Ask and Receive

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Saint John’s Church/Newtonville
July 24, 2016
The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 12C

Genesis 18:20-32
Psalm 138
Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)
Luke 11:1-13

My Friends:

Arab Souk, Old City, Jerusalem, Israel.During my first of many trips to the Land of the Holy One, our guides gave us pilgrims a very welcome orientation to the unique customs and practices of the Middle East.  To alleviate our fears and to reduce our “culture shock,” they introduced us to the practices and protocols of the bazaar known as the suq in the Old City of Jerusalem.  And it was only then that I really grasped—for the first time—something of the meaning of this morning’s reading from the Hebrew Bible, together with a much deeper understanding of the whole life of prayer.

Our guides informed us that negotiation and bargaining are an integral part of doing business in the Middle East.  Shopkeepers and merchants of the bazaar expect you to bargain with them for a price lower than the one first quoted; in fact, they are deeply insulted if you don’t negotiate with them for that better price.  The price, we were told, is never the real issue.  In the Middle East, still a deeply traditional culture, bargaining establishes a personal relationship between the buyer and the seller in a society where relationships are everything. Continue reading

Solitude and Communion

He who is ‘in Christ,’ is never solitary in the sense of being isolated from others. . . . He cannot be unalive to that ultimate, triumphant sense of unity with his brother whom he sees in the place where every man stands before God. He can have no sense of antagonism or indifference towards any human being, for though there are those who are not yet reborn, yet he sees in every man a potential child of God, a potential brother in Christ, a potential member of the same heavenly family in union with which he rejoices. Those who love solitude rejoice in it, rejoice in that condition which alone can make them conscious of the ‘great multitude which no man can number of every nation and kindred and tongue which stand before the throne and before the Lamb.’

– From letters of Shirley Carter Hughson, OHC (1867-1949)

The Catechumenate in a Nutshell

Sermon for Sunday, May 3, 2015
Easter 5B
Acts 8:26-40
1 John 4:7-21


Audrey and Bishop Gates

Yesterday one of Trinity’s members, Audrey, was Confirmed by Bishop Gates at the deanery service held at the Church of the Advent downtown.  It was a beautiful service and a wonderful day for Trinity.  And I’m going to get back to talking about Confirmation and the tools we used to help Audrey prepare – tools that are useful for all of us – but first I want to talk about Studebakers.

Every Tuesday I drive my son Shaw to Dorchester for a choir rehearsal at All Saints, Ashmont.  Almost every Tuesday, parked across the street from the church, is a 1963 Studebaker Lark.   When I first saw it, I was incredulous:  a Studebaker, parked right on the street in Dorchester!  Even though Studebakers ceased production shortly before I was born, I recognized it instantly as a Studebaker.  It has that Studebaker grill:  an open “mouth” canted ever so slightly forward and set between horizontal pairs of headlights.  The body is so “Studebaker:” a little too short in length for its height – but still dignified, not unlike a porkpie hat.  And then there is the slightly rounded and squished trunk – on the Lark, looking like the back half of a giant hamburger bun – that is so Studebaker-y.  Even though I hadn’t seen one in years, the moment I saw it, I knew it was a Studebaker.

(When I said, “Look, a Studebaker!”  Shaw said, “A what?”) Continue reading

Nurturing the Gift of Gratitude

Sermon for Sunday, September 21, 2014
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost

GROUP01As many of you know, I was for several years a brother in a monastery.  Because monastic blood runs deep, the brothers in the order would sometimes get together with brothers from other nearby monasteries , just to get to know each other.  In these gatherings, I came to understand one of the truisms of the monastic life:  that each community has a set stock of characters who – though they are different people with different names – are in a way the same person.  For example, each community tends to have a brother who is the “wise sage,” and most every community has a brother who has a gift for making people laugh.  Each community tends to have a kindly brother loved by all, as well a resident curmudgeon.  Each community seems to have a brother who, though he may not have much education or be particularly bright, can speak truth in a way that no other brother could.  Each community seems to have somebody who, while he is quite high maintenance, is nonetheless fiercely loved – “high maintenance, but worth it.”  And each community seems to have a person whose failings and shortcomings are visible to all save perhaps himself, and who is sometimes treated as a scapegoat, but whom the brothers (begrudgingly) acknowledge shows them something about themselves.  (“He’s the one who is going to help you get to heaven,” is how it’s often put.)

Each community has particular characters that tend to be found in every other community.  And just as each community has particular characters that tend to be found in every other community, so are their particular behaviors that are found across communities.  Which brings us to today’s readings. Continue reading