Thursday, June 30, 2016

June slips away

June, we hardly knew thee!

I realize I was out of the country for a slice of it--but how did June just slip away?

If I rated the months in order of my liking them it would be something like this.

1. September
2. April
3. October
4. May
5. June
6. November
7. March
8. December
9. July
10. January
11. August
12. February

So, my number 5 month just got away from me.

My list, I realize, reflects my childhood in the mountains of Southern West Virginia. Anawalt, West Virginia, where I spent the first 18 years of my life, is further south by maybe 40 miles than Richmond, Virginia. But the altitude is 1793 feet above sea level and surrounded by mountains another thousand feet up.

Because of the altitude, the seasons went like this: Winter: January and February; Summer: July and August; Spring: March, April, May, June and Autumn: September, October, November and December.

All my 8 favorite months are in Anawalt Spring and Fall. The four least favorite are Winter and Summer.

Notice, March and December fall in the bottom half since winter could come a tad early or stay a tad too long.

People from Anawalt tend to use the word "tad" a bit. Just like they use the word 'bit' a tad.

June, you're gone in just over 2 hours. Sorry I wasn't paying a tad more attention and didn't notice you a bit more.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Jesus on Virtual Reality

I just read on line that soon the story of Jesus' life will be available on 360 degrees virtual reality--you know, those glasses you put on (you, not me!) to be in a virtual world.

Could the Prince of Peace, the Babe of Bethlehem, the Savior of the world, the Son of God have imagined you could watch his life in virtual reality?

Well, since he was God Almighty, all-knowing, member of the Trinity, perhaps he could have foretold that.

I'm not willing (anti-media guy that I am) to even imagine, must less experience Jesus in Virtual Reality.

Jesus in Reality is good enough for me.

Just me talkin'....

Still wondering

 This is now the 3rd most viewed post ever on my blog. I don't know why.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Toradh caithimh tobac--ba`s

That's what it says on the Malboro Gold Originals I've been smoking for two weeks. I bought a carton at the Duty Free Shop at the Dublin Airport. If I'm doing the Euro-Dollar exchange anywhere near right, the ten packs of cigarettes cost about $4 a pack, less than half what they cost in Cheshire.

That I still have a pack plus some others after two weeks tells me I don't smoke nearly as much as I feared. Most smokers, when they count, are horrified that they smoke more than they thought. So, give me a break on that, OK?

Yes, I KNOW I shouldn't smoke. And I do. OK? Leave me alone. I'm a priest, I stand with the oppressed and the most oppressed people in the Western world are smokers. I'm just standing with my people....

But since absolutely everything in Ireland has both Irish and English on signs, notices, directions, etc., 'whatever', each pack of cigarettes has the warning "Toradh caithimh tobac--ba`s" on it. The English translation is below: "Smoking kills". You have to admire a language that requires 22 letters to say  what 12 say in English. And such wondrous words! When I try to pronounce them (which I can't for the life of me) they sound like Klingon. But if an Irish speaker said them they would sound like a bird song, really. I've listened to Irish a lot and it is a language to be sung, not spoken. English is so mundane in comparison.

No wonder the Irish love song and poetry and story so much--it sounds like birds.

I'm listening as I write this to Maggie, our parakeet sing along with the classical music station we always have on beside her cage.

With a little practice, I believe, Maggie could speak Irish. All birds, it seems to me, are Gaelic in their bird souls.....

What I'm wondering is why this is now the third most viewed post of all time--within 50 of the second most viewed and within 150 or so of the most viewed.

Anyone want to tell me why this has become so popular? Email me at or post a comment. I just don't get why this took off.

Post a Comment

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

A non-Creedal Christian

I've never been comfortable with the Nicene or the Apostle's creeds. But it was only a day or so ago, in response to an email about a group at one of the churches in the Cluster who would like to replace the creed with something else that I realized I'm a 'non-Creedal Christian', if that even is a thing.

I'll find the email I sent and put it here.


Hey, all,

Thought I'd weigh in since I've been mentioned in the couple of emails I've gotten--only from *****. I haven't been cc-ed on any others.

I am not a 'creedal' Christian. Never have been, never will be. I have real difficulty with the Nicene Creed since it reduces Jesus' life, ministry and teaching to his incarnation, his crucifixion, death and burial. I am a 'gospel' and 'liturgical' Christian. A Creed doesn't enter into my faith.

Not a word in the creed about compassion, love, hope, wonder, forgiveness, inclusion, acceptance, glory. That's the Christian I am--the compassion, love, hope, wonder, forgiveness, inclusion, acceptance, glory kind of Christian.

I can say the Nicene Creed because it uses the personal pronoun "we" and I can imagine some of the 'we' saying it gives assent to the 'beliefs' therein!

Back when I was in seminary and we had no Book of Common Prayer (Green Book, Zebra Book, Blue Book...all that) I led a discussion at Christ Church, Capitol Hill on the Nicene Creed. I told the group of a dozen or so that I'd start the Creed and when they had an issue or wanted to talk about something they should raise their hand. So, I began (as the Creed was back then) "I believe in God...." and five hands went up.

'Alright,' I told myself, 'this is the group I want to be with.'

I have little use for 'belief' since I think very few people assume that something we 'believe' is something totally without evidence. Most people who talk about what they 'believe' mean something like 'what is TRUE' (all Caps). I'm much more interested in 'what we do' as opposed to 'what we believe'.

I'm a "I'm from Missouri" Christian. "Show me" through how you live what you 'believe'. Don't tell me your beliefs.

So, when given an opportunity to replace the Creed, I jumped at it.

My problem is, and has always been, that I think I am 'the norm', when in fact I am far off the 'norm'. I am genuinely surprised when someone disagrees with me! Imagine that.

****** didn't want to jettison the Creed and, *****, you seem to have some issues about it.

I just assumed everyone would agree with *****, ****, and *****...and me, of course, that a way around the Creed would be a road well traveled.

I still stand by that. But the conversation would be interesting. So, I'm in, given that I'm not a 'creedal Christian'.

(The 'rubric' in the BCP is clear about the Creed: "On Sundays and all major feasts there follows, all standing....")

But any conversation would be illuminating and perhaps transforming.

Let's have it. Let me know when and where.

Shalom all, jim
(I took out the names because folks should have a shred of hope that personal emails won't get blogged!!!!) 

Monday, June 27, 2016


The Supreme Court's declaration of Texas' 2013 law severely limiting abortion as unconstitutional led to cries from the Lone Star State to secede from the union.

More power to that movement!

Someone in Texas is always whining about being part of the United States. Texans always want their own way, it seems to me, damn the Constitution and full speed ahead!!!

Maybe Trump could just build his wall around the northern boarders of Texas and get Texas to pay for it. They'd probably be happy to keep folks from the other 49 out.

I can only think of three reasons to want Texas to stay: Wendy Davis, Austin and Fort Worth. Beyond that I wouldn't miss it at all.

So, go on Texas, make your move....

Saturday, June 25, 2016


Our parakeet, Maggie died yesterday morning. Bern found her walking on the bottom of the cage and when she looked next, little Maggie was dead.

On the heels of the death of Luke, the cat, a couple of months ago, we're down to sharing our lives with just one creature: Bela, the Puli. I don't believe we've only had one creature since before Josh and Mimi were born. We've never had more than one dog at a time, but there were a lot of years here in Cheshire when we had 4 or more cats, an assortment of rodents and the two birds--Rainy and Maggie. Here's the story of how we got the birds.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


My daughter found a parakeet on the streets of Manhattan one morning a couple of years ago. She was green and drenched by rain. So Mimi caught her and put her in her pocket and since you can buy anything at any time in Manhattan, found a cage and food and took her to her office.

She named her Rainy.

Eventually, as folks sometimes inherit things from their kids before the kids ever inherit things from their parents--good luck to Josh and Mimi finding anything we leave behind...we mean to burn the candle at both ends and leave this world with about as little as we joined it with....--we got Rainy and another bird Mimi bought to keep Rainy company.

Rainy and Maggie now live in our kitchen and sing/chatter/scream most of the time. You get used to it after a while and can still hear NPR above the din. The radio is by their cage and their cage is so high the bottom of it is at eye level because we have Luke the Cat.

I love their noise. How wonderful.

And it has rained for two days.

I wonder if Rainy, hearing the rain through the window, remembers when she was lost and then was found?

It really doesn't matter in the long run, but I wonder.

Then there was Stinky, the rat Mimi brought us from Indiana, for goodness sake, after a summer intern job....Another story all together.....

But bless her for bringing us creatures to love.....


(Rainy died while we were in Baltimore a couple of years ago. Maggie never missed her, in fact, she seemed glad to be alone. We turned the radio to WSHU and Maggie sang with the classical music. She was mostly in tune.

Now, I wonder, will we go back to having WNPR--the Public Radio talk station on in the kitchen as it is in our cars? I hope not--at least until after the November elections. Classical music calms the soul while any and all mentions of Donald Trump rile me up....)

Good bye, sweet Maggie. Bern buried her under the bird bath in our back yard. In death, she'll be surrounded by birds, wild ones that are free....

Friday, June 24, 2016


Though it sounds like a breakfast cereal, Brexit is a big deal.

All the world markets tanked--the Dow Jones was down 600 points! Even those who voted 'leave' were shocked that they won. The  pound sterling hit a 40 year low in exchange for other currency. Scotland voted 'stay' 68 to 32 percent--so the next Scottish 'leave Great Britian' vote might just pass. Europe is tearing her collective hair out and nobody, save Donald Trump, seems to think it's a good idea--short term OR long term. Even Northern Ireland, which voted 55-45 to stay might reconsider Irish unification.

In fact, that Donald Trump thinks it's a good idea makes it obvious that it isn't.

And it was a generation thing. 75% of those under 30 voted stay and 75% of those over 60 voted leave. Which of those groups has to live with the long term fall out of it all.

Trump was asked, less than a week ago, what he though of 'Br-exit' and he wasn't sure what it was until the interviewer said 'Britian leaving the European Union'.

But he thought it was great with almond milk and strawberries in the morning....

Thursday, June 23, 2016

A drunk from Buffalo

Bern and I were sitting outside our hotel in Rome the night before we flew back to the US when a couple from Buffalo came across the street to the hotel and engaged us in conversation.

The man was clearly pretty drunk on Italian wine--and who could blame him? He told me every Italian he'd met asked about how on earth could Donald Trump be a candidate for President of the USA. Clearly, he'd been with people I hadn't been with since no one asked me that. But he'd been in a bar across the street and obviously was conversational.

He told me that when they asked him who he was going to vote for he told them 'he didn't know yet'.

I told him to hold his nose if he had to, but to vote for Hillary.

His wife agreed with  me. Just goes to show that the possible Trump voters are mostly middle-aged white men from places like Buffalo, who are a bit drunk.

One part of me--the part that believes in Americans as sane and decent people--tells me the election is going to be worse than the Goldwater debacle for Republicans.

Another part of me--the part that talks to drunk men from Buffalo in Rome--tells me that might not be true.

God help the first part of me be right.....

Lunch in Etruscian caves

We had lunch one day in Siena in caves carved out by the Etruscians--the folks who pre-dated the Italians.

There was no Etruscian written language so all that is know about them is hear-say and conjecture.

But they made caves under Siena. And we had lunch on the second level of them--there were two more levels below. And incredible meal in an astonishing space.

The three 'girls' sat at a different table across from Josh, Cathy, Dan, Bern and me. And they were remarkably grown up about it. The staff treated them as if they were alone and even offered them the check!

What a place.

So Italy has a 'native people' about which they know about what we know about native Americans.

Someone is always pushing someone out.

The Etruscian culture was deeply woven into the land of Tuscany. And yet they know so little about it.

Again, like us and Native Americans.

But I've never eaten in a restaurant Native Americans dug out under a modern city.

That's different. And haunting.

And, once more, a great Siena meal.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My name is Jim and I have sleep apnea.

The internet has made us all stupid. Nobody knows anything anymore because they assume they can take out their smart phone and google whatever it is.

I have a C-path machine for my apnea. I love it. It makes my life much better than it would otherwise be. I take it wherever I go.

When I'm in Ireland, the Conference Center where we meet has a DC/AC machine. It weighs about 15 pounds and is about the size of a breadbox (for those who can remember what size a breadbox was--or even 'what' a breadbox was). You plug it into Direct Current and plug your machine into the other side and DC miraculously becomes AC and your C-Path works!

Before we left for Italy I tried to buy one of those machines (the DC/AC converter) but really couldn't find one that I thought was similar to the one in Ireland. So I surfed the internet for days, trying to find out what exactly I needed to use my C-path in Italy. There was entirely too much information and not anything specific enough to respond to googling "How to use an American C-Path in Italy".

I called my supplier for the machine and nobody really knew but all told me to google it.

I called the manufacturer of my machine and spoke to an engineer who gave me the details on a plug that he was reasonably sure would work. Beware of engineer's who are 'reasonably sure' and use the internet!

I ordered the plug and didn't believe it would work. So, I took it to my Tuesday group where the two smartest people I know attend. I showed them the plug and the information that came with it and they were 'reasonably sure' it would work.

It worked one night in Italy and then burned my machine to a crisp.

Now, trying to get a new machine has turned into a nightmare since no knows anything anymore and the internet has 1,345,856 hits, none of which say: "Do this to replace your C-Path machine".

My supplier's fax number refused to receive my GP's Rx. So I had him refer me to the sleep center where I went 10 years or more ago, which was Gaylord then and Yale-New Haven Hospital now. So, I have to wait to see them before I get my machine. If, that is, they can locate the Gaylord records!!!

I wake up congested--which I never do with the machine. I seem about to doze off from time to time (which I never do with the machine). And I'm snoring, Bern tells me (which I never do with the machine.)

I just want a new machine. That's all.

But, beyond that I want people to 'know' stuff again and the internet to die a painful, horrible, exhausting death.

Just that. That's all.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Siena food

In a city the size of Siena, Italy (80,000 or so souls) there is surely some 'not so good food'. But in the week we were there I didn't find any.

I actually ate pasta with wild boar. I would have told you a week ago I would never, ever, not in a million years, eat wild boar. But I did. And it was magnificent (though I hate to admit it)!

I ate lots of pasta and lots of cured meat and lots of cheese in Siena. And all of it was wondrous. The last night, in Rome, I had swordfish in a remarkable onion sauce as well.

Once for lunch at the Palio in Siena, I had procuttia (sp--my spell check is being difficult), the best half a cantalope I've ever had and a motzarella ball the size of a baseball. Incredible.

There was this one rustic, local place a short walk from the villa where we ate two dinners, where only the chef really spoke English. She came out each time to translate our orders to the waiter. After the second night (she was delighted--folks in Italy really want to use their English skills) I went back to the kitchen and thanked her for her translation and more, much more, for her food.

Even the few meals we cooked in the villa were seemingly better than they would have been at home. Eggs and butter are much better Italian style. I did a dinner of Pica (the ultra fat spaghetti of Siena) with oil, creamy butter, red onion, arrugla and lots of cheese that I couldn't reproduce here on a bet.

Siena is simply a place for food.

And we ate it and ate it and ate it. World without End. Amen.

Thank you Italy for the food. And did I mention the wine????

Solstice (a day early)

It's 8:39 p.m. and I just came in from the deck where I was reading a book. I could probably have stayed a few more minutes before it was too dark to read.

I love the Solstice. I don't paint myself blue and dance around like my ancient ancestors did in the British Isles, but I do love the longest day of the year. I was looking forward to the 'Strawberry Moon'--what a full moon on June 21 is called. There are decades between on Strawberry Moon and the next, but it's cloudy in Connecticut so I'll have to live another 20 years or so to see the next one. Though by then I probably won't know what the moon is!

I wish all days were this long and this mild. I am a fan of the light, though I usually sleep well into it most mornings.

From today on, the light begins to fade seconds a day until the dark of New England winter returns.

Ah, well, seasons are what they are.

(This year on the Solstice there were three muskrats in our yard eating clover. I'm not sure where they live. There used to be a couple of acres of woods behind our back yard but a McMansion ate up a lot of it. It was good to see them in any event. Later this summer when the mulberries on the bush behind our yard fall off and ferment, we'll be treated to drunk muskrats for a week or so. Something not to be missed. Muskrats are not the most agile of creatures to begin with, but in their cups they are amazingly clumsy. Seeing them took away some of the sting of missing a strawberry moon.)

Happy Solstice! Lean into the Light!

What's up with this?

My blog tells me over 80 people have viewed this post in the last day or so. What's up with that?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Toradh caithimh tobac--ba`s

That's what it says on the Malboro Gold Originals I've been smoking for two weeks. I bought a carton at the Duty Free Shop at the Dublin Airport. If I'm doing the Euro-Dollar exchange anywhere near right, the ten packs of cigarettes cost about $4 a pack, less than half what they cost in Cheshire.

That I still have a pack plus some others after two weeks tells me I don't smoke nearly as much as I feared. Most smokers, when they count, are horrified that they smoke more than they thought. So, give me a break on that, OK?

Yes, I KNOW I shouldn't smoke. And I do. OK? Leave me alone. I'm a priest, I stand with the oppressed and the most oppressed people in the Western world are smokers. I'm just standing with my people....

But since absolutely everything in Ireland has both Irish and English on signs, notices, directions, etc., 'whatever', each pack of cigarettes has the warning "Toradh caithimh tobac--ba`s" on it. The English translation is below: "Smoking kills". You have to admire a language that requires 22 letters to say what 12 say in English. And such wondrous words! When I try to pronounce them (which I can't for the life of me) they sound like Klingon. But if an Irish speaker said them they would sound like a bird song, really. I've listened to Irish a lot and it is a language to be sung, not spoken. English is so mundane in comparison.

No wonder the Irish love song and poetry and story so much--it sounds like birds.

I'm listening as I write this to Maggie, our parakeet sing along with the classical music station we always have on beside her cage.

With a little practice, I believe, Maggie could speak Irish. All birds, it seems to me, are Gaelic in their bird souls.....

Sunday, June 19, 2016


It is late and I don't have much to say that makes much sense about Orlando.

We were in Italy and got the news in drips and drabs from devices the Josh and Cathy and Dan and Bern had.

Would it be awful to admit I'm glad we weren't here to be washed over by it 24 hours a day? It was awful to hear about, but it came--as I said--in drips and drabs rather than in MSNBC pillar to post coverage.

I preached about Orlando today. How many times have I had to preach about a mass shooting? More than a dozen times, for sure. And this one so horrible in so many ways: LGBTQ folks and most of this Hispanic.

What makes life so frightening and difficult is the false notion of The Other.

LGBTQ folks are "the other" to many. Trump wants to 'build a wall' to keep 'the other'--Hispanics out. Muslims are 'the other'. Blacks and Asians are 'the other'. Everyone has an 'other' they fear and fret about. And it's not just white folks. Everyone has the other. And 'the other' is a lie.

There is no 'other'.

Here's a story I told in my sermon about Orlando: A wise and godly rabbi is sitting with his disciples by a river as dawn is breaking.

The rabbi asks, "How much light is enough light to see?"

One of his disciples answers: "There is enough light to see when you can tell the goats from the sheep across the river."

The rabbi thinks and then says, "No, that is not enough light to see."

Another student says, "There is enough light to see when we can tell the myrtle trees from the olive trees across the river."

After a long silence, the rabbi says, "No, that is not enough light to see."

His disciples grow silent and wait as dawn comes. Finally the rabbi says, "There is enough light to see when you can look into the face of any human being and see the face of God."

We sit in darkness when we fear the Other.

We need enough light to see....


The trip over

On Friday, June 10, we dropped Bela off at the puppy motel (a really wonderful place called Holiday Pet Lodge in Wallingford--the only place that would put up with him!) and drove to Newark Airport.

As drives to Newark Airport go, it wasn't awful. We were there with four hours to spare but Dan and Josh and Cathy and the girls were already through security when we arrived! For reasons I don't understand, we got to go through 'fast security', which actually was. Sitting around an airport and then flying overnight was no fun--but we got through it.

Groggy and disoriented in the Italian sun (though it never was 'hot' while we were there) Enrico picked us up in a Mercedes 9 seat car to drive us to Siena. On the way through Tuscany we climbed an endless hill up to a remarkable little village called Pienza where we bought some wine and sausage and enough cheese for the whole trip before winding our way to the 'villa'.

Dan made all the arrangements for the trip, including Enrico, and I had no idea what a 'villa' might look like. Turns out it was a modern, 5 bedroom unit next to the unit where the owners lived. Spacious and air-conditioned, with a pool for us and us alone and a 15' by 10' room with no roof, so you could be 'outside'/inside. Remarkably comfortable and well appointed. A great place to live for 6 days.

Siena is the most beautiful place I've ever been. Built on hills, as most cities in that part of Italy are (probably for defensive purposes back in the 11th and 12th centuries) it is almost totally the color of sand with red roofs. (Here we tend to build in valleys beside rivers--but not in Tuscany! Getting all that stone up on top of hills to build villages boggles the mind.)

We found a grocery store in walking distance--not a Stop and Shop or Kroger's for sure--but really well provided with cheese and meat and fish and pasta and wonderful vegetables and fruit and, to my astonishment, when I converted the Euros into dollars in my head, considerably cheaper than US stores.

Bern and I went to the store and we had an extended anti-pasta with salad and good, good bread (I don't think the concept of  'ok bread' or 'ordinary bread' exists in Italy) and butter so creamy I was tempted to eat it with a spoon. Morgan, Emma and Tegan went to the pool while we assembled dinner--they are all water sprites.

Then blessed sleep.

More later about the adventure in Italy.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

No way to run an airport

We're back from Italy after a week's trip with Josh and Cathy and our three granddaughters and Bern's brother Dan. We spent all but the last day in Sienna, which is beyond a doubt the most beautiful and one of the most livable places I've ever been (besides Cheshire, of course). I made notes and will be blogging for a week or so about the trip.  The last day and night we spent in Rome since we had a 9:50 a.m. flight to Newark and Sienna is over two hours from Rome and making the flight would not have worked. More about Rome later.

First, Rome's airport.

Rome is a city of over 2 million people--not New York or Chicago or LA--but a major European capital. And they have no idea how to run an airport. The airport is pristine and new and yet it is a nightmare.

You arrive at a building after a half-hour or more cab ride from the city (50 Euros--about $60). In that building, you stand in line to have someone look at your passport and give you a huge plastic bag for all the carry on tooth paste, shampoo, etc. etc. you have, even though you already have it in plastic bags.

Then you march through to a door to buses that take you to the actual terminal. Buses that are packed full of standing up people with luggage and take 10 minutes or so for the trip to the terminal. In the terminal, you pass through security and then wander around for quite a while trying to find your gate. Your gate will be in the midst of several places to eat something and dozens of high end stores. Since you're there two hours before takeoff you shop and spend money and eat in places that have no logic understood in North America.

Bern and I had a pastry, coffee and orange juice. But here was the trick. You had to order and pay at a place far to the side of the place where the food was and then present your receipt to the servers. Well, 3/4 of the people were not Italian and stood in line to order food before being told by the servers to cross the room and pay first. How do you order food at a place where you can't see the menu?

Then you check in for the flight--boarding as usual in the US in groups (1-5). The catch was, you checked in and rode escalators down two stories to be herded into buses again to ride 5 miles or so to the plane and go up outside steps to board. A Boeing 777 needed half a dozen buses to get everyone to the plane.

So, you stand in line to get a plastic bag you don't need. Ride a bus. Buy expensive stuff and eat in illogical ways. Then stand in line to board and ride another bus and stand in line to climb outdoor steps to the plane.

Not a way to run an airport, far as I can see. The terminal actually had walkways to board planes but the planes were all five miles out on the runway. Go figure.

Much more to come about Italy. Most of it much better than the seemingly random and illogical way Rome airport works.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Real Sermon for David

(I don't think the Gurniak family would mind me sharing the sermon I gave for his funeral last Saturday with you. He was a wondrous man. My sermon doesn't nearly do him justice.)

You may be seated.
David Gurniak was very inquisitive. He  once asked me, when he and Jan were members of St. John’s in Waterbury and I was the Rector there: “Jim, why do you say, “please be seated?” to begin your sermons. Why don’t you say something like, ‘In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spririt?”
I thought about that for a moment and replied: “I don’t know.”
He nodded and that was the end of that.
David was the kind of guy who took what you said at face value. I admired that in him.

O thou who camest from above/the pure celestial fire to impart
Kindle a flame of sacred love/upon the mean altar of my heart.

That’s the first verse of a hymn by Charles Wesley that David asked to be worked into the sermon at this service. And since I know better than to deny a last request of David Gurniak, I will try, as best I can, to do that.
David also wanted the preacher to talk about this lovely hymn in the context of the call to priesthood.
Again, haltingly and as best I can, I will try to talk about priesthood today.

Kindle a flame of sacred love/upon the mean altar of my heart.

David was a ‘big man’. I don’t have to tell you that. And I don’t mean simply in the physical sense of ‘bigness’, though that was true as true can be.
But David was ‘big’ in all ways: big in his opinions, big in his faith, big in his love, big in his heart. I never really knew David before he lost his leg.  But he always stood tall for me. Tall and ‘big’.
David’s heart, beloved, was not a ‘mean altar’.
His heart was massive, expansive, huge.

There let it for thy glory burn/with inextinguishable blaze,
And trembling to its source return,/in humble prayer and fervent praise.

David requested the Old Testament reading for this memorial to be the story of the Dry Bones.
I must say, I’ve never preached at a funeral where that was a reading!
I think there may be a story there, but I don’t know it.
But I do know this: what a priest is called to do is call forth life, call forth God, call forth resurrection.
I was once at a cocktail party in New Haven and found myself talking to a physicist from India. He asked me, “what do you do?” which is what people in New England ask strangers. Where I come from, in the mountains of West Virginia, you ask a stranger, “where are you from?” (More about that later….)
I told the scientist I was an Episcopal priest and he asked again, “what do you do?” And I told him, honestly, I was a member of a community who watched the life of the community and from time to time stopped everything and said: “That was God! What happened just then was God!”
The Indian scientist nodded, “you are a ‘process observer’ then,” he told me.
Part of ‘being a priest’ is being a ‘process observer’, watching, listening, waiting until God breaks into the ordinary—which is the only place to find God…in ‘the ordinary’—and then declaring God’s presence to the community.
Dry bones can live again. God does it. A priest declares it. That was a part of David’s life and ministry.

Jesus, confirm my heart’s desire/to work and speak and think for thee;
Still let me guard the holy fire,/and still stir up thy gift in me.
I only knew David for a few years. Many fewer than most of you. But in those years, I honored him as a priest, a mentor and a friend.
If I needed an ‘opinion’ about something going on in the parish, I would go to David.
David—and I know all of you know this—was always willing to give an ‘opinion’!
Here’s what I think a priest does. It’s probably simpler than you thought. I think a priest ‘tends the fire, tells the story and passes the wine.” That’s the job description as far as I can tell.
Guarding ‘the holy fire” and working, speaking and thinking for Jesus. That was David’s ‘calling’ as a priest.
And to work/speak/think for Jesus, David had to proclaim, as Paul did in today’s lesson: “Nothing…nothing…nothing whatsoever, can separate us from the love of God.
David’s life—and love: his love for those he served, for those he worked with and most, most of all, his love for Jan and their family—that was his ministry. His calling. His life.
Ready for all thy perfect will/my act of faith and love repeat,
Till death thy endless mercies seal/ and make my sacrifice complete.
In the gospel today, Jesus told his friends, “I go to prepare a place for you…and you know the way to the place I am going.”
Then Thomas, who gets all the good lines in John’s gospel, says, annoyed I think, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”
One other conversation I had with David comes to mind.
He asked me, after a funeral of someone we both loved, “what do you think happens after we die?”
I didn’t have to think this time, I merely answered: “I have no idea. That’s one of the things I leave up to God.”
David smiled that smile he had and chuckled. I don’t know if I passed the test or not.
But this I do know. St. Francis of Assisi once wrote: “Death is not a door that closes, but a door that opens and we walk in all new.”
Whatever happens when we die, I leave up to God.
And yet, deep in my heart, I long for the reality that David, my friend, my mentor, my priest, walked through an open door into the presence of the One who loves him best of all and was made ALL NEW.
All new. All new. God was where he ‘came from’ (I promised we’d get back there) and where he returned to.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow him and he will dwell in the House of the Lord forever. And his sacrifice is made complete.
We love you, David. God loves you more. You are made complete. All New. All New. All New. Go home. Back to where you ‘came from’.     Amen.

in Grand Central Station

I went to NYC on Monday for a meeting with a group of people who are all committed to the Making a Difference Workshop that I help lead. I've known them all for years--some for decades!--and love them dearly. Since the meeting wasn't until 3:30 at 81st and Broadway, I got to New York before noon and had lunch with very pregnant Mimi and soon to be daddy, Tim. It was great to see them. Mimi is doing so well and Ellie will be with us in 6 or 7 weeks now. "Love" doesn't even do justice to what I feel for Mimi and Tim.

It's real clear to me that New York--at least Manhattan--has moved beyond 'exciting' for me to something like 'scary' or 'crazy'. Too many people. Too much noise. Way too much stimulation. "I grow old, I grow old, should I wear my trousers rolled or eat a peach."

But in Grand Central, as I was going up an escalator, something happened I'd been waiting my whole life to happen: in that busy, crowded place: someone yelled, "Hey, Jim Bradley!"

Down at the bottom of the escalator was Brendon McCormick, a dear friend I haven't seen for too long. We're both 'kinda retired' Episcopal priests. He was in Wallingford about as long as I was in Waterbury. We were even in a group with a psychologist for several years that the diocese helped fund to keep us all reasonably sane--or, at least, controlably (sic, my spell check isn't working) crazy.

He is a bear of a man--6'5" or so and big. But not so big these days. I had heard he has had some health issues, mostly joints and stuff, and I hadn't gotten around to checking up on him (my bad!).

He has a cane and moves slowly, but his wondrous smile and deep-deep good humor is intact.

He was in the city to visit his grandson. I had little time and he didn't either, but the sheer joy of seeing him was only exceeded by the wonder of having my named called out in Grand Central Station. I love stuff like that.

Tomorrow (or Saturday morning in Rome) I hope someone in the airport recognizes me!!!

See you in a week back here on this spot.

Read old stuff in the meantime--1600 posts should keep you busy. Go back to 2013 or 2014 and see what I was pondering then.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

OK, finally, I'm with her...

I voted for Hillary Clinton in the CT primary, which she won. But it was pragmatic rather than enthusiastic.

I agree with Bernie Sanders about almost everything he says, but it is unrealistic to me to imagine it happening.

But tonight, after hearing Trump's first speech from a tela-prompter (which was a speech delivered by a man who didn't want to do it) and hearing Hillary declare herself the first woman in history to be a nominee of a major party for President--I'm with her.

I'll get a bumper sticker and a tee shirt and give some money.

She was so gracious to Bernie and his supporters. She was so clear about how unfit Trump is to lead my nation. She was so inclusive and inviting to all folks. She was so appreciative of this historic moment.

I have dear friends who have what I call 'Hillary doubts'. I hope they heard or will hear that speech.

I feel as optimistic as I have in a year about the future.

And Obama is revving up to campaign for her. If only Bernie does as well.

This could be, not just historic, but a salvation for the future my 3 (soon to be 4) granddaughters will experience and live into.

After that speech and the one she gave last week, I'm on board.

I'm with her.....

Counting down to Italy

We're leaving Friday, along with my brother-in-law, Josh, Cathy and our three granddaughters for Italy.

I won't be writing here for over a week since (of course!) my only access to the internet and to this blog is from my desk top in my little office upstairs off the back stairs of our house.

I hope you won't give up on reading. I think there are over 1600 posts now from under the castor oil tree. Look back on them a few years.

I'll have lots to say when we're back and a handful of posts before we go. Just wanted to let you know I'll go dark on the 10th and be back on the 18th.

I'll miss writing here--but not enough to go internet mobile!!!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Because Ray asked me to....

(After church at Emmanuel, Ray asked me if I were going to email the sermon I gave. Truth was, I didn't have a bit of it written down. It wasn't 'off the top of my head'---I usually read the lessons early in the week and let them roll around in my head and heart. I have a beginning and an end--it's just most of the stuff in between is relatively spontaneous, within the bounds of what I've been digesting during the week. But because he asked, I'm going to see what I can reproduce here from this A.M.)

I teach every other semester or so at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (know as OLLI!) at the Waterbury branch of UConn. You have to be 50 to take OLLI courses: see, getting older has some advantages!

One of the classes I teach is called "Reading the Gospels Side By Side". If I asked all of you to write down the 'gospel story', I'm sure you  could. But what you wrote would be a conflation of all four gospels and the point is, they are very different. I sometimes say, "isn't it nice to have four friends named Jesus instead of just one?"

Luke's Jesus is 'compassion' all the way down! In contrast, John's Jesus heals and does miracles to 'make a point'. John's Jesus' 'signs' are all to demonstrate 'who He is'. John's Jesus is all about demonstrating his identity.

But Luke's Jesus simply responds to the needs about him. He is 'compassion in action'.

In today's gospel, after he's healed the Centurion's slave, he enters the town of Nain and encounters a funeral procession. A widow's only son has died and Jesus is so moved my the woman's plight that he raises her son from the dead.

We need to remember something about the culture of first century Judaism--women are not 'persons', they're 'possessions'. Women belong to their father and then their husband. A woman without a man to belong to is essentially a 'non-person'. So, this widow, like the widow in the lesson from 1st Kings today, 'belongs' to her son. It is her son who will care for her and keep her from dire poverty. We don't like to recognize such stark and awful injustice, but it was true.

So, Jesus' compassion was for the widow and he felt it so deeply he resurrects her son.

Luke's Jesus is all compassion all the time...

So, having done that, let me get to what I really want to talk about: today's collect.

I usually don't talk about collects. Collects are written by a committee and most of them sound like it!

But the collect for today is so simple and sweet, it's worth a second look. Listen:

O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them....

Think about that. God is where 'goodness' comes from and the prayer asks God to 'inspire' us, send the Spirit into us, that we 'may think those things that are right' and then, with God's guidance, 'may do' right things.

That's pretty simple and basic, isn't it?  I think, more often than not, we make this whole religion thing too complicated. We make it too much about what we 'believe' and not enough about what we 'do'.

If we 'think those things that are right' and 'do them', what else matters. If we can be always compassionate, always caring, always loving, always just--what else could possibly be required by God? What else? That seems enough to me.

Some of you know I have a real problem with the Nicene Creed (or any 'creed' for that matter) because it's about 'belief' rather than action. Give me 'right action' any day over 'right belief'.

I once led a class on the Nicene Creed at Christ Church, Capitol Hill when I was in seminary. I opened the class by saying something like, "I'll just start reading the Creed and just raise your hand if you have an issue." Then I said, "I believe in God..." and five hands went up! I knew then that was a tough group....

Here's an example of my problem with 'belief'. It's the 'filioque clause'. When I was at Virginia Seminary, there was really no prayer book. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer was in revision and there were a whole series of drafts for the new book: the Green book, the Zebra book, the Blue book, on and on.

At some point during those revisions, the 'filioque clause' was removed from the Nicene Creed. Here it is: "We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father (and the son)...."

"And the Son" is the filioque clause. It was removed because the Orthodox Churches don't say it. The Orthodox Creed says..."the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father. With the Father and Son he is worshiped and glorified."

So, in chapel, when the Creed without the 'filioque clause' was said, lots of people would yell, loudly, AND THE SON, though it wasn't there in print. I was in a class where we discussed this change and I said, "the 'filioque clause' is one of the great non-issues of this or any other age."

Betty, who was sitting beside me, burst into tears at my heartlessness about those three words. I just didn't get it. There was so much theological outrage that the final draft put the clause back in the Prayer Book. I still don't get it.

That's the thing about making this whole 'religion' thing about 'belief'. People just believe differently. I don't much care what they believe, if the truth be known, but I'm real interested in how they live out their lives, in their actions.

What if the whole thing is simply as simple as today's collect? What if all that matters is that we acknowledge God as the source of 'goodness', ask God to inspire us to 'think those things that are right and ask God's guidance to 'do' what is right? What if it's that simple?

Be compassionate. Be fair. Be just. Be loving. Think right things and do those right things.

I don't know, but that might be more productive and ultimately more holy and more healing than anything we might or might not 'believe'.

Think right things and do them. What if that's all that's required?


Friday, June 3, 2016

In just a week....

A week from right now (8:06 pm) we will be three hours into a flight to Rome on the way to Sienna. Bern, her brother Dan, Josh and Cathy and the girls and me--35,000 feet up over the Atlantic.

Dan has been planning this trip for a couple of years and it's going to happen. I never thought it would, but it's going to. Amazing! Italy wasn't on my 'bucket list'--in fact, I don't have a 'bucket list' unless it's living long enough to see the end of Game of Thrones and read some books I know will be written by people I love to read. And seeing my grand-daughters (including Ellie, who isn't born yet) reach some milestones in their lives.

I'm not much of a traveler. I'm a home-body personified. And when I do travel I want to go to places where I can sit down and read in a lovely surrounding. Pretty dull, huh? That's me to a tee.

My dog is snoring behind me--one of the reasons I don't like to travel. He is getting onto 12 and slowing down a bit except when the mail carrier comes and Bela is as fierce as he's ever been. We'll have to leave him twice in a few months--for Italy and for Oak Island in late September when Mimi and Tim and Ellie will come. They're not going to Italy since Ellie is due to be born in 5 or 6 weeks and Mimi being on an airplane wouldn't be the best thing to do.

But it's all come clear now--Italy is going to happen!

I ordered Euros from the bank today. I bought a passport wallet to wear around my neck--lots of pickpockets, I'm told, in Rome.

One good thing will be getting away from Donald Trump for 9 days or so.

He's wearing me out.

Maybe by the time we're back Hillary will be ahead in the polls by 70%/30% and both the House and Senate will be ready to be taken back by the Democrats.

That would be worth flying 1/5 the way around the world for.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Something from the past

When I was looking for something else, I came upon this post about the church being irrelevant.

I believe it now more than ever. Thought I'd share it again.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

irrelevancy isn't so bad....

My last post may have seemed like a bummer of sorts--the church is irrelevant: woe are we!

But it isn't' that bad. In fact, I think being irrelevant to the culture gives the church a wondrous opportunity to play a different role than the church has--in the last 1600 years--normally has played.

For well over a millennium, 'Christendom' meant something. It meant that the Christian Church was 'relevant' to the society and culture of what we somewhat inaccurately call 'the Western World'. All geography depends on where you are standing at the moment. I guarantee you that most people who live in Iraq and Israel places like that, don't think of themselves of living in 'the Middle East'. People who talk about 'the Middle East' are standing somewhere else and looking over there and naming it.

Leaving that strangeness behind, let me share with you a fact: "Christendom" is gone. The church is not 'relevant' to the culture and hasn't been for a good while now.

But that is not bad. I personally think it was a problem for the church to be propping up and legitimizing Western Culture. There was a complicity that I think was unhealthy for the church. So, being 'irrelevant' in what was essentially an compromising and unhealthy connection with the culture is not a bad thing.

Christianity, in and of itself, is not totally irrelevant in all places. But where it is--oh, take Nigeria where Anglican bishops have done nothing to oppose the criminalization of homosexuality with severe penalties even for those who 'associate' with gay folk--it is not a good idea to my mind. And the 'religious right' plays much the same role in the US. Pat Robertson has publicly stated that the earthquake in Haiti was God's judgment on the 'pact with the devil' that Haiti made 200 years ago by allowing voodoo and Jerry Falwell blamed 9/11 on homosexuals and other sinners. God knows who believes nonsense like that but I'm betting quite a few folks do.

But, for the most part, the so-called 'main-line churches' (and probably the Roman Catholic Church as well) are irrelevant to our American Culture. (How many RC families do you know who have never had a divorce or who all have 6 or 7 kids?--that's the base line of irrelevancy....)
None of which is a bad thing. I'm personally pleased that RC couples who are battering each other one way or another no longer feel constrained to stay together because of the the church and that birth control isn't something couples discuss with their priests. (You see, some of the trappings of 'being Relevant' aren't bad things to lose....And that fish on Friday thing was simply a centuries earlier attempt to support Italian fishermen...)

So, being irrelevant as we are...there are remarkable possibilities for the church. Like this--we can be the fool, the jester, the gadfly, the prophet, the shaman, the joker, the wondrous and so needed foil to the nonsense of the culture.

Just one example of how this irrelevant church keeps thinking it is relevant and matters to the culture--the culture, the state of Connecticut, has outrun the Episcopal church by legalizing same-sex marriages. We should have beat them to it as the joker and Trickster of the culture, yet, even though they got there first, our Bishop has yet to even 'catch up'. I still can't sign a marriage license for a gay couple. We should have been out in front, flaunting the culture that takes us as irrelevant and pointing the way for the larger society.

Come on, being on the edges, being loosed to dance and be fools for Christ and to flaunt the eccentricities of a society and culture we are no longer responsible to shore up with our support, that's a remarkable calling for the Church 'to be....'

I love and adore the opportunity to hang out on the limits of the society and the edges of the culture and proclaim, not support of the status quo but an outrageous and Godly alternative to the culture and the society and 'the way things have always been done..."

I'm sure I'll ponder this more in the days and weeks ahead, but know this: retiring from full-time parish ministry will give me the opportunity to be even more irrelevant and irreverent than I already am....Praise be to God....

Fear not 'irrelevancy' doesn't mean the church doesn't means we "matter" in a way that frees us to be 'of God' rather than a part of the Culture....

No comments:

Blog Archive

About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.