Bones and All

Homily for April 16, 2017
Easter Day
John 20:1-18

“Jesus said to her, ‘Mary.’”
Preached by The Rev. Todd Miller

icon-jesus-christ1“So, Miller,” said my one of colleagues, as he sidled up to me at clergy conference, “Bones and all?”  “Absolutely!” I said, laughing at the way he asked me if I believed in Jesus’ bodily resurrection.  “Absolutely!  Bones and all!”

An answer which is of course the “right” answer, and the Church’s “answer.”   The answer upon which all Christian doctrine hangs – “On the third day he rose again,” we say in the Creed.  The answer upon which all Christian hope relies:  “If Christ has not been raised, then we are of all people most to be pitied,” Paul writes (I Cor 15).  “Absolutely,” I say, “‘Bones and all!’” Continue reading

The Cross is Life and Peace

Homily for Sunday, March 26, 2017
Lent 4A
John 9:1-41

Preached by Fr. Miller at Bethany Convent, the Order of St. Anne, Arlington, MA

I’ve heard it said that, in the East, “religion” is concerned with wisdom, and in the West, with sight.  This morning’s Gospel – the story of Jesus healing the man born blind – is clearly of the West and our concern with sight.

easter_vigil_mass_2015_163_op_760x508But I don’t want to begin with sight.  I want to begin rather with something we all experience, something that has on some level brought us here this morning, that has led us to be Christians, to “walk in the way of the cross” and to hope in resurrection.  That something is suffering.  And I want to look at suffering from the context of the early Church’s catechumenate, the process whereby candidates were prepared for Baptism.  For the most part, this year’s Lenten lectionary is the same lectionary that was used by the early Church during Lent for the preparation of candidates for Baptism at the Easter Vigil.  Candidates would have been in the catechumenate two or three years, and these final Sundays offered a final push of preparation for their Baptism.  Taken as a whole, these Scriptures present in a nutshell the process of awakening to fuller life, of experiencing “resurrection.”   To sum up:  The candidates would have gone from being in the “wilderness” and discovering that Jesus had a wilderness experience, too (Lent 1); to being in the dark with Jesus, as was Nicodemus (Lent 2); to being in the light with Jesus, as was the woman at the well (Lent 3); to being able to “see” with the man born blind (today); to experiencing resurrection, as did Lazarus (next week). Continue reading

The Blind Who See

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
March 26, 2017
The Fourth Sunday of Lent – Year A

1 Samuel 16:1-13
Psalm 23
Ephesians 5: 8-14
John 9: 1-41

My Friends:

034You are probably familiar with the old saw that “there are none so blind as those who fail to see.”  Our reading this morning from the Gospel according to Saint John is an obvious case in point.  The whole lection turns on the irony that the man born blind sees and understands Jesus’ true identity as the “Son of Man” and the “light of the world,” while Jesus’ sighted opponents, “blind guides,” completely fail to grasp the obvious power and sanctity of this man of God.  Even if they were unwilling to go as far as the blind man in asserting that Jesus is indeed the “Messiah,” the “Christ” of God, they know that their own tradition is not lacking in “signs and wonders” performed by the many prophets of God.  And Jesus seems to anticipate his opponents’ willful ignorance because he goes to the trouble of mixing his saliva with mud and applying it to the blind man’s eyes. He could have simply commanded the restoration of his sight, as he does on other occasions in the Gospels, but, because the folk medicine of Jesus’ time invested saliva with medicinal qualities, he goes to the extra trouble of making the special poultice.  Then he orders the blind man to rinse his eyes in the pool of Siloam, the collecting pond for the waters of the holy city Jerusalem, originating in the “living waters” of the Gihon Spring and passing through the Temple precincts—all highly symbolic places of special holiness in Second-Temple Judaism.   And for those with “eyes to see” among St. John the Evangelist’s community of Jewish-Christians approximately seventy years later, the anticipation of the “illumination” that comes with Holy Baptism would have been obvious as well.  Jesus gives the blind man not just his physical sight; he gives him spiritual vision as well.  The “Christ” is the “light” by which we see light; the primordial light of the Creation that enters the cosmos even before the celestial bodies in the Genesis story of creation.  In a culture so steeped in Temple and Torah, the failure to understand the meaning and import of Jesus’ “signs and wonders” can only be described as obtuseness at best, and incorrigible ignorance at worst. Continue reading

Drawing Near to Jesus

Homily for Sunday, March 12, 2017
Second Sunday in Lent

aptopix_groundhog_day_31044-23e3bLent is a bit like the movie “Groundhog Day.”  “Groundhog Day” is about the arrogant big-city weatherman sent to small-town Pennsylvania to cover Ground Hog Day and who is rude and condescending to the locals.  Because of his attitude, he must relive February 2 until he gets it “right” – until he develops some humility and charity.  Lent is like “Groundhog Day” because every year Lent offers the same prayers, the same hymns, and – on a three-year cycle – the same Scripture readings so that we might get it “right” and develop more humility and charity.

But Lent is different from “Groundhog Day” because Lent offers a clear path as to how we can get it more “right.”  Sunday by Sunday, over the course of Lent, the Scriptures take us by the hand and lead us, step-by-step, progressively deeper into relationship with Jesus. Continue reading

Salt and Light

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
February 5, 2017
The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany – Year A

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 112:1-10
1 Corinthians 2:1-16
Matthew 5:13-20

My Friends:

annex20-20davis20bette20all20about20eve_nrfpt_02It’s not very often that our popular culture provides us with a touchstone for understanding the Gospels.  As I prayed these propers in preparation for today’s homily, however, I thought of the classic film starring Bette Davis, “All about Eve.”  There is a marvelous scene in the movie when the upstart actress Eve Harrington unexpectedly stands in for the famous and renowned actress Margot Channing, played by Bette Davis, who is late for a dress rehearsal of her latest Broadway play.  The conniving Eve has invited the cynical and debonair theater critic, appropriately named Addison DeWitt, from the New York Times to witness her rehearsal performance.  He is appropriately impressed by her acting and writes in his review that the ingénue Eve is all “fire and light.”  After reading the review, in which the acerbic critic is also careful to remind his readers of Ms. Channing’s advancing years, Bette Davis’ character grouses, “Fire and Light, Fire and Light.  What am I, just an old kazoo and sparklers?” Continue reading

Healing in the Manger of the Heart

Homily for Sunday, January 1, 2017
Holy Name
Preached at St. John’s, Newtonville

circumcision-of-jesusIn the old Prayer Book today’s feast, the Feast of the Holy Name, was called the Feast of the Circumcision.   In the Roman church the first Sunday after Christmas is usually the Feast of the Holy Family.   The three are basically the same Feast with basically the same readings that provide further occasion to drive home messages of Incarnation: Jesus is one of us, Jesus is part of God’s plan for salvation, God placed Jesus within a particular people and within a particular family.   And it’s this last that I want to talk about this morning – families. Continue reading

Signs of Ending & Letting Go

Homily for Sunday, November 27, 2016
First Sunday of Advent

6770916105_4081e531a4_bSigns of endings all around us, darkness, death and winter days,
Shroud our lives in fear and sadness, numbing mouths that long to praise.
Come, O Christ, and dwell among us!  Hear our cries, come set us free.
Give us faith and hope and gladness.  Show us what there yet can be. – Dean Nelson

Two years ago Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.   As many of you may recall, she died a month later, just after Christmas.  Two years ago today when my parents went to church, the opening hymn was the hymn we just sang:

Signs of endings all around us, darkness, death and winter days,
Shroud our lives in fear and sadness, numbing mouths that long to praise…

Neither could make it through the hymn.

Advent – the Church’s season of New Year that we begin today – reminds us that life changes, and that change always involves letting go.  Let me say that again:  Advent reminds us that life changes, and change always involves letting go. Continue reading