Friday, May 14, 2021

Who are these People?

     Have Republicans lost their mind? Or just their politics?

    Andrew Clide, a Representative from Georgia, said in a hearing the other day that the insurrectionists looked to him like 'tourists in the Capitol."

    I watch the late night shows on You-Tube since I don't stay up late enough to watch them on TV.

    Every one of them--Cobert, Meyers, Kimmel and Cordon--played that clip with video of the violence of the storming of the Capitol side-by-side.

    Seth Meyers asked, "is he a f****** idiot?" and immediately replied to his own question, "of course he's a f****** idiot." 

    Liz Cheney was replaced as leader of the Republican caucus by Elsie Stefanic, from up-state New York. Cheney's approval rating by Conservative sources was almost 90%. Stefanic's 47% rating was a point lower than Rep. Omar, one of the AOC group.

    And don't get me started on Matt Gatez and Rep. Green! Gatez's right hand man has turned state's evidence in his 33 counts of sexual misconduct and will probably testify against Matt.

    Green, in a newly released video before she was elected, is shown shouting insults to A.O.C. through the mail slot of her office. She also recently yelled insults to her in the House hallways. A.O.C. was gentle when she said Green had 'some problems'.

    I've said it before, but my life-long Eisenhower Republican father wouldn't recognize his party.

    It isn't the Republican party any more.

    It's the party of (the ex-president who will not be named here.)

    Who are these people?

 

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Easter 7 sermon

 (if you go to Trinity, Milton, don't read this!!!)

Easter 7,2021

          Listen again to how Jesus ends his prayer for his disciples in today’s Gospel.

“…now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. SANCTIFY them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I SANCTIFY myself, so that they also may be SANCTIFIED in truth.”

          What I find compelling in that passage is the use of ‘sanctify’ and ‘sanctified’.

          The first definition of ‘sanctified’ in the dictionary is “set apart”. To be ‘set apart’ from other things. That explains why Jesus says of his disciples that he “sent them into the world” they do not ‘belong in the world’. They are ‘set apart’ from the world.

          The other definitions are “holy”, “consecrated” and “hallowed”.

          “Hallowed” is a synonym for “Holy” as in the Lord’s prayer—“hallowed be thy name” could be “holy be thy name” just as easily.

          And to ‘consecrate’ is to bless a church or worship space by a Bishop to “set it apart” and make it ‘holy’.

          (A short aside about ‘sanctified’: I grew up in an Evangelical Methodist Church. It was not like a Methodist Church in Litchfield—it was a ‘mountain Methodist’ church—with revivals and hour-long sermons! When I was 12 I went to a revival and the preacher scared me so bad about hell and damnation that I went to the altar rail to be ‘saved’. But being ‘saved’ was just the beginning, you had to be ‘prayed through’ as they put it, to be ‘sanctified’. So, a half-dozen or so adults surround me and ‘prayed me through.

          It was a tiny town (500 or so) and everyone knew Jimmy got ‘saved’ last night. I was in my seventh-grade math class, very embarrassed, when I dropped my pencil and when I bent over to pick it up I looked up Bonny Tilly’s dress.

          “Oh, no,” I said to myself, “being saved didn’t take!”)

          And “holy” in and of itself is an interesting word. In her book A History of God, Karen Armstrong writes about ‘holy’ in a astonishing way. She writes, “When we use the word ‘holy’ today, we usually refer to a state of moral excellence. But in Hebrew,” she continues, “the word KADDOSH has nothing to do with morality as such, but means OTHERNESS; a radical separation.”

          ‘Sanctified’ is ‘to be set apart’ and Holy is “other”.

          Makes me want to sing the ‘Sanctus’ (there’s a form of ‘sanctified’) by saying, “Other, Other, Other Lord God Almighty”.

 

          So where am I going with all this word study?

          I hope I can explain it to you.

          Our God is “Other” from us, distinct from us, separated from us.

          And yet Genesis tells us that humans were ‘created in the image and likeness of God’. So, some piece of God’s ‘otherness’ is a part of us.

          But we are not gods. We are flawed and damaged creatures because God is not the only ‘other’ in us. We are all plagued by an ‘other self’ that rebels and cries out against God.

          We need to become aware of our ‘other self’ and coax it out of the darkness into the Light of God.

          No one has said this better than Elsie Landstrom, a poet. Let me close with her poem.      

          Song to My Other Self

Over the years I have caught glimpses of you

In the mirror, wicked,

In a sudden stridency in my own voice, have

Hear you mock me;

In the tightening of my muscles felt the pull

Of your anger and the whine

Of your greed twist my countenance, felt

Your indifference blank my face when pity was called for.

You are there, lurking under every kind act I do,

Ready to defeat me.

Lately, rather than drop the lid of my shock

Over your intrusion,

I have looked with you with new eyes

Opened to your tricks, but more,

Opened to your rootedness in life.

Come, I open my arms to you, once dread stranger.

Come, as a friend, I would welcome you to stretch your apartments

Within me from the cramped to comforting side.

Thus I would disarm you. For I have recently learned,

Learned looking straight into your eyes,

The holiness of God is everywhere.

Amen and amen.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Some stuff

 Liz Cheney is gone from leadership thanks to the former President and his choke-hold on the GOP. Republicans are slip-sliding away following their Czar rather than Truth.

The oil pipeline that was hacked is running again but people in the south-east were running out of gas. Cyber-hacking is an enormous problem that must be addressed soon and with power.

Still a chilly May in CT but next week we'll be in the 70's every day. I can't wait. I'm still wearing two or three long sleeve layers.

Did you know the US has a D- rating for infrastructure--yet Republicans are doing all they can to block Biden's plan?

Roads are being repaired in Cheshire. I guess my tax dollars are paying for that. But Cheshire, if you go north down Rt. 10 has dozens and dozens of well hidden major businesses. So, property taxes here are less than in most CT towns and cities.

We're going to Long Beach, NC in August. We couldn't go last year so it's wondrous. Bern and me, Jack, Sherry and Robbie, Mimi, Tim and Eleanor and John. We usually go in September, so it will be hotter and more crowded that we're use to--but we have rented a brand new 7 bedroom, 5 bath house right on the beach. Will be great!!! Four of our closest friend. Our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter. What could be better.

I'm preaching at Trinity in Milton on Sunday. My sermon is done--on a Wednesday for goodness sake! I'll post it in a couple of days.

All is well and all is well and all manner of things will be well.

 


Tuesday, May 11, 2021

What is Holy--part 2

(This is the second part of my presentation at St. Paul's, New Haven in 2002.)

II. What is 'holy' is what is other...

    Karen Armstrong is a former Roman Catholic nun who writes about 'holy' in an astonishing way in her book A History of God.

    "When we use the word 'holy' today, we usually refer to a state of moral excellence."

    My first and foremost caveat regarding "holiness" is this: FORGET THE CONNECTION OF HOLINESS TO MORAL EXCELLENCE.

    Long ago reality ceased to exist for me in terms that can in any way be seen as good/bad, white/black, moral/immoral, holy/mundane., The 'moral landscape', if I might call it that, is, for me, a landscape painted in numberless shades of gray. For me...and for Karen Armstrong: she writes, "holiness..in Hebrew, kaddosh...has nothing to do with morality as such, but means 'otherness', a radical separation."

    Every time I sing the Sanctus during the Eucharist, I am tempted with the seraphs, to cry out: "Other, other, other, Lord God Almighty,"

    Holiness, for me, is radical other-ness. It is, in fact, the Holy that sets the boundaries up that allow me to know WHO I AM. I know who I am, in actuality, because 'I know what is other from me. I am a being defined and called into being by 'what I am not'. My existence is surrounded by and defined by that which is most definitely NOT 'my existence.' I am, in a way, an island of ME afloat in a sea of 'the Other'--a holy ocean.

(Here I draw out a precious, holy dead-thing from my pocket to offer you. I do so with great fear and trembling, but I have gone this far and must risk something for your time and attention.

    I grew up in a seven room apartment over a grocery store in Anawalt, West Virginia. Off my bedroom was a storage room--a rectangular room six feet by 15 feet. I would have made a great walk-in closet in a fancy house, but that was not its function. My mother kept the vegetables and fruits she canned on shelves there. Extra clothes were stored there. Things not-often-needed were kept there. Boxes of letters and neatly tied bundles of magazines and all our family photos were there on the shelves as well. My excess toys were there, scattered on the floor.

    I would sit in that room for hours sometimes. I would read there and play there and dream there and feel terribly, absolutely alone there from time to time. In that room it was easy for me to imagine that I was the only 'true' and 'real' thing in the world. Amidst the endless Bell jars full of applesauce and green beans and tomatoes and chow-chow and sweet and sour pickles...surrounded by winter coats and my father's WW II uniforms (encased in plastic) and the veritable wardrobe of dresses that were either too small or too large for my mother, depending on where she was in the eternal war she waged with her weight..beset upon by decades of unused and perhaps unusable Christmas gifts from our family--cheese plates for people who only ate Velvetta, twenty years of towel sets, candle holders for people who never lit a candle, candy-dishes for people at war with sugar, mixing bowl sets in pastel shades, a half-dozen pairs of house slippers that never fit my father's war-pained feet and enough salt and pepper shakers to start a new venue on E-Bay--in the middle of all that, I had the childhood fantasy that I was the only real/true living creature in the universe.

    I have mentioned these feelings of absolute uniqueness to few people, so I have no idea if others ever imagined they were the only true/real creature in the Universe or not. But I felt that, for years, in fact.

    For years the whole complexity of the cosmos boiled down to this: THERE WAS ME AND THEN, THERE WAS EVERYTHING ELSE.

    I'm not sure I can convey how terrifying, how bone-deep frightening it was to view the endless expanses of space and time while believing that all that was or is or ever can be could be neatly divided into two categories: Me and Not Me.)

    Whatever is NOT ME was 'holy'--and like the holiness Karen Armstrong writes about, "this sense of the Wholly Other cannot even be said to 'exist' because it has no place in our normal scheme of reality."

    As a small child sitting alone in what my family always called 'the other room', since it was one room that didn't have a name--I developed a keen and reliable sense of "otherness".

    "The Other Room"--what a remarkably theological name we called that small space chocked full of 'stuff'! The OTHER ROOM was where everything that wasn't us dwelled. And the stuff in that room could, in a real sense thought of as not 'existing' since it dwelled (if it can be thought of as 'dwelling' anywhere) outside the reality and place of my little family's 'scheme of reality'.

    And it was there--I swear to you on my mother's caned goods and my father's army uniform--that I began to understand that "I" existed in contrast to, over and against, as something different from 'all that was other from me'.

    Today--decades and eternities distant from my childhood's 'Other Room'--I still sit alone, reflecting on all that is 'not me'...astonished by the wonder of 'being me' as opposed to all that is 'other...and all that is HOLY...that isn't me.

    My God...the God I worship...my Wholly Other...what is Holy to me--like Yahweh Sabeoth--fills the whole earth.

    My maternal grandmother was a Holiness woman. She belonged to the Holiness People--a remarkably fascinating and little appreciated of American religious life. Her name was Lina Manona Sadler Jones and she was a sweet, wondrous 'holy' woman. I never saw my grandmother's arms until she was deep in the grip of dementia in a nursing home. She always wore long sleeves because for a woman to expose that much flesh would invite the baser instincts of men. And I never saw her hair down until she was in that nursing home, no longer 'herself'. The attendants would brush her hair--thin and pure and white by then--that reached down to her knees. A woman's hair was something else that would engage the baser instincts of me. So my grandmother always wore her hair in a tight bun on the back of her head, though she had not cut it for decades.

    (All of which is an aside about 'what is holy' to me. The Holy is usually 'hidden' and 'concealed'. I am convinced and am persuaded that we discover 'the Holy' by tripping over it in the dark. I do not believe that 'the Holy' is 'revealed' to us by God. I believe 'the Holy' is 'unconcealed' when we trip over it in the dark. I believe everything that is 'Holy' is already present with us, but hidden from view and understanding. I expect to 'REVELATION' from beyond this physical and psychic world. I have little patience with those who 'hear voices' and suspect them to be from God. I saw my 'Mam-maw's' arms and hair when she was beyond worrying about anyone seeing them--and they were 'Holy' to me, long hidden, finally unconcealed.

    I'm not pleased when people refer to Christianity as a 'revealed religion'. Judaism has such a claim to make. Yahweh Sabbaoth 'revealed' his holiness to the people of Israel. But then it 'filled the whole earth.' 

    I await no 'new revelation'. I just wonder around in the dark, kicking things over and 'unconcealing' what is Holy by my clumsiness. My grandmother, who did believe the Old Testament God was the One, True God, believed in revelation. My mother simply wasn't interested in that whole conversation. And I reject it. What a difference two generations can make!)

    The whole point of bringing up Lina Manona Sadler Jones--is that a great name or what?--is to remember how she divided, dissected, separated the world. For 'Sister Nonie', which is what everyone called her, life was sweet and simple. For her there were 'Church People' and every one else. And "Church People" were Holiness People or Nazarenes or Independent Baptists or folks from the Church of God. Everyone else was on the fast track to perdition--including United Methodists, Roman Catholics and those strange 'Piscopalians' from down in Welch.

    It is really helpful and convenient to be able to divide the universe into simple categories: fish or fowl, good or bad, liberal or conservative, 'Church People' or everyone else. 

    And I can do that about the Holy.

    What is 'wholly other' from me, is holy.

    That's what I learned in 'the other room' of my childhood and I'm sticking by it.



 

     

 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Reaching out to President Biden

Dear Joe,

The Roman Catholic hierarchy in this country is bad mouthing you about 'absolutely' opposing abortion.

I heard on NPR today (what else would I listen to?) that some priests are announcing before mass that anyone who is not actively opposed to abortion should not receive communion.

As a devoted and life-long Roman Catholic, this must be tough on you. I'm sorry about that.

But I have a solution for you.

Become an Episcopalian.

We are open to abortion rights and really defend a woman's right to choose what happens to her body.

And whatever your priests might tell you, we have a valid communion--it IS the Body and Blood of Christ.

And we are diverse as you want this country to be.

An old saying: get four Episcopalians in a room and there will be five different opinions!

Come on over, Joe. Imagine what the response would be when you showed up at the National Cathedral in D.C. and received communion!

We'd welcome you with open arms and a nice chalice of wine....

Sincerely and Shalom, Jim Bradley (a semi-retired Episcopal priest in CT) 

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Is this weird?

 I'm officiating at a wedding in June.

The bride's name is Tegan--the same as one of my grand-daughters in Baltimore.

The only other Tegan I've met.

Even weirder, Tegan's (the bride) god-father is Jim Bradley.

Very strange, I'd say.

 

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Making things

(I wrote this for the people of St. John's, Waterbury when I was preparing to retire.)

          MAKING THINGS

 

Most of the best things require

       only a few ingredients.

 

Flour, water, yeast, a pinch of salt

      (a pinch of sugar too, I’d say) and time:

       kneading , rising, kneading, rising, kneading,

       baking—you’ve got bread.

 

Grape juice, sugar, yeast (again) and more time…

        there’s the wine.

 

A simple reed, plucked from the marsh,

        a sharp knife and breath makes music.

 

Paper, thin wood, some string, a tail and patience

        makes a kite and flight….

 

Then there is this—what you have made,

        perhaps not knowing….

          The Patience you needed to deal with me!

                    The Commitment and Skill you brought to the mix.

                     The Hope and Trust to make it

                               Rise

               Ferment

               Sing

                               Fly.

            And dollop after dollop of Great Good Humor—

              that most of all.

few ingredients, but enough and more,

to make my life here joyous, wondrous, profound, incredible, magic

                      and so much fun….so much fun….

 

And I thank you for the feast of life, the song and the flight.

 

jgb/April 29, 2010

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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.