Our Season of the Spirit

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
March 5, 2017
The First Sunday of Lent – Year A

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Psalm 32
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11

My Friends:

maxresdefaultIf you have been paying close attention to our election campaigns—at every level of government—over recent years, you will have noticed that we Americans seem to have a great hunger just now for “hope” and “change.”  Many candidates for elected office—some more strident and vulgar than others—have even made these elusive realities the explicit watchwords of their campaigns with such slogans as “Hope”; “Change You Can Believe In”; and “Make America Great Again.”  And this is hardly surprising in the wake of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression; widening income inequality; amoral globalization with its random winners and losers; and the protracted and continuing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, together with ancillary military operations in Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and in Iraqi Kurdistan against ISIS.  And just when we in the west thought that the “Cold War” was a thing of the distant past, the world’s two largest nuclear powers are in a stand-off once again in east central Europe—this time in Ukraine, Crimea, and the Baltic nations—in what The New Yorker magazine has just this week officially dubbed the “New Cold War.”  War, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, economic recession, environmental degradation, predatory globalization, and expanding income inequality have made it clear to all save the most obtuse that our present course is simply unsustainable at every level of world governance.  We now need deep, structural changes and a new international system as a matter of mere species survival. Continue reading

This House is Bigger Than We Think

Homily for Sunday, February 26, 2017
Last Sunday After the Epiphany
Matthew 17:1-9

funhome-1cFun Home,” the heartbreaker / tear-jerker Broadway musical that recently closed, is a detective story of sorts about a lesbian cartoonist trying to understand her recently-deceased father and, by extension, herself.  “Fun Home” won five Tony awards in 2015, including Best Book of a Musical for the playwright, Lisa Kron.  In just a moment, I will tell what Ms. Kron said upon receiving her award, but it might make more sense if I first say something about the musical.

While “Fun Home” is a coming out story of a daughter who comes to terms with her sexuality, and while “Fun Home” is a coming of age story about a daughter trying to understand her father’s death, a suicide, “Fun Home” is bigger than a coming out or coming of age story.  As New York Times reviewer Ben Brantley says, “Fun Home” has a universal appeal that “comes from its awareness of… that element of the unknowable that exists in all of us… [and] how we never fully know even those closest to us.” Continue reading

Real & Fruitful Humility

As to your Lent—no physical hardships beyond what normal life provides—but take each of these as serenely and gratefully as you can and make them your humble offerings to God.  Don’t reduce sleep. Don’t get up in the cold.  Practice more diligently the art of turning to God with some glance or phrase of love or trust at all spare moments of the day….Be especially kind and patient with those who irritate you….Instead of wasting energy in being disgusted with yourself, accept your own failures and just say to God ‘Well, in spite of all I may say or fancy, this is what I am really like—so please help my weakness.’ This, not self-disgust, is the real and fruitful humility.

                                                                                                                                                                           —The Letters of Evelyn Underhill

 

What the Heart Wants

Sermon for Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Ash Wednesday

ashesSelena Gomez’ song, “The Heart Wants What it Wants” looks like a song about love and betrayal and how “There’s a million reasons why I should give you up,” except that – and this is the refrain – “the heart wants what it wants.”   “The Heart Wants What it Wants” looks like a song about love and betrayal and not giving up and “the heart [wanting] what it wants,” but Gomez’ song is really a song about Lent.

Gomez’ song is about Lent because, like the song, Lent is about love – Lent is about opening ourselves to how much God loves us:  which is absolutely, infinitely and without conditions.  Like Gomez’ song Lent is about betrayal – daily we betray that love (or, at least I do).  Like the song Lent is about not giving up – even though we may have messed up, we are not to give up.  And Lent is about letting the heart want what it wants; letting the heart want what it really wants, deep-down. Continue reading

Just to BE with Jesus

He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons.

– Mark 3:13-15

In Mark’s gospel the first thing Jesus appoints his apostles to do is not something to do, but something to be:  “And he appointed twelve… to be with him.” So often we think of Jesus as one who does.   Especially in Mark’s gospel Jesus seems to be perpetually doing, moving from one ministry opportunity to the next, preaching and healing and casting out demons at a pace that might well leave the reader breathless.  Given Jesus’ prodigious activity, we might suppose that Jesus would appoint apostles who could keep up with his action-packed schedule, who could join him in going “immediately” (one of Mark’s favorite words) from one act of ministry to the next.   But the first thing Jesus appoints the apostles to do is not something to do, but something to be:  “to be with him.” Continue reading

Redemption from Sin and Death

Sermon for Sunday, February 22, 2015
Lent 1B

At first glance, this morning’s readings look to be about sin and death.   The Genesis reading is part of the flood story, which wiped out all humankind save Noah’s family. The lesson from 1 Peter speaks of Christ suffering for sins, and how he was “put to death in the flesh.” And this morning’s Gospel lesson introduces the personification of sin himself, Satan, who tempts Jesus in the wilderness.   At first glance, this morning’s readings look to be about sin and death. But if I look more closely at this morning’s readings I begin to see that today’s readings are not so much about sin and death as they are about redemption and life. Continue reading

Welcome Lent

Welcome dear feast of Lent: who loves not thee,
He loves not Temperance, or Authority,
But is composed of passion.
The Scriptures bid us fast; the Church says, now:
Give to your Mother, what you would allow
To every Corporation.

It ‘s true, we cannot reach Christ’s fortieth day;
Yet to go part of that religious way,
Is better than to rest:
We cannot reach our Savior’s purity;
Yet are bid, Be holy ev’n as he.
In both let ‘s do our best.

Who goes in the way which Christ has gone,
Is much more sure to meet with him, than one
Who travels the by-ways:
Perhaps my God, though he be far before,
May turn, and take me by the hand, and more
May strengthen my decays.

Yet Lord instruct us to improve our fast
By starving sin and taking such repast
As may our faults control:
That ev’ry man may revel at his door,
Not in his parlor; banqueting the poor,
And among those his soul.

— From Lent: Ash Wednesday  by George Herbert (1593-1633)