Listening for God’s Voice

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
Fourth Sunday of Advent-Year A
December 18, 2016

Isaiah 7:10-16
Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18
Romans 1:1-7
Matthew 1:18-25

My Friends,

26-iosifflyerWhen I first prayed this morning’s reading from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew, I was immediately struck by just how little we know about Joseph, the beloved spouse of Mary.  He is not even mentioned in the gospels according to Mark and John and, in Matthew’s and Luke’s, the two gospels with “infancy narratives,” Joseph drops out of the story entirely, well before Jesus begins his public ministry.  While all kinds of pious legends about Saint Joseph developed later in the Christian tradition, we have only these few portraits of him from the canonical gospels themselves.  This week, as I prayed these propers for today’s homily, I felt that I wanted to know more about this man who, like Mary, had acquiesced so graciously to God’s plan for the world’s redemption and salvation.  Who was he, I found myself asking in my prayer, and where did he find the astonishing equanimity to say “yes” to God’s improbable and decisive entrance once again into human experience? Continue reading

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Called to be Saints

Homily for Sunday, November 6, 2016
All Saints’ Day

This morning I am going to preach two homilies – don’t worry, both short.  On this All Saints’ Day I want to say something about saints, how we are all called to be saints.  And then I want to say something about our country’s forthcoming election.

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First, about saints.  In September I attended a panel discussion at Boston College for the new movie, “Ignacio de Loyola:  Soldier, Sinner, Saint,” about Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.  Taking part in the panel discussion were the lead actor who played Ignatius, Andreas Munoz, and also the associate director, Catherine Azanza.  Both Andreas and Catherine said some insightful things about saints. Continue reading

A Surprising Personal Encounter with Jesus Christ

Sermon for May 22, 2016
Trinity Sunday
John 16:12-15

 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.”

I recently experienced the Holy Trinity in yoga class.   Yes, I experienced the Holy Trinity.  And, Yes, I was in yoga class.  (Not sure which you might find more surprising…)  It was one of those “Relax and Renew” classes for deep-stretching, with maybe four poses in an hour, a class that one of my friends calls “an orchestrated nap.”  For this particular stretch each of us was curled in a fetal-like position on the floor but with our torso twisted stomach-down on a bolster, a stretch meant to open lower backs and hips.  As I stretched and listened to the soft music and looked across the room, I saw adults of all shapes and sizes curled on their bolsters, like babies lined up in a nursery: there was a petite older woman, small and looking frail; there was the big guy (BIG!), looking like a hibernating bear; there was the familiar silhouette of my wife, always beautiful.   I suddenly welled up as I realized:  “This must be how God’s sees us.”   Gazing on us tenderly, like beloved children; gazing on us, “delighting in the human race.”  I was in a room filled with people loved by God!  LOVED!! Continue reading

On the Conception of Virgin Mary

Sermon for Tuesday, December 8, 2015
Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Preached at Bethany Convent, Arlington

IconP-Anna-2-2

Icon of St. Anna

In the Roman church today’s feast is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a feast that commemorates not merely Mary’s conception in her mother Anna’s womb, but commemorates that she, like Jesus, was conceived immaculately without sin.  In the Episcopal Church, we celebrate only the Conception of Mary, making no claims as to its immaculate nature.

While it might be a fun exercise to do the theological “calculus,” as it were, of why it was important that Mary, too, be conceived immaculately, that isn’t what we Episcopalians say is important.   We celebrate the Conception of Mary not so much because of what is says theologically, but because it is helpful devotionally.  As Br. James Koester, SSJE once said, we Episcopalians don’t really write about Mary so much as we sing about Mary.  We are not so much interested in the “calculus” of the theology as we are in the helpfulness of the devotion. Continue reading

Love and Calendars

Sermon for Sunday, September 13, 2015
Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 8:27-38

“If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.”

This morning’s sermon is a sermon about love, and also a sermon about calendars.  The two are closely connected, for loving takes time.

I want to begin with a brief interview that President Obama gave this past May.  This past May – in the midst of unrest over race relations in our country and grievances about excessive use of force by police on African Americans – President Obama held a round-table discussion with Hispanic and black students at Lehman College in the Bronx and asked them what could be done to help them reach their goals.  Afterward, in surprisingly candid remarks, President Obama told of his own upbringing and the opportunities he had been given, and said how the only difference between himself and many young men of color in our country was that he “grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving.”  Then he said, “What it comes down to is this:  Do we love these kids?”

“Do we love these kids?”

What if we really did love “these kids?”  Would our country look different?  I’ll come back to this in just a bit, but first, let’s take a look at this morning’s gospel lesson. Continue reading

“Why would anybody want to be baptized?”

Sermon for Sunday, January 11, 2015
First Sunday After Epiphany
The Baptism of Our Lord Jesus Christ

Trinity-Church-0397Why would anybody want to be baptized?  I mean, being baptized is a lot of responsibility with little to no tangible benefits.  Baptism commits us to things like “continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers,” and “persevering in resisting evil, and, whenever we fall into sin… repenting and returning to the Lord.”   That’s a lot.   And there are almost no tangible benefits, except, maybe, “club membership” and a bit of bread and wine.  Given the big commitment and the small payback, why would anybody want to be baptized? Continue reading