Prophecy in the Public Square

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
June 25, 2017
The Second Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 7A

Jeremiah 20:7-13
Psalm 69:8-20
Romans 6:1b-11
Matthew 10:24-39

My Friends:

jubilee_of_mercy_logoYou can tell that our politicians are anxiously anticipating the 2018 mid-term election year in America because they are practically tripping over one another these days to climb aboard the “holiness” bandwagon.  At the evangelical Liberty University commencement ceremony a few weeks ago, Donald J. Trump offered his undying allegiance to so-called traditional values.  The “Make America Great Again” agenda apparently includes returning America to its “Judeo-Christian roots” and “free market values,” aka laissez-faire capitalism.  No matter what we may say in America about the constitutional separation of Church and State, like it or not, politics and religion are constant—albeit often uncomfortable—bedfellows in our culture.  And very often, when religious leaders do occasionally summon the courage and audacity to intervene in matters of public policy, both sides in our “culture wars” are equal-opportunity critics who alternately applaud and pillory God and religion whenever it suits their comfort and convenience, regardless of political persuasionContinue reading

Hope and Consolation

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
June 18, 2017
The Second Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 6A

Exodus 19:2-8a
Psalm 100
Romans 5:1-8
Matthew 9:35-10:8

the-call-of-the-first-disciplesMy Friends:

Unless you count yourself among the reported thirty-five per cent of the electorate who would support Donald J. Trump even if—in his own words—“I were to shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue,” you may well be among the many who are telling area clergy that they are feeling unusually anxious, stressed, and helpless since the November presidential election.  The numerous missteps, scandals, and almost daily misadventures that have erupted since his January inauguration as the nation’s forty-fifth president likely have done nothing to allay those anxieties and fears.  In fact, if there were not so much at stake for our nation and the world, the daily melodrama and pending constitutional crisis, including their improbable cast of characters, might even prove humorous.  Who needs House of Cards when reality itself provides so much, as they say, “must see TV”! Continue reading

The World Turned Upside Down

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
June 4, 2017
The Feast of Pentecost (Whitsunday)

Acts 2:1-11
Psalm 104:25-35, 37
1 Corinthians 12:3b-13
John 20:19-23

My Friends:

51ytyz5c1nl-_sy344_bo1204203200_A few years ago, Newsweek magazine published a cover story called “The Changing Face of the Church.”   This provocative and prescient article chronicled both the now-familiar decline of the Christian faith in Western Europe and in North America, and the burgeoning of that same faith in Africa, Latin America, and even in Asia.  According to the article, there were, for example, seven times more Anglicans in Nigeria alone than there are Episcopalians in the United States of America.  And, if recent communiqués from places as diverse as Canterbury Cathedral in England, the Episcopal Church Center in New York, and even our very own Diocesan offices in Boston are to be believed, we can only conclude that our chief pastors are realizing what we in our local congregations, especially in the Northeast—often dubbed the “graveyard of the churches”—have known for a very long time:  All is not well in the Church outside the global south; the “household of God” in these parts is shrinking; and we Christians can no longer continue to engage in business as usual.  And this is not a matter of crisis for the Anglican Communion alone.  This precipitous decline is occurring in every so-called mainline Christian denomination, including the Roman Catholic Church, whose US membership would also be plummeting if not for the influx of largely Hispanic immigrants, thanks be to God.  The hopes and dreams of the failed “Decade of Evangelism”—in which we were to have doubled the size of the Anglican Communion in Western Europe and North America notwithstanding—we have only to look around us every Sunday in our local congregations to behold the sad wages of post-modernity, scientism, and secularism for the Church.  Where are our young people or, for that matter, where are our neighbors?  I, for one, sometimes feel as if I am living in some local version of the Incredible Shrinking Church (sic). Continue reading

Many Dwelling Places

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
May 14, 2017
The Fifth Sunday of Easter – Year A

Acts 7:55-60
Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
1 Peter 2:2-10
John 14: 1-14

My friends:

Despite the rare grace-note of Pope Francis’ successful apostolic visit to Egypt two weeks ago, following the Palm Sunday bombing of two Coptic Orthodox churches by ISIS terrorists, interreligious and ecumenical relations have been strained in recent years by news of mounting terrorism, nativism, and xenophobia—all  in the name of religion.  As I thought about and prayed this morning’s readings from the New Testament, I did so against this backdrop of mounting anxiety and frustration over religiously-inspired terrorism and fanaticism worldwide.  Car-rammings, shootings, and knife attacks by Palestinian terrorists against Israeli Jews, accompanied by cries of “God is Most Great” in Arabic, are almost weekly occurrences now in the State of Israel and the holy city Jerusalem.  ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN-CONFLICT-RELIGION-CRIME-FILES Israeli-Jewish extremists, in turn, continue to vandalize Muslim and Christian properties in Galilee and Jerusalem.  These so-called price-tag attacks against Muslim and Christian foundations are perpetrated by fanatical West Bank Israeli settlers any time the State of Israel’s government even thinks about making serious concessions to the Palestinian national movement in the longstanding Arab-Israeli conflict.  In South Sudan, Christians and Muslims are slaughtering thousands of men, women, and children in a tribal civil war and famine now on the brink of repeating the horrors of the 1990s Rwandan genocide.  Over two million children alone have been displaced in the “ethnic cleansing” there.  In Nigeria, despite the prisoner swap of 103 of the 276 schoolgirls abducted from their dormitories by Boko Haram—which means “the West is forbidden”—many of the remaining young hostages have been forced to convert to Islam, don the hijab, chant the Qur’an, and become pregnant “child-brides” or worse, suicide-bombers for their terrorist captors.  In the interim, 2000 more children have been kidnapped and abused by these terrorists.  Iraqi Sunni Muslims at the behest of ISIS continue to maim and kill their Shi’a neighbors in terror attacks surpassing the death-toll at the height of their civil war following the American invasion.  And, to be perfectly honest, I often feel that I want to vomit now every time I hear God’s name taken in vain by Islamist terrorists shouting “Allah’u’ Akbar,” “God is Most Great,” as both sides in the Syrian civil war fire rockets at hospitals, buses full of evacuees, and other civilian targets, while the government forces of the war-criminal Bashar al-Assad attack their own people with barrel-bombs and sarin gas in that six-year civil and proxy war that has resulted to date in almost a half-million civilian deaths and four million refugees.  I find those words every bit as repulsive as the Christian Crusaders chanting “Deus Vult,” “God Wills It,” as they rode through the streets of Jerusalem and slaughtered thirty-thousand Jews and Muslims following their capture of Jerusalem in the twelfth century CE. Continue reading

Only Servants Doing Our Duty

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
October 2, 2016
The Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 22C

Habakkuk 1:1-4, 2:1-4
Psalm 37:1-10
2 Timothy 1:1-14
Luke 17:5-10

My Friends:

mustard_plant_bangladeshAlmost twenty years ago during the first of my twelve subsequent visits to the Land of the Holy One, I was very eager to collect anything that I might share with the students in my Heirs of Abraham course to make the Bible come alive for them.  So, when we came upon a field of blooming mustard plants, I took some of their almost microscopic seeds to show my students.  Unfortunately, there was no way for me take home a mulberry tree because such trees grow to a very large and bushy height in Galilee.  Besides, I would never have made it through US Customs hauling a mulberry tree along with my luggage.  While Jesus’ disciples would have immediately caught this morning’s contrasting images drawn from their familiar world, we must rely upon the flora and fauna more common to us in these parts.  So, in your mind’s eye this morning, picture a pumpkin seed beside a giant oak in full bloom for comparison. Continue reading

The Joy of Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
June 12, 2016
The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 6C

2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15
Psalm 32
Galatians 2:15-21
Luke 7:36-8:3

My Friends:

jesus-feetOne of the first questions that Roman Catholic friends often ask me about the Anglican Communion is whether or not we have “Confession” in the Episcopal Church.  They—along with many Episcopalians—are quite surprised when I tell them that we do indeed have sacramental “Confession,” otherwise known as the “Reconciliation of a Penitent.”  It is one of the many rites included in our Book of Common Prayer in both Rite 1 & 2.  And while there are no traditional “confessionals” in our churches these days —those fabled, purple-curtained boxes for the confession of sins—we do have the opportunity, at any time, to avail ourselves of this individual, sacramental act.  The rule in the Episcopal Church concerning “Confession” is that “all may; some should; but none must.”  In other words, the “Reconciliation of a Penitent” is an option for those times in the spiritual journey when we feel called to unburden a heart broken open by sorrow and guilt over sin, and when we long to experience the overwhelming gift of God’s real forgiveness and offer of a new beginning.  And while we may no longer recognize a distinction between so-called venial and mortal sins, there are times in the spiritual journey when we urgently need godly counsel spoken in the name of Christ and his Church.  The “Reconciliation of a Penitent” is an exchange between God and us sinners in which we renew our covenantal relationship with God, broken through our blindness and failure “to love God with our whole heart,” and “to love our neighbors as ourselves.” (BCP)  And so, it’s not at all uncommon for a penitent to feel an enormous sense of relief and joy and gratitude over the repair of this primary and cherished covenantal relationship with God.  These emotions signal the true gift of a new beginning made possible by the grace of our God of steadfast love and mercy.  The ancient rabbis taught that God gave the Torah to humans, not to angels, and that the greatest name of God is “mercy”!

The joy of forgiveness and thanksgiving for reconciliation are poignantly illustrated by the extravagant gestures of the forgiven woman in this morning’s episode from Saint Luke’s Gospel, together with Jesus’ parable of the forgiven debtors. Continue reading