and space and matter.  Imagine the massive assault upon the ordinary hearts, minds, and imaginations of these disciples as a result of these unprecedented events and all of this extraordinary talk about what came to be described as Jesus’ “Resurrection” and his “Ascension”! Continue reading

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Homily for Sunday, April 1, 2018
Easter Day
John 20:1–18

empty_tomb-Saint_James_the_Greater_Catholic_Church_(Concord,_North_Carolina)Long before John crafted his resurrection story—an 18 verse masterpiece that includes an empty tomb, a missing body, a foot race, angelic messengers, a woman weeping, a case of mistaken identity and a joyful reunion—the Holy Trinity was wondering how to best script and cast the resurrection story. Continue reading

Crushing Disappointment

Homily for March 29, 2018
Maundy Thursday

Next to the blackboard in the Latin classroom at Newton South is a poster with the quote that some say is the most beautiful in all of Latin: “Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit”, which means: “Perhaps one day the memory of even these things will bring pleasure.”  The quote, from Vergil’s Aeneid, is delivered aboard ship by Aeneas to his companions after a series of crushing disappointments: the long and tragic war with the Greeks, the death of Aeneas’ wife as she and Aeneas fled Troy, leaving their homeland, arduous sea journeys, the failed founding of not one but two cities, plagues, the jealousies and intrigues of the gods, and finally—the circumstance that led to Aeneas delivering his famous line—as they drew near to Italy so that Aeneas might found Rome in accordance with a prophecy, jealous Juno sent a devastating storm that sank some of the fleet and drove the survivors away from the coast:  “Forsan et haec olim meminisse iuvabit,” said Aeneas then to his companions.  “Perhaps one day the memory of even these things will bring pleasure.”

Mount Feake CemeteryAs I consider Jesus at the institution of the Eucharist, which we remember this evening, I can’t help but think of all that had happened to Jesus to this point in his life.  Though at first Jesus had high hopes for his ministry and for making converts and for establishing the Kingdom of God, by this time on that Thursday evening long ago, it would have been difficult not to see his mission as a failure.  Gone were the crowds that had followed.  He had established no kingdom.  The religious authorities were closing in to arrest him.  One of his inner circle would soon betray him.  Another would deny knowing him, not once but three times.  The rest would desert him in his moment of need, and…  Jesus intuits, he knows, that he would soon die the painful and humiliating death of a criminal on a cross.  Imagine the crushing disappointment Jesus must have felt this evening… Continue reading

Unlocking Holiness

Homily for Sunday, March 11, 2018
Lent 4B
Numbers 21:4–9

key-2312481_960_720Origen of Alexandria, writing in the 3rd century, compared the Scriptures to a mansion in which the key to open the door to one room often lay in another.  So, for example, the key to open the door to the letter to the Ephesians might be in the book of Genesis.  Or the key to open the book of the prophet Amos might be somewhere in Paul’s letter to Romans, and so forth. Continue reading

The Physics of Scripture

Homily for Sunday February 11, 2018
Last Sunday after the Epiphany
2 Kings 2:1–12
Mark 9:2–9

Newton-Principles of Physics page 123The text on which I want to preach this morning is not one of the texts that we just heard, but it is a text very close to one of the texts we just heard.  And in just a moment I want to get to that text, but first, a bit of introduction…

Newtonian physics holds that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  For example, a rocket engine thrusts downward, and its payload is lifted upward.  The baseball is pitched toward the plate at high velocity, and a powerful hit launches it away at an even higher velocity.  We sit down on a chair, and the chair is able to hold us because it pushes up with at least as much force as that with which we sat down.  “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”  The same might be said of Scripture.  For example, we know that when Moses goes up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments, of course he is going to come down.  Or in the opening chapters of Genesis, we know—we just know!—that when God places Adam and then Eve in the garden, at some point God is going kick them out of the garden.  Or we know that even though the Psalmist might pass through “the valley of the shadow of death,” he is then going to “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”  And we know that in today’s Gospel lesson when Jesus and the disciples go up the mountain, they are going to come down.  The Scriptures are filled with the rhythm of action and reaction: in then out, up then down, dark and light, death and resurrection.  Such is the “physics” of Scripture. Continue reading

Ingredients for Joy

Homily for Sunday, February 4, 2018
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany
Isaiah 40:21–31

Rilke-Arturo Espinosa, oil on canvas

Rainer Maria Rilke, oil on canvas, Arturo Espinosa

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke, in a letter to one Ilse Erdman, said about joy and creativity that:

 

Only in joy does creation happen (happiness, on the contrary, is only a… pattern of things already existing); joy, however, is a marvelous increase… a pure addition out of nothingness….  Joy is a moment… not to be held but also not to be truly lost, since under its impact our being is changed.

Joy is creative, and in this joy is different from happiness.  Galway Kinnell, the former poet laureate of Vermont, in one of his poems (“First Song”), wrote of the “darkness and… sadness of joy.”  Joy can be complex, often containing (in a strange way) darkness and sadness.  Which is similar to what the orthodox theologian Alexander Schmeman once said, that:

The knowledge of the fallen world does not kill joy, which emanates in this world, always, constantly, as a bright sorrow. Continue reading

On Father James’ Retirement

Homily for Sunday, January 21, 2018
Third Sunday after the Epiphany

James LaMacchiaToday we celebrate Fr. LaMacchia’s “retirement.”  “Retirement” in quotes, because while James is retiring, he’s not leaving: he will yet continue here at Trinity Parish as one of our priests.

The classic clergy retirement text is Paul’s departing speech to the elders at Ephesus in the twentieth chapter of Acts.  Paul and the elders are gathered at the beach, just before Paul boards ship to Jerusalem, and Paul tells the elders that they will never see his face again.  There are tears, and Paul—in a line befitting the preaching of the Great Awakening—pronounces: “I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole Gospel of God (Acts 20:26–27).”  That’s the classic clergy retirement text.  But it doesn’t seem to work for today, somehow… Continue reading