Doubting Thomas

Homily for Sunday, April 23, 2017
Easter 2A
John 20:19-31
“Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God.’”

doubting-thomas-duccioToday’s gospel lesson is the familiar story of “Doubting Thomas.”  (Each year the Second Sunday of Easter uses this lesson, from the end of John.)  As I said last Sunday, doubts are a normal and healthy part of faith.  A healthy place to be is in tension with, on the one hand, the Bible’s stories and Church’s teachings about Jesus’ resurrection, and on the other hand our own doubts and skepticism about the resurrection.  I compared navigating the tension between these to be akin to a ship navigating its way between rocks.  The temptation is, when still off in the distance, to jump ship, as it were – or to try to convince our inner “captain” to turn around or to maybe incite a “mutiny” – rather than sail forward and risk the “rocks” of resurrection.  But I noted that, if we sail forward and learn to navigate the “rocks,” we come to a place where we are not so much concerned about what “really” happened at Jesus’ resurrection, a place where we are not so much concerned either about what may be in our own future after we die, but a place rather in which we are focused on the “now.”  And in this Easter “now” we discover that we can live fearless of death.  Mot that we don’t fear death – I think the fear of death is normal, and I have a hunch that all healthy people have at least some fear of death – but a place in which we learn to live beyond our fears.  And I suggested that it is in this “now” that Mary Magdalene lived, she who was not afraid to be present at the crucifixion or the tomb, and who – as soon as Jesus said her name – was brought back into the “now” such that she could notice – and savor and relish – the presence of the risen Christ. Continue reading

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

No Matter How Dead We May Be…

Homily for April 2, 2017
Lent 5A
John 11:1-45

The Raising of Jairus's Daughter, 1885 (oil on canvas)In one of his more famous homilies, Augustine preached on the three times that Jesus raised someone from the dead.  The first time is the raising of Jairus’ daughter in Mark 5.  Jairus’ daughter was dead in the house, notes Augustine.   Her death symbolizes the sins that we commit only in thought, that are “in the house” and unseen.   The second time is the raising of the son of the widow of Nain, in Luke 7.  When Jesus encounters the son and the widow, his body is being carried outside the city for burial. His death symbolizes the sins that we actually commit – they are “outside the city” and can be seen by others.  And the third time is the story we just heard in this morning’s gospel, the raising of Lazarus.  Lazarus has been dead three days, and Augustine says he symbolizes sins that have become habitual, that have festered so long that there is a stench.   The punch line – to which Augustine builds and delivers as only Augustine can deliver – is that no matter how dead we may be, Jesus is able to raise us to new life. 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

Crucified and Risen with Christ

stgeorgetoledo2b-2banastasis2b-2bfr-2btheodore2bjurewiczRedemption [in the mythological sense] means redemption from cares, distress, fears, and longings, from sin and death, in a better world beyond the grave. But is this really the essential character of the proclamation of Christ in the Gospels and by Paul? I should say it is not. The difference between the Christian hope of resurrection and a mythological hope is that the former sends a person back to his life on earth in a wholly new way, which is even more sharply defined than it is in the Old Testament. The Christian, unlike the devotees of the redemption myths, has no last line of escape available from earthly tasks and difficulties into the eternal. But, like Christ himself, he must drink the earthly cup to the dregs, and only in his doing so, is the crucified and risen Lord with him, and he crucified and risen with Christ. This world must not be prematurely written off. In this the Old and New Testaments are one. Redemption myths arise from human boundary-experiences, but Christ takes hold of a man in the center of his life.

— From Dietrich Bonhoeffer to Eberhard Bethge written from Tegel prison, 27 June, 1944

Grieve as Those Who Have Hope

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
Trinity Parish of Newton Centre
April 24, 2016
The Fifth Sunday of Easter-Year C

Acts 11:1-18
Psalm 148
Revelation 21:1-6
John 13:31-35

My Friends:

insight_melissa_grieving-angelAs you and I know through personal experience, grieving is very hard work.  Every loss of any significant attachment—whether it’s a role, a job, our health, a marriage, a home, a pet, a parish or a person—requires us to let go of that attachment; to adapt to this radical change in circumstances; and to find our way in the world without that cherished and familiar person, place, or thing.  Fortunately, grief and trauma have been much studied and understood in recent decades, and we now know that “good grief” evolves through identifiable stages characterized by shock; numbness; denial; bargaining; anger; depression; and acceptance.  We also now know that these stages do not unfold in an orderly and successive way, and that we never entirely leave any of these stages behind, even when we engage fully again with a life and with a cherished memory of the lost.  Even in acceptance, there will be moments and occasions when we re-visit those earlier stages of grieving.  And, if it is a truly significant loss, we know that the pain never entirely dissipates; it only becomes less acute over time.  “Time,” regrettably, “does NOT heal all wounds” and, like the risen Christ, we carry those wounds with us into the larger life of eternity.  These wounds may be transfigured by God’s grace, but they never entirely vanish.  Even in this life, we know that every new loss has the potential to stir up all previous losses, especially if we have not fully grieved over them. Continue reading

Take a Chance on the Resurrection

Sermon for Sunday, April 17, 2016
Fourth Sunday of Easter
Revelation 7:9-17

“ ‘Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?’… ‘These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’”  – Revelation 7:13-14

unknown-artist-procession-of-martyrs-basilica-di-santapollinare-nuovo-ravenna-italy-6th-century

I know this passage.  I know this passage because it is one of the scripture choices for the burial liturgy, and I have heard it read at dozens of funerals – including my mother’s – and I have chosen to be read at mine.  I know this passage!

We are going to get back to this passage from Revelation, but first I want to go to Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the 15th chapter, where Paul writes beautifully and passionately in support of resurrection. Continue reading