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

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Love Your Enemies

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
February 19, 2017
The Seventh Sunday after Epiphany – Year A

Leviticus 19: 1-2, 9-18
Psalm 119: 33-44
1 Corinthians 3: 10-11, 16-23
Matthew 5: 38-48

My Friends:

mlkOf the many so-called hard sayings of Jesus, his commands in this morning’s reading from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew may well be the hardest of all.  It is challenge enough to love and to forgive your neighbor or your kin; it’s quite another matter to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”  Jesus’ clear admonition has perplexed and challenged the individual Christian conscience for millennia, and it has vexed nations and empires since the beginning of the Christian era.  Is it a categorical mandate for pacifism, or just a caution to individuals and nations contemplating the use of violence and war as “an extension of politics by other means,” to use the apt and famous phrase of Karl von Clausewitz? God knows that we have witnessed both aplenty during the blood-soaked twentieth and twenty-first centuries, ranging from Gandhi’s non-violent movement to drive the British Raj from India, followed by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s struggle for American civil rights in the 1960s; to World War l, that so-called war to end all wars, and its extension known as World War ll—the “good war” fought by “the greatest generation.”  And what about the horror of the Shoah, and the train of genocides during the second half of the twentieth century in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur in the wake of that “good” war? Should the international community have decisively invoked its “obligation to protect” and have used effective military force to end the carnage in those places?  And what should the United Nations Security Council do right now about the ISIS genocide of Christians, Yazidis, and Shi’a Muslims in areas under its control, together with the war crimes and crimes against humanity perpetrated every day for nearly six years in Syria, together with the genocide about to break out in South Sudan?  Try as we may, we cannot and, as Christians, we may not duck these difficult moral dilemmas with a quick reference to Jesus’ words in this morning’s Gospel.  Our time and place in human history demand answers and urgent action, not soothing evasions, for in a world awash in nuclear weapons, and in the midst of the greatest migration and refugee crisis since World War ll, even inaction is a moral decision demanding a moral reckoning. Continue reading

Receive the Holy Spirit

Sermon for Sunday, May 10, 2015
Easter 6B
Acts 10:44-48

This morning’s sermon is about a kind of prayer called “mystical prayer.”   “Mystical prayer” may seem a little much for a beautiful May morning, but I know we’re up to the task.  I’m going to begin by reminding us about Wile E. Coyote and gravity.

Where would Wile E. Coyote be without gravity?   If you’ve seen the cartoons, you know how many of the coyote’s attempts to catch the roadrunner rely on gravity:  Now the coyote sets up a boulder to push off the cliff and onto the roadrunner below.   Now the coyote pours a pile of birdseed over the bridge and bungees down to catch the roadrunner.  Now the coyote dons roller skates to skate down the hill after the roadrunner.   Even if we haven’t seen the show, because we’re familiar with gravity, we can guess how the coyote fares in each of his attempts:  The road runner appears at the cliff’s edge with his signature, “Meep, meep!” and, instead of the boulder, the startled coyote plunges with a whistle to the canyon floor.  The coyote bungees off the bridge toward the pile of birdseed and catches, not the roadrunner, but the front end of truck.  The coyote with roller skates sees the sign, “Bridge Out Ahead”…  but can’t stop, and plunges with another whistle to the canyon floor.

Where would Wile E. Coyote be without gravity?

If we knew nothing about the Holy Spirit except what we read in the Acts of the Apostles, we might well ask, “Where would the Holy Spirit be without gravity?”  Continue reading