Tuesday, March 31, 2020

At least a month to go

...and that's optimistic.

People are staying home. I know that because the readership of my blog is up!

I talk to my neighbors from a long distance away, but not close, like we used to.

I didn't go out today at all. Talked to some people on the phone. I usually drive around for a while to see how shut down Cheshire is. But not today.

Bern has been making us masks from cloth dinner napkins because they can be washed and reused.

Mine is forest green.

I'll probably do it when I go out to the grocery store and the wine store. Maybe on Wednesday--because I have to get Bern a birthday card (April 2nd). My late father's birthday was April 1st, a standing joke in the family that Virgil was born on April Fool's day. For 15 days, I'll only be two years older than Bern. You know, I think, that we first met when she was a freshman in high school and I was a senior. Cradle robbing, I know.

I have known and loved her for all but 14 years of her life.

Amazing! And wonderful.

Staying at home is, in one way, a gigantic pain in the ass.

In other ways, it puts me in touch with my introverted, only child self.

Whenever I've taken Myers/Briggs I am on the line between introvert and extrovert. I use up all my extrovert with church. These days I am an introvert alone.

Bern is a genuine introvert. We don't spend much time together though we're both in the same house all day. Distance is glory for introverts.

All her birthday presents have arrived. I ordered them on line since no where I could have found them is open. I'll get her some flowers at Big Y since I don't think florists are operating. And a birthday card.

How blessed am I to have been in love with her for 56 years?

More blessed that I can even imagine.

Wash your hands. Stay at home. Pray for the best we can hope for.

Monday, March 30, 2020

non-Funerals in a time of pandemic

One of the most heart-breaking videos I've seen of the world wide virus was a priest in Italy sprinkling holy water on dozens and dozens of coffins.

That will be the funeral for those people.

As an Episcopal Priest, I fully know how cathartic funerals can be for family and loved ones. When I was at St. John's in Waterbury for 21 years, we had dozens of people join the church after coming to a funeral there.

Funerals are one of the most important things a minister or rabbi or Imam can do is preside over a funeral.

Yet, all the people dying from Corona 19 will not have a funeral in the traditional sense. People cannot gather the way they do for funerals in most places.

And for good reason--stop the spread of the virus.

A mega-church pastor in Florida was arrested this week for having services with hundreds of people.

Good for Florida.

We are doing church on-line.

But how can you do a funeral on-line?

No chance for family and loved ones to touch the casket or the urn.

No chance to hug each other and mourn.

No chance to stand by a grave and say 'good-bye'.

No chance to find closure.

Yet another painful and isolating part of this pandemic.

No funeral for grandma.

Imagine the wrenching pain of that....

Sunday, March 29, 2020

So, another month

The president extended social distancing until the end of April.

Not enough.

We had a house in Delaware for memorial day for all out kids and granddaughters and Bern's brother and we're not going to do it.

Bern's birthday and mine and Easter will be just the two of us. Easter was usually 14 folks around our table.

We plan to go to North Carolina with John, Sherrie, Jack, Mimi, Tim and Eleanor in September.


We must do what we must do.

Nothing like this in my life-time or yours.

Stay at a distance, wash your hands, do what we must do.

Who knows for how long?

A time like no other I've ever known.

But we must do what we must do.

Do that too.


I hope, for all of our sake's, you're willing to do that too.

Be well and stay well, dear friends.

surprise call

I got a surprise call from a polling place doing a poll for the Republican National Committee.

How they got my number is a mystery to me!

I get at least half-a-dozen emails from the DNC every day--but never from the Republicans.

It was a one question poll: "do you think the media is being fair in their coverage of the President and the Republicans?"

I responded: "absolutely, positively!"

The woman paused, then said, "well, that response isn't down here...but I write it in...."

All in a days work for me.

Keep your social distance. If you need people to give you more room, just fake a cough into your hand. Be sure to wash that hand when you get home.

An old African greeting is "be well and stay well, umfandusi."

Umfandusi means "my dear friend".

That is my greeting to you in this strange time we find ourselves in.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

On-line church tomorrow

We've decided to keep streaming church services. We'll use Emmanuel, Killingsworth, since that's where Ted, our streamer, is.

It's Lent V and the readings include the valley of the dry bones and the raising of Lazarus. Two lessons that give us a foretaste of Easter.

Ted and Garnet and I will have communion and invite those watching to spiritually 'commune' with us. I thought about inviting people to put bread and wine in front of their screens, but then got an email from the bishops of CT that we can't long-distance bless bread and wine! So, I won't do it, even though I trust the Holy Spirit to pull it off.

It's at 10 a.m. but will be available on Facebook after that.

Here's how to access it, if I can figure out how to copy Ted's email.

here is the direct link to the group on facebook for Emmanuel church that you can see Jim on Sunday.
 you can also search on facebook for it at Emmanuel episcopal church, killingworth, ct

I did it! Sometimes I amaze myself!

Since I figured out how to do that, I'll send you a youtube link my friend Chuck ("Charles" really, he hates when I do that).

Subject: "The Log-Year 2"

It's a video of a long in Pennsylvania and the animals that cross it. Very soothing for the soul in these strange times.



Friday, March 27, 2020


There are sparrows who nest each spring in the vent that goes out of our downstairs bathroom.

I heard them today when I went into the bathroom. Their chatter gave me joy.

This afternoon, there were a flock of crows in the tall evergreens beside our back yard. A dozen or more.

"What is a group of crows called?" I asked Bern.

"A flock," she said, "isn't that what all groups of birds are called?"

I looked it up on line. A group of crows is called a 'murder of crows'. Though some people, not liking that, call them a "storytelling of crows".

Back to yesterday, Bern told me she saw at least a half dozen hawks over our yard. I looked that up too. A group of hawks is called a 'cast', an "aerie" or a "kettle" of hawks. I think I like "kettle" best.

And any number of birds are back in our yard. Spring must be coming.

The birdsongs are balm to my soul,.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


This was from August 28, 1992, out of the file of old sermons St. John's gave me from their archives.

Once there was a minister in a struggling little church out in the country. Things at the church weren't going well. Attendance and offerings were down. The roof was leaking. The mortgage was late. The minister's salary was late.

So, one night, the minister got down on his knees for his evening prayers and this what he said to God: "Dear God, let me win the lottery. If you let me win the lottery , this will be the greatest little church you have. I'll fix the roof and pay off the mortgage and use the rest of the money to attract new members. So, Lord, let me win the lottery. You've never failed me yet."

"Dear God," the minister prayed the next week, "I know you are a busy God with lots to do, but to save my church, you have to let me win the lottery this week. Please, God...."

The next week, the minister knelt in prayer again. "Dear Lord, Creator of all things. I've asked twice and you've not heard me. Please, God, let me win the lottery this week so I can save this little church."

A strange light shined in the little room, like a burning bush and a voice spoke out of the light: "For goodness sake, preacher, I'm doing all I can, but you have to buy a lottery ticket!!!!"

Today, I want to talk about prayer.

The lessons from Genesis and Luke tell us something wonderful about prayer. Those two lessons tell us that God DOES LISTEN to our prayers and that GOD LONGS TO PROVIDE US WITH WHAT WE NEED.

 That's awfully 'good news'. God is doing what God can. God listens and longs to answer our prayers.

When I was younger, I used to have lots more opinions than I have now. As I grow older, I have discovered that I believe more and more about less and less.

I used to have a very exalted, esoteric view of prayer.

Prayer, I thought, needed to be a practiced discipline--a serious and profound thing. Talking with God, I used to think, was too important to leave to amateurs!

Now I know better. There's no such thing as a 'bad prayer'. Praying is something we should all be doing as much as possible. And we don't need to be so solemn and serious about it. And it doesn't have to be pretty.

We Episcopalians are spoiled by the Book of Common Prayer. It is so beautiful and stately that we tend to think that's what a prayer needs to be like.

The Bible tells us a different story.

Today's lesson from Genesis is about prayer. God and Abraham are having a conversation about the horribly wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. God is intent on destroying the cities for their wickedness. Abraham wants God to have mercy of them. So Abraham bargains with God--he keeps lowering the odds for Sodom and Gomorrah.

"Would you spare the city for 50 righteous people" Abraham prays to God.

"Well, yes," God says, "for 50 righteous people I will spare it."

"How about 45?" Abraham asks.

And Abraham bargains God down to 10!

I used to think it was inappropriate to try to bargain with God. I wasn't giving God enough credit. I was being too polite.

Prayer doesn't have to be polite. The prophets of the Old Testament were always running up to the tops of hills and shaking their fists at God. God can take our anger and our bargaining. Anger should be a part of prayer. If we can't be angry with God--who loves us best of all--who can we share our pain and anger with?

So, when you are angry and hurt and confused--share it with God. Tell God about it. That's a kind of prayer we need to use more. We need to get our anger out and give it to God.

And we need to ask for help in our prayers. God knows how much help we need and God is waiting for us to ask.

God doesn't wait for us to ask like a test. God isn't into playing those kinds of games. It's just that God knows us better than we know ourselves and knows we human beings won't accept help until we're ready to ask for it.

Perhaps if we ask for help more, we'll become more able to accept help. Prayers for help are good prayers.

I grew up in the Pilgrim Holiness Church. We didn't have a Book of Common Prayer so we didn't know prayers were supposed to be beautiful. Most Pilgrim Holiness prayers were utterly simple. And one thing I remember about the free prayer in the Pilgrim Holiness church--most of it was giving thanks to God.

Some of the people in that church didn't have two dimes to rub together. Most of them were struggling all the time just to break even. And, yet, when they prayed, most of what they did was give thanks to God for all God had done for them.

When we pray, I don't hear much thanksgiving. We give thanks for birthdays and things like that, but mostly we don't say much about how thankful we are. A few weeks ago, when Sonja Osborn led the prayers, she included a whole prayer of thanksgiving. That felt right and really appropriate. I have so much to give thanks for. My prayer should ever and always be giving thanks to God.

Giving thanks is a very good kine of prayer.

And sometimes, prayer can be without words at all. It can just stopping for a moment and being present, just being there and paying attention to God. That doesn't need to be all solemn and holy either. It can be like taking a deep breath and breathing God in.

Prayer doeesn't have to be beautiful and sound like it comes from a book. It can be as simple as "thank you" or "help!" or "lead me, show me". Or just being there.

We don't have to be professional pray-ers. We don't have to be all devout and fussy about it. We can even be light hearted and playful when we pray.

There's no such thing as a bad prayer.

Just remember the good news of today's gospel lesson. Just remember what Jesus tells us.

"Ask, and it will be given you: search and you will find: knock and the door will be opened for you. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish will give a snake instead of a fish? Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion?

If you then...know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more so will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?

Amen and Amen.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Staying at home

It's all a bit weird, isn't it, this staying at home stuff?

I guess I didn't really realize how much I was out and about until I wasn't.

Good news for me. I went to get my shots that I get every two weeks at Waterbury Hospital. The valet parking folks just point you to a spot. The hospital front door is locked. You have to knock. The guy at the desk is a Nazi. The folks in registration mostly had on masks. Before I could go into the Outpatient Therapy room, they took my temperature. 98.0. Good news for me.

I'm not smelling well, but that is my seasonal allergies. Lots of mold and new stuff in the air.

Then I saw video's of the streets of NYC and there was almost no traffic!

Odd upon odd.

Last Sunday we did a Facebook service with a cameraman, a reader and me. Very bizarre to do that.

My friend, John, has a birthday today.

I called him and said, "have a great party...oh, you can't. Well go to a good movie...oh, you can't. So dinner at a fine New Haven restaurant....oh, not that either.....Well, happy birthday all alone.:"

Our kids were coming to celebrate Bern's birthday, but we cancelled it.

We have plans for a Memorial Day get away to Delaware. That won't happen either.

Strange times, for good reasons.

"Open for Easter", the President says.

Dream on. Dream on.

The Diocese of CT is shut until at least May 10, at this point, and probably longer.

It isn't going to get less weird until it does.

Wash you hands.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Old stuff

A few weeks ago, I think I told you, I was presented with a huge box of stuff I left at St. John's in Waterbury which had been in their archives.

In it was a huge folder of sermons from the early 1990's that I looked through today. Maybe I'll share some of them with you here. Some were fascinating.

What I learned was I used to preach a lot longer 30 years ago than I do now. LONG sermons.

But something else was, I didn't remember having preached any of them!

How could I forget my words and thoughts?

I just did.

It was a comfort to me to look through them with the late March snow swirling outside.

Some of them I admired, but not their length....

Stay well. Wash your hands. Stay home.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Not like waiting for Christmas

Waiting for Christmas is a time of excitement and joy and anticipation.

Waiting during the corona-virus is the opposite. Waiting, cut off from normal human intercourse is anxious and dreading and wondering if you'll get symptoms.

The federal government gives me no hope, only confusion.

Thank God for mayors and governors! But without the power of the federal government behind them, they can't do everything that needs done.

The President promises test kits and gloves and masks every day. And they haven't arrived.

I did the strangest service I've ever done today. I'll try to copy the Facebook link to it if I can. (I'm no good with technology--a really old man!)

here is the direct link to the group on facebook for Emmanuel church that you can see Jim on Sunday.
 you can also search on facebook for it at Emmanuel episcopal church, killingworth, ct

I did it, amazing myself!

Stay at home and wash your hands.

Shalom, jim


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Here's the sermon I'll preach on Sunday for Facebook

(I may not do it word for word, which I should. It's a sermon from my past but perfect for Lent IV.)

Lent IV 2020  “Deep in the old man’s puzzle….”

(John 4.5-42)
          I want to share with you a short passage from Robertson Davies novel, Fifth Business. An elderly French Jesuit named Blazon is talking to a Canadian teacher and writer named Dunstan Ramsey. Ramsey has just asked Blazon how he can be a holy man after just having consumed a whole chicken and a whole bottle of wine at dinner. Blazon then replies. Listen:
          “Listen, Ramezay, have you heard what Einstein says?—Einstein, the great scientist, not some Jesuit like old Blazon. He says: ‘God is subtle, but He is not cruel.’  There is some sound Jewish wisdom for your muddled Protestant mind. Try to understand the subtlety, and stop whimpering about the cruelty. Maybe God wants you for something special….
          “….I am quite a wise old bird but I am no desert hermit who can only prophesy when his guts are knotted in hunger….I am deep in the old man’s puzzle, trying to link the wisdom of the body with the wisdom of the spirit until the two are one….you cannot divide spirit from body without anguish and destruction.”

          “I am deep in the old man’s puzzle,” Father Blazon said, “trying to link the wisdom of the body with the wisdom of the spirit until the two are one.”

          Today’s gospel lesson is so long and complex—more like a short story than the normal readings—that we could spend hours together teasing out all the subtleties of the healing of the man born blind.  There obviously isn’t time to do that. We all have places to go and things to do. So, cutting to the chase, I want to spend a few minutes with you “deep in the old man’s puzzle”, wrestling with the wisdom of the body and the wisdom of the spirit and how the two are linked together and one.
          The story begins with blindness of the body: Jesus and his disciples encounter a man born blind—so his blindness is genetic, on the level of DNA, not because of some illness or accident. He was blind in the midnight of the womb and wrapped in double darkness until that moment when Jesus gives him new eyes and “first sight”.

          The story ends with the “spiritual blindness” of the Pharisees. Their souls dwell in the double darkness of their rigid, unenlightened adherence to a Law that makes no sense and their blindness to the miracle and wonder of Jesus’ power and authority over the Sabbath, over all things.

          Jesus says: I came into this world for judgment so that those who do not see may see, and those who do see may become blind.
          Some of the Pharisees who heard his words asked Jesus: Surely we are not blind, are we?
          If you were blind, Jesus tells them, you would not have sin. But now that you say, “We see,” your sin remains.

          We are deep in the old man’s puzzle, trying to link the wisdom of the body and the wisdom of the spirit until the two are one.

          Here’s something to notice and remember: in John’s gospel, Jesus always speaks of SIN, in the singular, not the plural, SINS. 
          When John the Baptist sees Jesus coming to the River Jordan to be baptized, he says: behold the lamb of God who takes away the SIN of the world!  John says ‘SIN’ not ‘sins”.  Sin, in John’s Gospel, does not refer to actions we do that we should not have done or to actions we didn’t do that we should have done.  “Commission” and “Omission”—the way the church refers to those two categories of “sins”—isn’t what John’s Gospel is referring to. It is not our individual “sins” that Jesus comes to “take away”; rather, it is SIN itself.
          One way of looking at “sin” is to see it as a state of being—THE STATE OF BEING SEPARATED FROM GOD.  
          Separation from God—being out of touch with God, alienated from God…alone and empty—that is “the Sin of the World.”
          Just as Blazon longs to link the wisdom of the body to the wisdom of the spirit until the two are one; in just that way, Jesus longs to link humankind to God until the two are One.
          And old hymn from my childhood goes like this: ‘O, how marvelous, O how wonderful, is my Savior’s love for me….”
          Jesus offers us “first sight” and new eyes. Jesus offers us the ability to see—see clearly, see truly, see through our separation from God…our Sin…until we see God face to face. Oh, how marvelous! Oh, how wonderful!
          God is subtle, but He is not cruel.
          Einstein’s insight points us to the “wisdom” of the story of the man born blind.  Jesus speaks of “blindness” and “sight” as if the wisdom of the body and the wisdom of the spirit WERE ONE.  To the man born blind he gives his own saliva, mixed with dirt into mud, applied to his eyes and washed away by the waters of the healing pool named “SENT.”  The man who had never seen is given both the sight of the body and the sight of the spirit.
          Do you believe in the Son of Man? Jesus asks him.
          And who is he, sir? The man replies. Tell me, so that I may believe in him.
          You have seen him, Jesus tells the man with first sight, and the one speaking with you is he.
          Then, seeing with both his eyes and his heart, the man says to Jesus, Lord, I believe. And he worshiped him.
          Oh, how wonderful….Oh, how marvelous….

          How, in our lives, are we like the man born blind? How, in our lives, have we come to see—not with our eyes only, but with our hearts?
          And how, in our life, are we like the Pharisees? How, in our lives, are you and I  bound and rigid and blind because you and I are tied to the limitations of the past, of our upbringing, of our culture, of our prejudices, of our resistance to “the New Thing” God would do for us?

          You see, we are deep in the old man’s puzzle, you and I. We are struggling with the wisdom of the body and the wisdom of the spirit and we long to link them together until they are one.  God is subtle, but God is not cruel.
          The subtlety of God has to do with “how to SEE” and how to find first sight, new eyes.
          There is a story I would tell you. Then I would invite you into a few minutes of silence, deep in the old man’s puzzle, to wrestle with what is Broken and what is Whole…with body and spirit…with sight and blindness…with seeing the Face of God.
          My story is this: Once there was a very old and very wise Rabbi. He was sitting by the river with his three young, energetic disciples just before dawn.
          One of them, there in the last moments of darkness, said to the rabbi: Master, when is there enough light to see?
          He replied: Tell me what you think…
          One said: There is enough light to see when you can tell the young lambs from the young goats as they play in the field across the river.
          The Rabbi replied: No, that is not enough light to see.
          A second disciple said: There is enough light to see when you can distinguish the trees from the fog in the early dawn.
          But the Rabbi answered: No, that is not enough light to see.
          A third student took his turn: There is enough light to see when you can see the leaves on the trees across the river and know which is a myrtle and which is an olive.
          The Rabbi said, as before: No, that is not enough light to see. And he grew silent for a long time.
          There is enough light to see, the rabbi finally said, when you can look into the face of any human being and see the face of God….

          We are deep in the old man’s puzzle. Let us pray for enough light to see.

Friday, March 20, 2020

no church

I didn't go to Emmanuel, Killingworth on Sunday and the day didn't feel like Sunday.

And today, our bishops asked us to extend the non-church through May 10.

No Palm Sunday. No Holy Week--Maundy Thursday and Good Friday--no Easter.

No Easter!

We'll be doing services on face book, but nothing 'in person'.

For someone who has been a priest since 1976, this is a huge upheaval.

No Maundy Thursday--my favorite Holy Day. And no Easter!

A virus has cancelled Easter!

No pain, no gain, athletes say.

So to gain safety, we must have the pain of not having Easter.

Alas and Alack.

But whatever it takes to move pass this virus.

That's the way I see it.

But I will sorely miss Holy Week.

morning birds and afternoon sunshine

This morning, out on our back porch (I got up at 8, at least an hour, if not more, earlier than usual) there were all these little birds, very fast, flying around our side and back yard.

One sat on a limb right in front of me and tweeted, while I whistled back, for at least 10 minutes.

I've never know a bird that wasn't in a cage to sit still that long.

There were dozens of them--little brown, gray things--all over.


And after a cloudy, gloomy day, the afternoon--about 2--became glorious. Sun and warmth and wondrous pre-spring colors.

Maybe not being out and about can teach us to notice such things.

That would be a wonderful result of being so limited in this time.

Small things come to matter a lot.

Take them in. Appreciate them. Love them.

A positive spin on a pandemic....

Thursday, March 19, 2020

It's beginning to feel natural

Days at home with only Bern.

Phone calls or emails (I don't text) instead of face to face.

Reading and watching TV instead of wandering around Cheshire.

It's beginning to feel natural.

Maybe when the virus scare is over, I'll just keep doing this.

Nothing wrong with hunkering down.

The older I get the more introverted I become.

I used to be on the extrovert/introvert line--50/50.

Being a priest I used up all my extrovert time with people in the church.

The rest of t he time, I was an introvert.

Introversion is beginning to feel natural.

I don't think I'm as scared as I was a week ago.

It's beginning to feel natural.

Is that good or bad?

I'm not sure.

But it is what it is....

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Biden is winning

Every since South Carolina's primary, Joe is winning.

Personally, I preferred Bernie, but I "Blue, no matter who".

Plus, he promised to name a woman as vice-president. And given his age 'she' would be the nominee in 2024.

Harris, Klobuchar, Warren--whoever...fine with me.


Definitely wierd

Went to my dentist today. I chipped a lower front tooth somehow. He drilled a bit and filled it fine, can't feel it with my tongue anymore.

He told me I was lucky to have an appointment today since dental practices in CT are shutting down tomorrow except for real emergencies. State Dental Association following the request of the National Dental Association.

So, if you need a cleaning, forget it.

Better have someone hit you in the mouth if you want a dentist for the next month or so.

Bars and restaurants shutting down.

Airlines cutting flights drastically.

Just don't shut the wine stores--OK?

What I need in this very weird time.

The President said to avoid crowds of more than 10. The corona virus task force has 21 people. How do they meet?

I play hearts on the computer. Bern plays solitaire on hers. We read a lot.

Brigit can't figure out why we're here most of the time.

Like I said, weird times.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Definitely not 'business as usual"

Yesterday, the only place in Cheshire where I could find paper towels was one of the two Rite Aide stores.

Not only is all the paper products gone from Big Y and Stop and Shop, lots of other aisles are empty too, for reasons I can't comprehend. Like no sour cream? Who hoards sour cream?

Plus, at Stop and Shop, the butcher and seafood cases where someone serves you, were both shut down.

And we didn't have church on Sunday.

And the Cheshire Library is closed.

And no NBA or March Madness or MLB--what will I watch on TV?

And at least half the debate between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders was about the effects of the virus.

And Mimi and Tim are at their newly purchased house in, of all places, Calicoon Center, New York instead of in the city. For two weeks. So Eleanor is not in Day Care, which might be closed anyway as are schools all over the country.

And, our next door neighbors' daughter is coming for spring break from the University of Alabama and doesn't know if she'll go back this semester.

And, though no one is wearing masks yet (except one Asian man Bern saw--probably trying to guard against the mindless anti-Chinese stuff that's come out of all this) people do maintain 'space' wherever I go.

And I don't go many places, truth be known: to the grocery store every other day when I'm cooking dinner and the wine store, because I want to, but no where else.

And I've washed my hands more this week than in the previous three months.

I'll probably go to my meeting at St. John's with other Episcopal clergy and lay folks and to the dentist after that (I somehow chipped a bottom front tooth) but no where else.

I need to go to H&R Block to take in my tax stuff, but surely I won't have to be face to face with anyone closer than across a desk.

Life has changed.

I still don't personally know anyone who has the virus but it's early days.

The President has so mishandled this whole thing and that is one reason it's early days.

Let the Scientists and the Doctors lead our response, not Mike Pence!!!!

Not 'business as usual' and won't be, I fear, for some time to come.


Stay healthy.

Wash your hands.

Don't touch your face much--it's impossible to not touch your face at all!

Saturday, March 14, 2020

A sermon I never preached

(Most Episcopal Churches in Connecticut are close for at least the next two weeks because of the virus. Good move. But I had a sermon I won't get to preach. I've emailed it to members of the church. But here it is for you.)

Lent III, 2020--Emmanuel Killingworth

John 4.5-42

The conversation with the Samaritan woman only happens in John's Gospel

And the key to the conversation is "location, location, location...."

It happens at Jacob's Well and Jacob was renamed "ISRAEL" by God.

You see, Samaritans were the 'non-people', neither fish now fowl, not truly Gentiles but not truly Jews either. In 721 BCE. there was an Assyrian occupation of northern Palestine.

The inter-breeding of Jews and Assyrians caused the Jews in the south to consider Samaritans as having 'impure blood'. That opinion created racism against Samaritans and very ugly prejudice.

Also, Samaritans considered Mount Gerazim to be the 'holiest of places' while Jews, of course, considered Jerusalem as the 'holy city'.

By having this conversation, Jesus breaks two immutable rules of Judaism. A Jew could not have conversation and relationships with the 'unclean' Samaritans. And a Jewish man could not have a public conversation with a woman (also 'unclean').


Water is the image of 'life'--'living water' is the image of abundance and eternal life.

After Jesus tells her about 'living water', the woman longs for such water.

Her understanding of Jesus moves from "confusion" ('what have you a Jew...?') to "respect" ("Sir....") to hopefulness ("you are a prophet") to 'acknowledgement' in the community ("could this be the Messiah?"}

That the woman is an adulterer is purely a creation of scholars. She could have been caught in the Levitical law about marrying your dead husband's brother--like Tamar in the Old Testament, like the questions of the Pharisees in Luke. Men could remarry in the first century, but not women. The woman's morality intrigues scholars, but is of no interest to Jesus. He has no judgment of her.

When the disciples return to the well they are confused and horrified and do not understand, but the Samaritan woman does--she calls the community to come see Jesus.

Those that 'get it' are not always the one we would expect.

The disciples are too hung up in rules and laws to recognize 'inclusion and hospitality and the absence of judgement as LOVE.

Jesus makes the same invitation to us as he made to the Samaritan woman. He invites us to drink the 'living water' of inclusion and hospitality and absence of judgement. 

He invites us to drink in his LOVE.

Will we, like her, accept his invitation and tell others about it?

I hope so. I pray so. I long for that 'living water'.

Do you?


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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.