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

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Bread of Heaven

Homily preached by the Rev. James La Macchia
August 2, 2015
The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – Proper 13B

Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15
Psalm 78:23-29
Ephesians 4:1-16
John 6:24-35

My Friends:

Perhaps it’s an example of clergy cynicism best left behind at those shadowing gatherings of the ordained that, like trips to the dentist, one endures, but never welcomes.  Nonetheless, I will take the plunge this morning and share with you a remark that I have heard on several occasions at such events, especially when the sensitive subject of “average Sunday attendance” is raised for report or discussion.  And the matter creeps into discussions frequently these days when so many other activities compete for our attention on Sunday mornings—to which Christian’s still refer, without even a hint of irony, as the “Lord’s Day”—in our increasingly secular, competitive, and consumerist culture.  The remark is often made when clergy are bemoaning low attendance at Sunday services, and it usually goes something like this:  “I wonder just how many people would come to Church on a Sunday morning if we advertised in the local press that each and every communicant would receive a one-hundred dollar bill at the altar rail.  I’ll bet that attendance would skyrocket!”  To which the more cynical among us—who shall, of course, remain nameless to protect the guilty—have been known to respond:  “Why one-hundred dollars when fifty or twenty would likely do just as nicely!” Continue reading

Treasures New and Old

Sermon for Sunday, July 27, 2014
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52

 

“Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

 
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m going to begin today’s sermon with a car.  My first car was a 1977 Chevette that I bought when I was in college for $100 from a music professor at Carleton College.  The best I can say about that car is that the price was right, and that it made me forever grateful for cars that start and get me where I need to go.  The stories I could tell about that car stalling in the middle of nowhere in Minnesota…  To try to better care for that car and restart it when it stalled, I began purchasing tools and also a toolbox that I stowed in the rear of the car.  I bought a wrench for the oil plug; pliers and socket wrenches to see if could replace the spark plugs; a utility knife and screwdriver to clamp the hoses; jumper cables for when the battery became low.  I still have that toolbox, and over the years it has acquired more tools: a hammer for driving nails to hang pictures in early apartments; drill bits to hang anchors in early apartments; multiple kinds of screwdrivers; a hacksaw for I can’t remember what; electrical tape for early attempts at electrical repair; and so on.  More recently, my toolbox has acquired tools from my grandfather: his beautiful antique plane; his old, wood-handled putty knife; his hatchet; an even an old hand-drill, which – as fun as it is to think about using it – I’ve never actually used it. Continue reading