Grief and Gratitude

Homily for Thursday, April 13, 2017
Maundy Thursday
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
Preached by the Rev. Todd Miller

1200_thomas_shawWhen our former Bishop, Tom Shaw, was diagnosed with the brain tumor that would take his life, he said that his first reaction to the news was gratitude:  “Thank you, God, for this extraordinary life that you’ve given me.”

Tom’s reaction to the news of his terminal condition reminds us that there is a very short distance between grief and gratitude.   Most of us most of the time, when we are faced with a loss, tend to take the long road between the grief and gratitude – the road of shock, anger, denial, depression, and bargaining – before arriving at acceptance and maybe gratitude.   But the distance between grief and gratitude is actually very close. Continue reading

From Grief to Thanksgiving

Homily for Sunday, October 9, 2016
Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost
Luke 17:11-19

“’Were not ten made clean?  But the other nine, where are they?”

christThis morning, I’m going to preach two homilies.  First, I want to speak to today’s Gospel text, and then I want to say a word about the Blessing of the Animals that we are about to do.

We preachers can easily turn this morning’s gospel – the story of Jesus healing the ten lepers –  into a pedantic reminder of the importance of saying “thank you.”  When we do, our homilies often come across as lengthier, maybe slightly more refined, versions of what our mother told us when we were kids:  “Remember to say ‘Thank you.’”  More creative preachers might point out that the leper was a Samaritan – an outcast – and say something about Luke’s concern for the marginalized.

I have preached both of those sermons, and I want to do something different this morning. Continue reading

Grieve as Those Who Have Hope

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
April 24, 2016
The Fifth Sunday of Easter-Year C

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

My Friends:

insight_melissa_grieving-angelAs you and I know through personal experience, grieving is very hard work.  Every loss of any significant attachment—whether it’s a role, a job, our health, a marriage, a home, a pet, a parish or a person—requires us to let go of that attachment; to adapt to this radical change in circumstances; and to find our way in the world without that cherished and familiar person, place, or thing.  Fortunately, grief and trauma have been much studied and understood in recent decades, and we now know that “good grief” evolves through identifiable stages characterized by shock; numbness; denial; bargaining; anger; depression; and acceptance.  We also now know that these stages do not unfold in an orderly and successive way, and that we never entirely leave any of these stages behind, even when we engage fully again with a life and with a cherished memory of the lost.  Even in acceptance, there will be moments and occasions when we re-visit those earlier stages of grieving.  And, if it is a truly significant loss, we know that the pain never entirely dissipates; it only becomes less acute over time.  “Time,” regrettably, “does NOT heal all wounds” and, like the risen Christ, we carry those wounds with us into the larger life of eternity.  These wounds may be transfigured by God’s grace, but they never entirely vanish.  Even in this life, we know that every new loss has the potential to stir up all previous losses, especially if we have not fully grieved over them. Continue reading

Inviting Jesus All the Way In

Sermon for June 28, 2015
Pentecost 5
2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
Mark 5:21-43

Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!
How the mighty have fallen!…
Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.
I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;
greatly beloved were you to me. – From 2 Samuel

The words are David’s, from his lamentation after the death of King Saul and his son, David’s beloved friend Jonathan. We all know that David was a great lyricist and singer and the composer of the Psalms.   But suppose – God forbid – David had a tin ear.  What song might David then listen to to help give voice to his grief?

To help him in his grief, I can see David listening to songs like “In My Life,” by the Beatles, or Christina Aguilera’s “Hurt.”  Or maybe he’d listen to Boyz II Men’s “It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye,” or  Mariah Carey’s “Without You.”  Or maybe he’d listen to Celine Dion’s, “My Heart Will Go On,” or Diamond Rio’s, “One More Day.”  (“One more day, one more time, one more sunset, maybe I’d be satisfied.”) Continue reading

Grief, Loss and Resurrection in Ezekiel

Sermon for Sunday, April 6, 2014
Lent 5A

Ezekiel 37:1-14


In addition to having a lot to offer us, I think Ezekiel is a fan of Sarah McLachlan.  Ezekiel has a lot to offer us because, as can happen to us, Ezekiel loved something – LOVED it – and had it taken away from him, and his story reminds us of how God works new life even in the midst of loss.  What Ezekiel loved – and what was taken away from him – was the Temple.   Ezekiel was a priest who loved the temple – I mean, LOVED the temple.  Ezekiel loved it’s buildings, its rituals, its priestly class, its place in Hebrew society, the order and meaning it brought to life.  Ezekiel LOVED the temple… and then God took it away from him.  When the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem in the 6th-century BC, Ezekiel was carried away into exile into Babylon and not long thereafter the Temple was destroyed. Continue reading