Saturday, July 31, 2021

Nothing to write

 Today was the last day of July. It was in the high 60's and low 70's and breezy. More like April or May than the last day of July.

(That was all I had to say until I got the newsletter of St. Paul's/St. James in New Haven, the parish I served when if was still St. Paul's. The priest there now is Harlan Dalton, who was a member when I was there. He was a professor at Yale Law School but decided to become a priest. Today he was having the same problem I have--nothing to say....Until he created this. I wanted to share it with you.)

July 31, 2021

Dear Friends, 

About 40 minutes ago I said to Jill “I haven’t written my weekly parish letter yet.” She said, “I figured. You should probably get started,” to which I replied “I go nothing.” Jill then said, “Why don’t you just share a poem. Also, I think it would be good for you to acknowledge that you are feeling a bit run down.  They will understand.”

I almost always take Jill’s advice (I am no dummy), so I opened the Kindle app on my tablet and began to scroll through my library. Almost immediately my eyes landed on a volume of poetry that I don’t recall ever actually reading. I must have downloaded it a while ago, along with some other books, and figured I would get back to it later.  

I opened the volume, The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog by Alicia Suskin Ostriker, and for the past half hour have been utterly transported. I am still run down, of course, but I am grinning from ear to ear, which is never a bad thing. 

The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog begins with an epigram from Gertrude Stein. “A very important thing is not to make up your mind that you are any one thing.” Then comes the Table of Contents, a list of 40 some odd short poems, each featuring an elderly female, a flower associated with The Netherlands, and a canine. Here are a few of them, each followed by a one sentence blessing from yours truly.

“The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog”

To be blessed
said the old woman
is to live and work
so hard
God’s love
Washes right through you
Like milk through a cow

To be blessed
said the dark red tulip
is to knock their eyes out
with the slug of lust
implied by
your up-ended

To be blessed
said the dog
is to have a pinch
of God
inside you
and all the other dogs
can smell it

May you have a pinch of God inside you.
(You do, I promise you, have a pinch of God....Shalom, Jim and thanks, Harlan!)

Friday, July 30, 2021

My sermon for August 1

If you go to Trinity, Milton, don't read this!!!

August 1

          If you were here last week, you heard the first part of the story of David and Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite.

          David sees Bathsheba bathing on her roof top—but his is higher—and he is enamored of her. He invites her to his bed and she becomes pregnant.

        (Tip here--watch where you bathe.)

          Problem was, she was Uriah’s wife.

          Then David tells Joab, his general is the war with the Ammonites, to put Uriah on the front line and fall back so he will be killed.

          And as we learn in today’s reading, Uriah was Killed—by the Ammonites…and David….

          That reading last week began with these words: “In the Spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle.”

          Spring, each year, brings me many thoughts—but ‘going to war’ is not one of them.

          Today I want to talk about conflict and ‘The Other’ and what Jesus tells us about all that.


          In David’s time, the Middle East was in nearly constant conflict. And the conflict was always against ‘the Other’—someone different ethnically or in language or racially different from you.

The Hittites were ‘other’ from the Jews. There Kingdom was what is now Turkey. But war and conflict make for strange bedfellows. The Hittites hated the Ammonites more than they hated the Jews.

Remember, Russia, now our adversary, was our Allies in World War II against the Germans and Japan, both of which are now our friends!

But conflict always involves “us” against the “other”.

Our own Civil war was between Free States and the ‘Other’—the Slave States.

For the Slave States, it was ‘us’ against the ‘other’—the Free States.

Conflict is always ‘us’ against the ‘other’.


After he married Bathsheba and she gave him a son, King David was visited by the Prophet Nathan, sent by God.

(Just a hint—when it comes to the Hebrew Scriptures that a King is confronted by a Prophet—place your bet on the Prophet….)

Nathan tells David a story about a very wealthy man who has many flocks, who when an unexpected visitor comes, steals the only ewe lamb the only possession and ‘like a daughter’ to a poor man to serve his visitor.

          David is enraged. “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die…because he had no pity.”

          Then Nathan drops the bomb: “YOU ARE THE MAN!”

          Then God tells David that he was chosen to be the King over God’s people and you have betrayed me by killing Uriah in secret and I will take all from you and do it in public.

          Pretty dramatic.

          But at least David has the humility and guilt to say to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.”


          Who have been “the Other” in our country?

          I’ll tell you, though it gives me pain, our ‘other’ have been people of color.

          Our great nation was founded on two things—and incredible document called the Constitution and the evil of slavery.

          In that remarkable Constitution, slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person in the census.

          The OTHER.

          Our Presiding Bishop and our Bishops have called the churches of the Episcopal Church to be in conversation about “Racial Healing, Justice and Reconciliation”.

          Your Vestry and I, in the near future, will be inviting you into conversation about healing and justice and reconciliation. Those conversations will not be shaming us—they will be calling us to be disciples of Jesus. They will be calling us to look clearly at the history of our nation and to do what we can do to find healing and justice and reconciliation.

          Remember this: Jesus had a very different view of ‘the Other’ than history has had.

          Jesus said, “welcome the stranger.”

          Jesus said, “love your enemy.”

          Jesus said, “let the poor come unto me.”

          Jesus said, “love your neighbor as yourself”, no matter if your neighbor is ‘the Other’.

          In today’s Gospel, Jesus is talking to those he fed in the wilderness about ‘bread’.

          His questioners see bread as something to eat.

          Jesus sees bread as something to ‘do’ and embrace.

          “I am the bread of life”, he tells them

          To receive that eternal bread we must follow him—welcome the stranger, love our enemies, love ‘the other’ in our midst. He calls on us to reflect on all of that and trust in him.

          Not much to ask, really, for eternal bread….Amen and Shalom.

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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.