Marriage Equality

On Tuesday, April 28th, the United States Supreme Court will be hearing oral arguments in the four marriage equality cases that the court has selected to consider. ( Which are being referred to overall as Obergefell v. Hodges )

Obergefell v. Hodges
Tanco v. Haslam
DeBoer v. Snyder
Bourke v. Beshear

One of the things that most worries me about the United States Supreme Court, and most of our courts at all state and federal levels these days is the lack of mercy, their lack of a sense of the spirit of the law, in their very formal parsing of the letter of the law. In many cases, Judges seem to have forgotten that they are there to apply their human judgement in reaching their decisions. To make some allowances for human frailty. To weigh extenuating circumstances. These all too human foibles don’t seem to find much bearing before our courts these days; unless the person being judged is a representative of the law, or the government itself.

In second Corinthians chapter 3 verses 5-6 :

Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The letter of of the law – which kills.
The spirit of the law – which gives life.

This past Sunday, I heard about a call to pray, that the Supreme Court would make a wise decision in these cases of Marriage Equality that they will be arguing this week. ( Link is in the image below )

call_for_prayer

The Supreme Court certainly needs our prayers.

May Day – The Real Labor Day

Doug McMillon
President and Chief Executive Officer of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
702 SW 8th Street
Bentonville, Arkansas 72716-8611
Michael Dean Andres
President, McDonald’s USA, LLC
One McDonald’s Plaza
Oak Brook, Illinois 60523

Gentlemen,

First of all, I’d like to wish the two of you; Happy International Workers Day, or May Day. The real labor holiday, not to be confused with the officially sanctioned Labor day conceived by the oppressors of workers ( You know who you are! ) celebrated in September.

In the Fall of 2013, I wrote to your predecessors; pleading with them to raise the minimum wage paid to the employees of your respective companies.

Previous Letter to Jeff Stratton – October 11, 2013
Previous Letter to William S. Simon – November 18, 2013

In this letter, I was going to congratulate both Jeff Stratton, and William S. Simon on the recent announcements of slight pay increases to their workers. It is not much, but better than nothing. ( Especially, after that diatribe that Jeff Stratton delivered to the McDonald’s employee Nancy Salgado when she confronted him about her poor pay and got arrested for her trouble. )

I hope that the two of you are not superstitious. I wrote to exactly two corporate presidents in the last year and a half, and both of those presidents were replaced. I hope that you will both be able to stick around long enough to see your respective wage increases completely implemented. Goodness knows the American worker has been suffering from the collective abuse of American management like yourselves for over 50 years. For my entire working life – I graduated from High School in 1981 – wages overall for most Americans, other than high flyers such as yourselves, have failed to keep up with even base inflation, while the productivity of the American worker and your profits have soared.

I urge you both to share the tremendous wealth that the corporations you manage generate, with your own workers; the people who actually create that wealth. Day in and day out, your employees toil to earn you the millions of dollars of compensation you will eventually earn when your stock options mature. ( Doug McMillon should change his name to McMillions – as he will eventually earn $25 million just for 2014! ) Both of you and I know that Doug McMillon does not contribute 961 times the value of the typical employee earning $26,000* / year (gross – with the new raise) to the Wal-Mart company. Perhaps you could establish a multiplier of 300 or so between the lowest wage to your compensation. Perhaps Doug McMillon could get by on $7.8 million a year**.

The push for a $15 / hour minimum wage is not going away. You can try to buy off your workers with something less. If we have another recession, fear of losing their jobs will force your workers to accept less for a time. But eventually your workers will find some tactic for getting what is rightfully theirs. Don’t force them to take it from you.

* $13/hr x 2000 hr/year = $26,000 ( assuming 40 hr weeks -> 50 weeks/year x 40 hr/week = 2000 hr/year )
** $26,000/year x 300  = $7,800,000

wage_1A

wage_1B

wage_2 wage_3 wage_4

The Secret – full text

Now that my Kindle Direct Publishing agreement has expired with Amazon – the full text of my very short story….

The Secret

A Stellar Diaspora Short Story

Henry had never considered himself any different than the other kids. He had been just another boy among many. Not the strongest or the swiftest, but certainly never chosen last in games either. Not the smartest or particularly bookish but always ready in class with an answer and with an unusually keen interest in history–spending months researching some particular period or the development of some philosophy of thought or some technological praxis used by the ancients.

But as Henry’s friends had matured, and his class entered tertiary schooling where everyone settled on their first career specialization and mastered the necessary skills required to live in modern society; he stood out from the others. He simply could not pass his travelling test. The one really necessary skill in modern society. The only way to travel the distances required for modern life. The skill without which he would be forever isolated to his birth community.

He knew his parents had hoped to move on with their lives. It was common these days for people to live many roles in the course of a lifetime. Some stayed with the same partner, and simply switched careers. Others might change bodies, sexes, careers, communities–breaking completely with their former lives. Henry’s mother was one of these people. She longed to move on, but could not, until Henry passed this test and became a fully fledged member of society.

Henry had mastered all the necessary skills. He had easily passed the written test. He could travel with other people present with him, but when he was alone he could not; in fact, he had very nearly been killed in his last attempt. The experience had scared Henry so much he didn’t know if he could even make another solo attempt. He had even stopped travelling with others entirely, isolating himself further. His mother was now avoiding him, and he seldom even saw her now. Henry’s father reacted quite differently, spending even more time with Henry than he had before. It was almost as if Henry’s father had resigned himself to the care and support of Henry, as a parent must with a developmentally challenged child.

One afternoon Henry had a visitor.

“May I talk with you, young man?”, said the man, who had approached Henry in the field behind the family house.

The man was of indeterminate age, he would look to us as if he were in his late 20’s or early 30’s. For a modern man he could actually be any age from teens to many 10’s of thousands of years old. It is customary to use usages like ‘young man’ or ‘young lady’ this eon when the elder knew that there was at least several thousand years difference in ages.

“Of course, I would enjoy the company”, said Henry.

“My name is Gregor, your father asked me to talk with you”, the man said. He continued, “I’m a specialist in certain developmental cases like your own where a young person has difficulties in learning to travel. Your case is nearly unique in my experience, in that you don’t have any difficulties with the skills necessary for travelling–only the performance of the act when you are alone.”

“I’ve talked with most of the psych-engineers in the community, and I’ve never even heard of you”, said Henry, “What can you do for me? My fear is real, and my fear cannot be treated with any of the techniques currently available.” Henry related this without much emotion, but the look on his face showed his desperation.

Gregor smiled. “I’ve travelled from very far away to be here, Henry. From the opposite side of this galaxy. I had to learn the language spoken here. It had drifted quite a bit from the Standard I was used to speaking. I’m still having some problems with some of the idioms. I believe I might at least bring a different perspective to your problem, would you let me try?”

Henry had never spoken to anyone from so far away. The journey Gregor described would make him objectively older than anyone in the community. Perhaps anyone in this entire galaxy. Standard, the language that the human race had adopted after leaving Earth, changed so gradually; he had never heard of any modern human who had had to learn a different spoken language to speak to other humans. Gregor seemed to him to be like one of the ancients, when all people had lived on the Earth with their different languages so long ago.

Gregor continued, “Tomorrow, let’s meet in my office, and we’ll see if we can work on your travelling problem.” And with that, he shook hands with Henry, and walked away.

Henry immediately started running datastore queries about average journeys between star system communities, clusters, and intra and inter galactic journeys. People simply did not travel the longer distances often, even though they travelled at the speed of light so that subjectively any trip took no time at all to them. It was far more likely for people to hop from star to star in the same area of their local galaxy, perhaps traversing a single galaxy or the local group from end to end over the long lifetimes that modern humans enjoyed these days. Tomorrow could not come soon enough.

###

Gregor had carefully listened to everything Henry had told him about his fear of travelling. They had been meeting every day, for several hours each day. Gregor said little, allowing Henry to talk, only slightly guiding their conversations. When they came to some natural stopping place, they parted, setting a time for the next meeting. They met in different places, sometimes in parks, sometimes in Gegor’s office, sometimes over chiga in a cafe. Henry had run out of any new insights to his problem after a couple of weeks. They continued to meet and talk. Gregor now spoke more about his experiences. For a human, he was quite old. He had seen much, and was a good storyteller. He asked Henry about his historical research and it seemed that ancient history was also one of his many interests. Henry gathered that Gregor had been a historian in the past, perhaps 5 or 6 careers in the past.

Henry talked at great length, over the course of several weeks of meetings, about some of the research he had done about the curious superstitions of the ancients. Their organized appreciation of the infinite. Something that modern humans now pursued as their most personal, private activity. Everyone, was now encouraged to develop their personal philosophy with the help of a spiritual adviser. It was rare for anyone to even refer to their personal beliefs except with their closest friends. To actually meet on a regular basis with a large group of people to experience awe of creation together was one of the strangest practices of the ancients.

The very word for this practice ‘religion’ did not currently exist in Standard. Some modern humans didn’t even believe the historical accounts of these practices, it was just too alien to modern thought. Henry had contributed to the research on these practices. His insights into this area had become well known as he had published several papers to the peer-reviewed datastore shared between human communities. Henry had developed a rare insight into these ancient religious practices and theological thought.

Henry was very surprised when Gregor abruptly cancelled their next meeting. They had been meeting for several months, and he had gotten used to the routine. It had also allowed him to partially forget why they were meeting and his problem.

A week went by, then a second week. Finally, Henry received a message from Gregor to meet at his office.

“I know why you are having trouble with travelling”, Gregor proclaimed on seeing Henry. “Please sit down, I also think that we might be able to solve your problem.”

“Your problem involves the state change we undergo when we travel. Thousands of years ago we humans learned that thought is equivalent to energy and matter. Even the ancients knew that energy and matter were equivalent, but only modern humans can control-ably transform themselves into pure energy; photons, so that using the inherent speed of that form, we may travel to where ever we need to go, and re-embody ourselves on arrival”, said Gregor.

“I know all this already!”, said Henry, jumping to his feet. “And I can transform myself as long as someone transforms with me! But, when I am alone, I lose my sense of myself; if my father had not been nearby on my last solo test, transforming himself and monitoring me, the energy of my body might have destroyed the departure area of this world. I cannot take the chance with travelling if that might happen again.”

Gregor asked Henry to sit down again, made chiga for both of them and continued, “Why do you lose that sense of yourself when you transform?”

Henry replied, “I don’t know.”

Gregor gently disagreed, “I think that you do, it is because you believe in the ancient belief of the existence of the soul.”

Henry was speechless. It was an incredible breach of manners to suddenly start talking about another’s personal beliefs, but he also realized the truth of what Gregor had said. He did believe in the soul. He believed that if he totally converted to energy, his soul might be lost in the process. It was only when there was someone else with him, helping in his conversion, perhaps even mediating his conversion that he did not panic.

Gregor stopped their session and scheduled one for the next day. “You’ve had quite a shock today. I have some ideas for a solution. But, I need you to have meditated on the truths we’ve talked about today. Then with clear minds we’ll be able to explore solutions.”

###

When next they met, Gregor started the conversation. “Your problem is that from your extensive research, you have successfully recaptured part of the mindset of the ancients. Belief can have powerful effects on Thought. Especially when you are manipulating the equivalent energy of the mass of a human body. I believe, that the solution to your crisis of belief is another belief of the ancients. The concept of God.”

“The supreme Being and Creator?”, exclaimed Henry, “How can that help me? I’ve already stranded myself to my birth community by my belief in my soul.”

“I’ve prepared a course of study which will show you what I’ve discovered about the ancients’ philosophical systems. It is really quite profound what they were able to accomplish mentally with almost no understanding of how mind, thought, time, energy, and matter really interact”, explained Gregor, “It would be best if you could arrive at these conclusions yourself, once you’ve studied this material. When you are ready, let me know and we’ll meet then.”

It was interesting material. Drawn from several of the ancient philosophical/religious systems. The idea of the supreme Being, Creator, and first Observer. And then it dawned on Henry what Gregor had seen in these beliefs. If he believed in this God being, his soul would always have that external observer – as when he travelled with others. And the most surprising thing to him was that even with all the advances in the sciences of mind and matter–these beliefs of the ancients could still very well be true!

Meeting with Gregor, Henry related his findings and then while they were conversing, he had another revelation! He suddenly said, “Gregor! You share this belief, don’t you? This belief in the Creator, the first Observer.”

Gregor with a twinkle in his eye and the satisfied air of the teacher who has a precocious student, laughed with Henry and said, “Now Henry, I am really shocked you would question me on my personal beliefs”, Gregor continued, “I think it’s time you attempted your solo test again. No need to tempt fate too much–but it is my judgement that you should travel to somewhere you’ve been many times, somewhere you know well, like the adjoining planet in this community; as soon as possible. Both I and your father can monitor on each side of space, but I know that you are now ready to travel.”

Henry was ready. He successfully travelled to the adjoining planet. With the assurance that the God of his ancestors was observing and caring for his soul, even as he transformed his body. He now had no problem moving his body between the far flung stars.

I am a sinner

My sermon for the 2nd Sunday in Easter, given 12 April 2015.

(The lessons for April 12 are at the bottom of this message)

Listen to this sermon

Imagine those early days in that first Christian community in Jerusalem.
It must have been an amazing time.

To those first Christians, the people who had followed Jesus during his ministry,
who had witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection,
who had seen Jesus sudden appearances in closed rooms, and finally His ascension into the sky.
Those first Christians knew that they were participating in something extraordinary!
A new start for the human race. God had directly intervened in human affairs, sending his Son to live and die as one of us!

We see something of the divine grace of that time in our lesson from the Acts of the Apostles.

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.

It is almost as if this group of Christians lived, at least for a brief time, as we were originally meant to live; before the fall of mankind: in communion with each other and with the spirit of God.

What would it have been like to live in those times?

To hear those first sermons of Simon Peter, especially the one at the first Pentecost, as he started to understand what Jesus the Christ had been teaching all along.
Witnessing the start of the Christian ministries of the original eleven disciples plus replacement disciple Matthias.
The calling of the first seven deacons to provide pastoral care to the community of Christ. And all those women’s names included in the believers that Paul gives greetings to; in Romans 16. This new religion, Christianity, at least at the start, had all these women leaders; not just as wives, or daughters, or mothers, but as leaders of this new Faith.

Those early days of Christianity were also a time of violence and strife.

Christianity was in the beginning, a radical branch of Judaism. The established church leaders had put Jesus to death, because he challenged their authority with this new teaching. Now that Jesus was no longer around, his very annoying followers kept saying that he had risen from the grave, that he was the Son of God. Many of those first Christians were put to death, the rest were scattered, but from that diaspora; Christianity was spread throughout the world and has continued to spread.

(Pause)

So what is it about the Good News of Jesus Christ: why is it still relevant to us today?

From our lesson from the first chapter of First John,

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

Sometimes, we make mistakes.
Sometimes, we deliberately hurt others.
We lie, we cheat, we stand by while others are being hurt; we sin.

Again from First John.

If we say that we have not sinned, we make him [that is Jesus] a liar, and [Jesus’] word is not in us.

In August of 2013, Father Antonio Spadaro interviewed Pope Francis for America magazine. His first question to his Holiness was: Who Is Jorge Mario Bergoglio? Jorge Mario Bergoglio is Pope Francis’ given name, back when he was just a regular guy in Argentina.

Pope Francis’ answer was, “I am a sinner.”

Pope Francis’ answer was short and simple, and in this interview he made it very clear that he was not speaking in a metaphor or in some theological allusion: his answer was just a simple statement of fact.

I am a sinner.

This one thing; we all have in common.
This one thing; causes us all to lie, and hurt each other and to even lie to ourselves about why we do the evil that we do.
This one thing; causes all of our other problems here on this good Earth.

I am a sinner.

Everyone, every single person who has ever lived has sinned; just like me.

Everyone, except Jesus Christ, who brought the Good News from God the Father to us; that although we all have this flaw that causes us to sin, we can be better people. That the cycle of sin; this endless and win-less cycle of eye for eye and tooth for tooth until everyone is blind and toothless can be broken.

And all we have to do, is believe in Jesus Christ; to accept God’s forgiveness for ourselves, and to follow his revolutionary idea of loving everyone at least as much as we love ourselves.
Because when we love each other, when we recognize the good, the divine in every other person, even while they are doing evil to us; we transform the world.

When we forgive each others’ faults and wrongs as we ourselves are forgiven; we end that vicious cycle of retribution and revenge.

As Christians, we have to control our ego; that grasping, selfish part of ourselves, best described as: “Me, Me, Me; Mine, Mine, Mine”.
In practicing humility, our ego shrinks to a manageable size, we become better able;
to be insulted, and not reply in kind,
to suffer hurt, and respond with kindness,
to have the courage to speak out and support what is true and just,
to lay down the burden of our resentments over what we feel we are owed by others,
to not expect gratitude for the good that we do for others.

It is hard work, to humble oneself, to put others first, to keep nothing for ourselves.
It is an impossible thing to expect of anyone; yet it is the only way to bring about God’s kingdom on earth.

Fortunately, we are not alone.
We have help. God is always listening, hoping that we will just ask for guidance and help.
God is also always speaking to us, if we can quiet our egos – our internal dialog of – Me,Me,Me – to hear that quiet, clear voice of the Holy Spirit.
We also have our church family. Our church should be a community, like our family; where we are loved, and accepted in spite of our faults, and our sins.
The church is the original support group; supporting us in our struggle to free ourselves from our bondage to sin.

It is in our church family that we practice this love of everyone.
It is in our church family that we realize both the difficulties and the rewards of living in Christian community.
It is in our church family that we experience the possibility of God’s kingdom on earth.

Like that first Christian community; can we be a group of believers of one heart and soul, who with great power testify to the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ?

(pause)

I believe that we can.

 

Acts 4:32-35

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

1 John 1:1-2:2

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us– we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.