Saturday, June 30, 2018

Killing flies

I believe absolutely in the sanctity of all life. Believe absolutely.

From time to time, I struggle with the fact that I eat meat and fish. I remind myself that I could survive on shell-fish and scallops and other things that don't have faces...but I'm weak and love a good steak or cod loin.

But I can guarantee you if I had to kill the creature to eat it, I never would. I didn't eat chicken until I was an adult because I watched my grandmother twist their heads off and let them run around sprouting blood.

However, I contradict myself now--I am obsessed with killing flies.

I once said to Ross Collins Owens III, when he accused me in Divinity Hall at Harvard of 'contradicting myself'--"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes."

Col was amazed. "That's great," he said.

"It's Walt Whitman," I replied.

"Who?" Col asked. He had a BA from Harvard. I had a BA from West Virginia University. Suddenly I no longer felt diminished in his presence....

I can't stand flies.

Bern can't either.

We have half-a-dozen fly swatters all over the house. Sometimes we spend half-an-hour prowling around downstairs with fly swatters with the commitment to slaughter as many flies as we can.

I would never hurt a spider unless I knew it was poisonous and was on one of my granddaughters.

I even put stink bugs outside when I find one inside.

But flies are different.

Even as I type this I hear Bern downstairs with a fly swatter. I pray for her accuracy.

My second cousin, Kim, was walking with me one day. She was 4 or so and I was a teen at least.

Suddenly she pulled her hand away and ran over to some ants on the sidewalk and started stomping on them.

When she finished, she came back, took my hand and said, "they were going to hurt Kimmy".

That's the way I feel about flies.

That, if nothing else, keeps me from being a Buddhist.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Just when I thought...

Just when I thought, "things can't get much worse", Justice Kennedy retired.

This gives our President a chance to change a Supreme Court that was unpredictable into one that is predictably conservative.

Kennedy wasn't a liberal, by any means. He was pretty conservative about most things but was often the 'swing vote' on human rights issues.

He sided with the four liberal justices on abortion issues, voting rights issues, racial issues, GLBTQ issues--things that make the President's BASE crazy.

So, he will try to force through someone to please 33% of the populace 'all the time'. Kennedy often pleased conservatives but on some things that matter profoundly to me, he pleased me.

I do not believe for a moment that the President is hard-right on the issues I mentioned above. In fact, I  don't think he fits on the political spectrum at all--depends on what day it is.

But those hard-core voters that support him no matter what he does, they want abortion and gay marriage and immigration handled with an iron fist.

With this Supreme Court seat, the president can give them what they want.

And since the Senate blocked Obama from nominating a replacement for Justice Scalia, this opening, along with the first Supreme Court nomination will make "5-4" to the right a permanent thing.

Hopefully the 49 Democrats and Independents can hold the appointment off until November and win enough Senate seats to block anyone who isn't at least open-minded like Kennedy.

(It's a terrible place to be: "Well, things can't get much worse"--until they do....)

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


(While I was looking for the last sermon I posted, I encountered this one. I didn't remember it and it moved me to post it as well.

October 21, 2007

          Her name was Eliza. She was a tall and willowy and beautiful African American woman in her early thirties when I met her. She had three children then—a boy 12, a girl 10 and another girl 8. I never met their father, but I didn’t have to—they all looked just like Eliza, from their coffee with cream colored skin, their deep set brown eyes, their tall and angular bodies and their perpetual smiles.
          When I met Eliza she walked with an obviously painful limp and her fingers had lost much of their flexibility. By the time I left her—five short years later—she was confined to her bed and her body had started to curl back into itself. She had developed Progressive Relapsing Multiple Sclerosis—the most rare form of that debilitating disease, and the most difficult to treat.
          The first year or so of my time as Vicar of St. James in Charleston, West Virginia, Eliza was able to drive and she and the children were in church every Sunday that she didn’t have extreme weakness or pain that made it impossible for her to drive. Gradually, she moved from a limp to a walker to a wheel chair and finally, took to her bed. Her hospital bed was in the kitchen of their small house so she could direct food preparation by her children.
          Only once did I ask about her husband and what she told me was this, “he left after Tina was born and my MS was finally diagnosed. Tina was four or five by then, but Charles could see what the future held. He read up on my disease and then told me he had to leave. He just wasn’t ready to grow up the way his children have.”
          Then she smiled from her bed and said, “who could blame him? I’m not bitter….”
          And she wasn’t, not at all, not a bit, not even a tiny bit. Eliza wasn’t bitter.
          And her children had ‘grown up’ faster than any child should have to mature. They weren’t bitter either, though they could see what the future held for them. Charles, Jr. and Maggie, the older two, were committed to do whatever was necessary to care for their mother and stick around until Tina was old enough to care for herself.
          It sounds like a tragic, awful story, doesn’t it? A beautiful, young woman cut down in her prime; a marriage broken by pain and suffering; children having to grow up too soon?
          And it wasn’t that at all, not at all.
          In fact, when I was down and out, when I was depressed, when I was feeling sorry for myself—that’s when I’d visit Eliza and her children.
          And they would cheer me up.

          “How do you feel Eliza?” I’d ask.
          She would smile that 200-watt smile of hers and say, “Oh, places hurt I didn’t know I had places…and everything is alright…. If I could just get these babies to behave….”
          Then Charles, Jr. or Maggie or Tina would shake their heads and roll their eyes—which ever of them heard her say it—and reply, unleashing a smile as bright as Eliza’s, “oh, Mama, you’re the one who won’t behave….”

          Oh, don’t let me paint too pretty a picture about that little family. Life was hard for the children and for Eliza. Money was tight and the duties those kids had to serve their mother were demanding, odious, often heart-breaking. But when I was with them—no matter how self-centered and distracted I was—they actually cheered me up and sent me away a better person than the one who had knocked on their door.
          “I’m just like Jacob,” Eliza once told me, “but my Angel wasn’t satisfied with leaving me with just a limp….”

          Eliza read the Bible a lot and what she was referring to that day was the lesson we heard from Genesis this morning.
          Jacob is running away from his brother Esau, who Jacob had betrayed, when he encounters an Angel in the night and wrestles with that Angel until day-break. Jacob demands a blessing from the Angel—which he gets in the end, along with a new name—but the Angel also damaged Jacob’s hip so that he always, there after, walked with a limp.
          Encountering God in the dark spots of our lives, in the midnights of our existence, CAN result in being blessed and given a new name…but encountering God can also give us a limp.

          Someone—everyone argues about who really said it—someone once said, “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.”
          Our wounds, our pains, our sufferings do not ‘automatically’ make us stronger, but, in God’s grace, they CAN.

          That is the gift to us from Jacob and from Eliza—by ‘our wounds’ we can be healed. Our limps can make us walk with more determination, by God’s grace. Our brokenness can, through the love of God, make us “whole”.

          Life is most often not consistently “kind”. Bad hips and limps and brokenness are more often the norm of living. And there is this: IF CHRIST’S WOUNDS HEAL US, SO CAN OUR OWN.
          The choice God leaves us is between “bitterness” and “wholeness”.
          Jacob and Eliza chose “wholeness” as they limped through life.
          With God’s help, that is the choice we can make.

          So, I invite you—I sincerely, profoundly invite you—to bring your wounds, your brokenness, your limps to this Table today. Whether those pains are physical or emotional or spiritual—bring them to this Table today.
          There is a balm in Gilead…there truly is—that much, because I knew Eliza, I can promise you. Bring your pain and what may make you ‘bitter’ to the Table today.
          And chose “wholeness” to go with your limp.

An intolerable vunerability

(I don't think I ever posted this sermon before. I've been thinking about it and found it in my documents and share it with you to ponder.)

FEBRUARY 9, 2003

          Today’s Gospel finds Jesus in Capernaum—going to the synagogue for prayers, visiting the home of Simon and Andrew, healing Simon’s mother-in-law and the townsfolk.
Capernaum was a village on the Sea of Galilee—a village of those who fished for a living. First century Capernaum has been largely excavated by archeologists. When I was in Capernaum several years ago, I sat amid the ruins of the synagogue St. Mark talks about and visited the site of what may have been Peter’s house. The synagogue was smaller than the chancel area of this church—nearly as long but only half as wide. And the foundation of what could have been Peter’s house was even smaller. The houses were built almost wall to wall and the streets of Capernaum were only about four feet wide. What struck me about the town was how small and close it must have felt—how tight and confining.
          The house was only one room. Peter’s mother-in-law must have been on a mattress of straw in one corner of the room. It would have only taken Jesus a step or two to cross to her and lift her up, healed of her fever. Jesus and the four disciples with him would have taken up much of the house while Peter’s mother-in-law prepared a meal for them. Living in that house would have been much like sleeping and eating and washing and talking in a space about the size of a modern-day kitchen—that tight, that crowded, that close.
          When we’re told that the whole city “was gathered around the door”, we need to picture people crowded into a space about the width of a narrow hallway, stretching away in both directions. If Jesus sat in the doorway of Peter’s house only a couple of people at a time could have stood in front of him. A crowded, tight space—but not too crowded for the broken to find wholeness, for the suffering to find relief, for those in pain to find relief. So Jesus touched and healed until darkness fell and all who sought him had found him.
          Its little wonder then that Jesus rose before dawn to go outside to a deserted place to get away from the confinement and narrowness of the day. He needed some space, some escape from how crowded and pressed upon he must have felt in Capernaum.
          I was having a conversation with a friend and parishioner this week and the conversation turned, as most conversations these days do, to what may or may not happen in Iraq.  I was saying that I was surprised and confused by how the coming war seemed so inevitable and that most people seemed almost to take it for granted.
          My friend told she’d heard someone say that since September 11, 2001, Americans had been living with “an intolerable vulnerability.” The American people, after that terrorist attack, had—for the first time in recent history—felt so “vulnerable”, so unsafe, so exposed, so frightened that it has seemed unbearable—“intolerable” to us. An intolerable vulnerability….
          Since September 11, the US government has been granted wide latitude by the public for anything that claims it will reduce this “intolerable vulnerability” and make us feel somehow safer. With almost no opposition either within or outside the government, there has been serious, perhaps irreparable, erosion of civil liberties and constitutional guarantees.  All the government has needed to convince us to give away precious rights is to appeal to our fears, our vulnerability. We are promised that arrests without sufficient evidence, illegal searches and imprisonment without the due process are justified because we will be safe from terrorists. We are being “closed in” by our fears and vulnerability.
          Jesus escaped to the open places outside Capernaum while it was still dark. He went away from the crowds and the tightness and the confinement and close quarters so he could pray. But when his disciples came searching for him and found him, he returned to the people, to the crowds to proclaim his message—the message he was sent to bring.
          The Collect for today reminds us of Christ’s message. Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life you have made known to us in…Jesus Christ….
       Jesus’ message is the same today as it was in Capernaum. We are FREE from Sin and given the LIBERTY of Abundant Life.
          Freedom and Liberty are the enemies of fear and anxiety and that intolerable vulnerability. Abundant Life is life lived fully in spite of fear. Abundant Life is life lived with the courage and safety only God can give.
          Personally, I question the morality of the coming war. I oppose it strongly. It is, in my mind at least, a war that will be waged, not out of a longing for justice and righteousness, but out of our intolerable vulnerability.
However, I also believe most of those who support military action in Iraq are convinced of the rightness of their point of view. Saddam Hussein IS a tyrant and a monster to his own people. But there is much that can be done to oppose and weaken him short of unleashing our nation’s military might. I believe we need to act out of courage rather than fear.
          We will be no safer after much blood has been spilled and Iraq is defeated. The damage that this coming war will wreck will inflame and embolden those who wish us harm.
          As a Christian, I feel I need to cling to “the liberty of that abundant life” Christ makes known.
          Abundant Life is life lived fully in spite of fear and danger. We cannot ever be safe. But all that is most precious and most real cannot be taken from us by violence and terror.
          In fact, I think there is freedom and liberty found in facing our feelings of vulnerability.  Vulnerability teaches us humility. Vulnerability opens us to possibilities beyond returning violence for violence. Vulnerability can give us access to transformation, to newness, to hope. Living an abundant life takes much more courage than dealing death.
          Perhaps the most troubling part of our current quandary is how inevitable the coming war seems. Even people who oppose military action in Iraq seem defeated. “It’s too late to do anything,” a friend told me about the coming war. “Too much is in motion,” he continued, “it’s simply too late….”
          The vulnerable people of Capernaum—those sick and weak and possessed of Fear—sought out Jesus. Their brokenness was intolerable to them, so they sought out Jesus. And Jesus offered them freedom from sin and fear—he offered them abundant life.
          He offers us no less.
Christ offers us that abundant life which empowers us to live courageously in spite of fear and danger, to live with hope and restraint and faith in a time of intolerable vulnerability. Christ offers us freedom and liberty, and it is never too late to seek him.
          It is never too late to seek peace—though our country’s leaders seem committed to a fight to give us the illusion of safety at the expense of our national honor and integrity. It is never too late to bring the Light of Christ to this fearful, darkling world.
          It is never too late to seek Christ and to seek peace….It is never too late….

The Rev. Dr. Jim Bradley
St. John’s on the Green
Waterbury, CT 06702

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Good News

I have this news feed on my computer that offers me dozens of stories from the day's news.

I get stuff about politics, world affairs, economics, all kinds of sports, odd stuff and one option called "Good News".

I find myself clicking on that more and more these days since I feel a little crazy in Trump-World and need a dose of goodness.

George H.W. Bush has got a service dog.

A boy sold his toys to support his service dog.

A service dog was pictured in a Middle School album.

And those are just the stories today abut service dogs.

There are many more about more things than you can imagine.

There is 'good news' in this dark and depressing time.

Turn to it yourself.

Ponder how 'good news' can inspire us to keep moving forward and making a difference.

We need 'good news'.

There's more of it than I imagined....

I promise there is.....

Saturday, June 23, 2018


I suddenly thought today that we are, as a country, regressing to what the country was before Europeans arrived on our shores--tribes.

Pre-European America was not an idyllic place. Tribes of Native Americans (which weren't really because what we call American Indians probably crossed over the Barren Straights to settle this continent--everyone has to 'come' from somewhere) battled constantly over what humans always battle over--land and resources.

Dozens--hundreds--of tribes were here before the Vikings and Columbus and the Spanish and the Pilgrims.

And they either fought or stayed away from each other.

We have degraded into tribes here in the 21st Century.

There is the Trump Tribe--that will embrace him no matter what atrocities other tribes will object to. A large part of what we used to call Republicans are part of this tribe.

Then there are the non-Trump Republican Tribe. Many of them--Flake and McCain and others--cannot be part of the Trump Tribe. But they seem to have no way to take territory back. They seem to be dying off.

The Freedom Caucus Tribe co-exist with the Trump Tribe but want more strict adherence to 'Conservative Values' than the Trump Tribe even recognizes--since it it pragmatic, not ideological--and there will be a day of reconnecting between the two Tribes.

Then there are the two Democratic Tribes--the Sanders Tribe, and since there is yet to be another name for it, the Clinton Tribe. The first is progressive and culturally altering. The second is moderate and committed to the status quo as Democrats understand it. The 'Clinton' Tribe subscribes to it. The Sanders Tribe understands what the norm means and wants to alter it.

Then there is the Independent/libertarian/ non-affiliated Tribe. They are so far out of the tension among the other tribes they don't yet realize they are really three distinct Tribes.

Mohawk, Apache, Nakota, Chippewa, Navajo--on and on--Tribes mattered profoundly back in the day before Europeans arrived.

Now tribes matter again.

It is not a good thing.

The tribe we belong to should be the same one--Americans.

But that isn't so. And I even left out the tribes of People of Color and Asians.

It may be too hard to ever fix, unless we fix it soon.

Do what you can to fix it--please!!!

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.