Friday, April 30, 2021

my Sunday sermon

 (If you're coming to Trinity, Milton, don't read this.)

Easter 5, 2021


          Today’s lessons are rich and wondrous. Acts tells us of Phillip’s journey to a ‘wilderness road’ to baptize an Ethiopian eunuch who was in charge of the treasury of the queen.

          Phillip interprets Isaiah, baptizes the man and is mystically transported to Azotus, where he preached the gospel all the way to Caesaea.

          Psalm 22 has the beautiful and hopeful verse:

          “The poor shall eat and be satisfied,

          And those who seek the Lord shall praise him:

          ‘May your heart live forever.’”

          Then the Epistle of John teaches us about love. Love.

          And in John’s Gospel, Jesus asks us to ABIDE with him.


          Today, I want to talk about LOVE and ABIDING.

          You probably know that there are three Greek words that are all translated into English as ‘love’.

          (I may have even mentioned that in my first sermon with you. People often ask me about a sermon from several weeks before and I usually don’t know what they’re talking about! Sermons are ‘in the moment’ and I don’t often remember what I said.)

          The three Greek words that are all translated in English as ‘love’ are “Eros”, “Phileos’ and ‘Agape”.

          The words have very different meaning.

          “Eros” we can figure out—‘erotic love’…the love between two lovers.

          “Phileos” is ‘brotherly or sisterly love’—as in the city Philadelphia.

          But “Agape” is the love that gives itself away—love that is total and complete, love that knows no limits or bounds.

          Near the end of the Gospel of John, you might recall, Jesus asks Peter three times, “Peter, do you love me?” And three times Peter answers, “Lord you know I love you”.

          Seems odd in English, that exchange, but in Greek it is different story. The first two times, Jesus askes, “Peter, do you ‘agape’ me” and Peter replies, “Lord, you know I ‘phileos’ you.”

          The third time Jesus asks he says “do you ‘phileos’ me?” and Peter responds, “Lord you know I ‘phileos’ you.”

          Peter didn’t feel worthy to give ‘agape’ love.

          But ‘love’ in today’s epistle of John is always “agape”!

          We are to have ‘agape’ love for each other, for those around us, for everyone on the planet!

          We are to love without bounds, without limits, without any restrictions.

          And we are to BE ‘agape’ in the world because ‘agape’ is from God and ‘whoever does not ‘agape’ does not know God.’

          A heavy responsibility for us—to give ourselves away to ‘agape’ so we might know God.

          There’s so much hate in our country and our world right now that we are needed by God, to give ourselves away to love and love and love.

          And we must support and…hold each other in our hearts so we might ‘love’ as God calls us to ‘love’.


          But what I really want to talk about today is ‘to abide’.

          “Abide” has been a part of the English language since the 11th century. It sounds a little dated, but it is a word I love.

          Webster’s dictionary has a lot of meanings to “abide”.

          One is ‘to obey’, as in ‘abide by the law’ or ‘abide by the court’s decision.

          But that’s not what Jesus meant.

          He meant “to wait or await”, “to continue in a place—to ‘sojourn’ there”, to “remain with and stay around”—or as teens would say, to ‘hang out with’.

          I grew up in Southern West Virginia and when I would walk around the neighborhood in Spring and Summer and Early Autumn, people would be sitting on their front porches and often they would say, “Jim, come up and ‘bide a spell.”

          Nothing was expected in ‘biding a spell.

          No questions were asked. No conversation was required. You were just invited to sit in a rocking chair and ‘abide’ for a while.

          That’s lovely. And that’s Jesus’ invitation to us—to come up on the porch and take a rocking chair and ‘abide’ with him, so he can ‘abide’ with us.

          Jesus invites us to be ‘a part of the vine’.

          I am someone who does not think ‘individuality’ is more important than ‘commonality’.

          The American concept of ‘individuality’ is the root of many of the problems in our country.

          ‘Individuality’ is at the root of racial inequality, childhood poverty, the divide between right and left, the lack of attention to the ‘common good’.

          We need community, we need to be ‘part of the vine’, part of the whole.

          And we need to ‘abide’ in the vine, ‘abide’ with all people, ‘abide’ with God, ‘abide’ with each other.

          I want to invite you for a few moments, just to ‘bide with each other. No expectations, no requirements. Just ‘be’ with each other in silence. Join me.


Thanks for ‘abiding’ with me.

Amen and Amen.


It's disconcerting

It's disconcerting how big the world is.

While there is sun and breeze and 60 degrees in Connecticut, India and Israel are in peril.

So many Covid-19 cases in India and so little supply of much needed medical supplies, never mind vaccines.

And India is one of the world's primary producers of vaccine, but it's own government didn't put in orders and most supplies went abroad. Plus they had thought--and even said--they had defeated Covid.

Until now.

And in Israel, over 40 people dead and over 150 injured at a religious ceremony in the north of the country involving mostly ultra-Orthodox Jews. 

I don't know about you, but I can think of few worse ways to die than being trampled on by other human beings.

But that's what happened.

Tragedy in India and Israel...sunlight and breezes in Connecticut. 

It doesn't seem fair.


Thursday, April 29, 2021

I didn't write yesterday

 I had to finish our taxes and take them in during the morning.

It was my turn to fix dinner so I spent the late afternoon doing that.

Then I watched the President's address--very informative and often moving.

I tried to watch Sen. Tim Scott's response, which seemed to be MAGA-talk, until he, a black man from the south, said "America is not a racist country".

The Vice President responded that the 'country' might not be racist--but racism is all around us in this country. Well said, Madam Vice-President.

I was impressed that Biden acknowledged that 'no president has ever stood at this podium with two women behind him.' Harris and Pelosi did look right in their chairs.

Mitch McConnell sat like a petulant school kid, barely applauding anything.

Ted Cruz seemed to fall asleep at one point.

We are so politically divided that Biden will have to do whatever he can without Republican support.

A good day--but I didn't write....


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

I have nothing to say tonight...

 ...Except this.

Republicans have got to get back in gear and think about Truth.

Several Republicans have said or tweeted or put on Facebook, that Biden's bill on rebuilding America would limit us to 4 pounds of red meat a year.

A total and absolute lie.

They also, in many states, keep passing bills to limit free speech in peaceful protest, limit abortion rights and restrict voting rights.

How in holy hell can they be doing that!!!!!

We need to move to a place where all people are equal, women have control of their bodies and everyone can vote.

Get off it, Republicans!!!

It is time for unity, not division and hate and restrictions that rob people of their rights.

It is time.

Do Republicans realize that?

I think not.

But I have nothing to say tonight....

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Moon is full and the birds are back

 The moon is wondrous tonight. Bright and round in the sky.

When I took Brigit out for her last pee, she looked at the moon for a long moment.

The moon is like that.

I used to fear a full moon when I was Rector of St. John's in Waterbury. The term "lunatic" is not wrong.

Every full moon the people who came to the soup kitchen were on edge and sometimes a fight would break out, though Barbara handled that with no need for help.

But it is beautiful. I love it.

And birds are back. We've had crows for a month, but now there are robins and sparrows, the occasional blue jay and a cardinal or two plus some lovely little bluish birds I need to find in my bird book.

At one point today there were a dozen birds of different kinds in our back yard, pecking at the ground and taking turns at our bird bath.

Birds give lightness and joy to my heart.

I love the birds. Even the crows and the occasional hawk high above.

Birds and the moon, what could be better as a source of wonder?

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Uncle Russel's Rocker

At Easter, one of our long-time friends asked, "where's Russel's rocker?"

After my mother died and Uncle Russel's wife died, Russel moved into his brother's (my father's house) in Princeton, West Virginia.

Russel brought some furniture with him, including his rocking chair.

When I moved my Dad to CT, I brought some of Russel's furniture, including the rocker.

It was in our house for over 20 years in Cheshire.

My Dad and Russel were watching TV one night and my Dad said, "Russel, I'm going to bed."

Russel answered, sitting in his rocker, "I'm going to watch the 11 o'clock news, good night."

The next morning, my Dad got up to find Russel dead in his rocker.

Yet another reason not to watch the11 o'clock news.

Anyway, we had it for decades, first in New Haven and then in Cheshire.

But a few years ago, in one of her 'downsize' moments we put it out on the street and someone took it.

They don't know they're sitting in a rocker where someone died watching the news. 

We always knew.

Whenever I sat in it I remembered Russel and Sidney and Del and my Dad--all the Bradley brothers.

It was odd, but comforting.

I miss it.

Just as our Easter guest did.



Too deeply divided

In my 7 decades as an American, I've never lived in such a deeply divided nation before.

It astonishes and terrifies me.

Not only voting rights bills in Republican states, but bills that in essence take away the Constitution's right to peacefully assemble--calling 'protests', riots.

I have a sticker on my car--the statue of liberty, not holding a light but with her fist closed and raised. It says, "Dissent is democratic".

And I believe that.

Now tell me, if you can, if you don't see racial issues in both the voting rights and right to assemble bills being passed in Republican states?

I didn't think so.

The beat goes on.

Still, nearly half of Republicans polled think the election was stolen!

Still, over half of Republicans don't want the Covid-19 vaccine!

Proud Boys, Q-anon, Oath Takers and other far right groups continue to mess around in our society.

M. T. Green wants to debate 'the Green New Deal' with A.O.C. as soon as she finishes reading the oh-so-long 14 page bill.

Tell me, if you can, when, since the Civil War, we were so divided as a nation?

I didn't think so.

The beat goes on.

Beware, beloved, we are so divided among ourselves....


Saturday, April 24, 2021


(This may seem strange, an Advent Sermon from 2008 in late, cruel April, 2021. But 'waiting' is important to us right now. Vaccines are being given every day--but we're nowhere near 'herd immunity' needed to go back to normal. We need to be patient and to 'wait'. Wear your masks. Encourage all you no to get the vaccine. Take care unless everyone you are around have been fully vaccinated--and even then, stay safe. People all over the country are longing to be back to whatever 'normal' will be. But it's not time yet. "Waiting" can teach us patience and contemplation and open us to new possibilities. "Wait" my dear readers, do not go forward too soon.)



I was going to do some nonsense like saying ‘wait a minute’ and going into the vesting room and then the back of the church and then around the yard. And then come back and say to you “How was that for you? Isn’t it a pain to be kept waiting?” But then I realized all that business would have either worried you or made you question my sanity—which maybe you should…

          But it’s true, none of us like to “wait”. It’s the worst thing in the world.

          Doctors’ offices, public offices, the grocery store, even ‘drive through’ lanes—we all hate to wait.

          I was one of those people who didn’t get a letter about my license plate expiring so I was pulled over and had to go to Motor Vehicles in Hamden to get new license plates. Talk about waiting! The only thing, I believe, that kept there from being a riot is people were all looking at the phones as we moved up a step or two at a time. I, myself, was reading a book I’d brought.

          We hate to wait.

          Yet…Yet…Isaiah tells us in today’s lesson “…no eye has seen any God besides you, who works for those who WAIT on God…”

          And the season of the year that begins today—ADVENT—calls us to “wait” …to “wait upon the Lord” ….to have patience and focus and concentration and to WAIT, to WAIT….

          During the Thanksgiving holiday, I spent most of four days with four granddaughters—Emma and Morgan who are 11, Tegan, who is 8, and 16- month-old Eleanor. “Wait” is not a word that Eleanor understands.

          She reminded me of a poster I used to have in my office in the first parish I served as a priest. The poster said: GOD GIVE ME PATIENCE…RIGHT NOW!!!

          We are not much different from Eleanor….We don’t know the meaning of the word “WAIT”.

          I can do the little things this time of year. I saw people driving by our house on Friday with Christmas trees tied to the roofs of their cars. We avoid putting up our Christmas trees until it is a little closer to the actual day—though they may be out on our front porch for a while. But we don’t decorate them until the week before Christmas—we “wait” for a while.

          And we, as a church, avoid singing Christmas Carols during the Advent services. We “wait” until Christmas is actually here.

          But those are minor things—little waitings…. Besides there are Christmas decorations everywhere and carols all around us. I’m even humming “O Holy Night” in my head right now….


          Yet we are called to “wait”—to wait and watch and listen. “Waiting” is not a passive activity…it is full of focus and attentiveness and ‘watching’.

          “Waiting” is only boring and painful if we see it as something ‘passive’.

          “Waiting” is full of action.

          Back where I grew up, in the narrow valleys of the West Virginia mountains, there were signs beside every railroad crossing. The coal from where I grew up, went to Pittsburgh to make steel and to Roanoke to make electricity. And it got to those places by the railroads.

          So, there were lots of railroad crossings on the narrow, two lane roads. And there were lots of signs to remind us of three things: STOP, LOOK and LISTEN.

          The signs were in the shape of an X. They were always white with black letters that said: STOP, LOOK and LISTEN.

          The mountains were so high and the valleys so narrow, that often simply stopping and looking wasn’t enough. You had to ‘listen’ for the train coming.

          Advent is like that. We are called to “wait”—and to stop, look and listen. The mountains of life are so high and the valleys so narrow, that it isn’t enough to simply ‘stop and look’. We must listen as well.


          “Waiting” is an important, profound and vital way to live. We must ‘wait’ for the moment—the right time, the opportunity, the revelation, the truth and wonder. We can’t hurry it along. We must learn the difficult lesson of patience. We must wait—ready, expectant, awake—for the Moment to come.

          It is God we wait for, after all. And God will come in God’s own time.

          But when God comes, we must be ready and awake and eager to welcome what is Holy, what is Wondrous, what is True. God ‘WILL COME’. Believe that as if your life depended on it—because, in a real way, it does….

          Wait a moment!


          Just like that.




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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.