Unacceptable

Representative David B. McKinley,

My name is Doug Mitchell, I moved to Parkersburg, WV from Des Plaines, IL in January of this year. I design and maintain computing environments; in my current job I am the operations manager (and systems designer) of a web based commodities trading platform.

I noticed in your recent email newsletter:

All across America, working families have been facing soaring premiums, skyrocketing deductibles, and limited choices because of Obamacare. I have listened to constituents and stakeholders who have raised concerns about the current healthcare system and one thing has been made perfectly clear: it’s collapsing. Families are not getting the care they need because they can’t afford the costs. Obamacare has become a train wreck and doing nothing for these working families is completely unacceptable.

On Thursday the House took an important step towards keeping our promise to reform healthcare. Now, as the legislative process continues, the Senate has the opportunity to review and modify the bill accordingly. Most assuredly, the final bill will be a compromise between the House and Senate versions. Everyone deserves access to affordable, quality healthcare coverage and that is exactly what we are trying to deliver.

What is unacceptable is this statement of yours. Anyone of your age that was around before the ACA (ObamaCare) was passed knows that healthcare in our United States has been a train wreck for at least the the last 30 years. The ACA has not been all that good, but at least it forced all the insurance plans to cover the basics. So what did the Medical Insurance companies do? They attacked the plan these selfsame Insurance companies wrote (single payer was never considered for the ACA). The Medical Insurance companies took a couple of years off in raising rates, then changed all the plans, even private employer plans. Raising rates, eliminating (or charging extra for) any coverage not expressly mandated by the ACA. The real flaw of the ACA was that it did not take into account the greed of the Medical Insurance companies or the mendacity and cruelty of Republican party officials – particularly on the state level. Such hate that the people of your party have for the American people: the poor, the infirm, anyone who has not been financially successful.

And now this abomination of a ‘heath care plan’ the AHCA you voted for last week. What could be better than depriving the American people of a lousy opportunity to buy somewhat affordable and standard health care insurance? Only the chance to also give the wealthy a tax cut. Robbing from the poor to give to the rich. Just like the ‘reforms’ in increasing social security payments while simultaneously lowering top marginal tax rates during the Reagan/Greenspan years, or the Reagan lie of trickle down economics. As an engineer, you should know by now that giving more money to wealthy people only makes the wealthy more wealthy. The government services that are cut to balance the books just make the poor more desperate. We have been doing this repeatedly for the past 30 years with disastrous results. (Like the meltdown in Kansas) Yet your party with the help of the compliant members of the Democratic party have not learned that cutting taxes will not result in more money collected. Cutting programs to help people get off their knees, does not make them more independent. It only makes them lose hope, it encourages a feeling of powerlessness, it causes them to give up.

I applaud your advocacy for coal miner pensions and health care. (My grandfather was a coal miner in Pennsylvania.)

But what about the rest of us in West Virginia and our United States?

Don’t we deserve health care too?

Why can every other wealthy (and some poor, like Cuba) country on earth afford healthcare for everyone but not our United States?

Doug Mitchell
USN – VAW 117 – 1981 – 1985
BSEE – University of Akron – class of 1991
Lay Chaplain – Bishop Anderson House Chicago – 2016
International Electronics and Electrical Engineers
Association for Computing Machinery

last_1 last_2 last_1 last_2

The Old Country

I have moved to the old country.
The land of my sires: a hard land;
poor in wealth and rich in spirit.
We find God in each other here.

For generations, my fathers delved under ground.
In Devon for tin, in Penn’s wood for coal,
finding only endless toil and death.
I am heir to their pain and strength.

Is my work all that different?
I want to think so.
Yet have I not sold my life, day by day,
working with little delight for mere pay?

Only when I am not on the job,
can I labor on what is significant.
The toys that bring me such joy,
the expression of things not seen.

Striving to find the balance.
My daytime work provides food and shelter.
Moonlighting as mystic, seer, and maker;
reflecting my truths in both realms.

I have moved to the old country.
The land of my sires: a hard land;
poor in wealth and rich in spirit.
We find God in each other here.

Life and Death

I was privileged to preach at my church last Sunday.

The readings for this sermon are at the bottom of the post.

Listen to it here.

Life and death.

Everything we have, we will eventually lose.
Everyone we know will some day pass away.
It is no wonder that we fear death.
And yet, we who believe in God the Father,
we believe that every ending is also a beginning.
We believe in the promise of life everlasting.

In our reading from the prophecy given to Ezekiel, we are presented with a dramatic vision of a valley of the dead. The people of this valley are not just dead, but their remains are just dry bones scattered upon the ground. It is like the opening scene of a horror movie.
The Spirit of the Lord speaking to Ezekiel is never physically described, but He seems:
Implacable.
Foreboding.
Inhuman.

The Lord addresses Ezekiel not by his name – but as Mortal.
I believe the Lord addresses us as ‘Mortal’ in this prophecy on purpose, as part of His message.
I believe, the Lord does this to remind us that we are just like these dead people in the valley.
The Lord is revealing to us the truth about death.

The Lord God gives Ezekiel a prophecy, which he repeats in the valley of death.
The Spirit of God enters Ezekiel, and that breath of the Spirit is carried by the four winds.
The Spirit enters into the bodies that God has restored from the dry bones.
The bones in that valley are transformed back into living, breathing people.
God is showing us that as the Creator, not only can He create life, but He can restore life after death.
Death has no dominion over the Lord God.

In our liturgical year, we are getting close to both the end of Lent and the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth.
Jesus will soon be arrested and put to death only to rise again in our celebration of Easter.

Most Christians believe, that Jesus knew all these events were going to happen.
Jesus knew he was going to die,
Jesus knew the effect his death would have on his followers, and most of all I believe he was worried about his friends; the apostles.
In our lesson from the gospel of John, it is made very clear that Jesus purposely manages events to demonstrate God’s power and authority over life and death.
Jesus is giving a performance, our gospel lesson today is the original Christian mystery play: Jesus wants to prepare his followers for his death and resurrection.

From our gospel reading:
Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.”

Mary, Martha, and Lazarus seem to have been Jesus’ adopted family in the Jerusalem area. Jesus stayed with Martha, Mary and Lazarus when he was in town. So it is strange that Jesus does not go to see Lazarus when he gets this message. Instead
when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

So Jesus stayed where he was teaching for two more days and Lazarus dies. Jesus purposely stays away even though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.

Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.”

This is the mystical Jesus from the gospel of John. Jesus is telling his disciples they should be paying attention while Jesus is with them because he, Jesus is the light of this world. Soon,  he will not be with them, and they will be stumbling around in the dark. The disciples don’t get it. So Jesus tries a different approach.

“Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep.

Jesus is equating sleep to death. Letting us know that we who believe in God the Father do not need to fear death as we naturally do not fear sleep. But the disciples still don’t get it. So Jesus then speaks plainly.

Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

The disciples are really stuck on the current political situation. The religious authorities are out to get Jesus and they are afraid that if Jesus is arrested and killed, they will share the same fate. But they are faithful and even though they do not understand, the disciples go with Jesus to Bethany. When they arrive, Lazarus has been dead for four days, and Martha comes out to meet Jesus,

“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”

Martha often times is used as a bad example. I think of Martha as Mary and Lazarus’ older sister, the responsible one. She is the one who rushes about the house cleaning and cooking when Jesus visits her family while her sister Mary sits at Jesus’ feet. Yet, when Jesus finally arrives,
Martha is the first to come out to meet him.
Martha names Jesus as the Son of God, the Messiah.

Jesus visits with both Mary and Martha, and their friends. Jesus is deeply moved and shares with them their grief for Lazarus. They lead Jesus to the tomb of Lazarus. and Jesus is weeping as they arrive at the tomb. Jesus is the Son of God, but he is also a man. Jesus has all the emotions and fears that we all have. Especially, here before the tomb of his friend Lazarus, much like the tomb where his own body will soon be placed.

Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

It is interesting that even after Martha names Jesus as the Son of God, she still argues with Jesus about removing the stone from her bother’s tomb. “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus has to remind her of why he is here, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone.

Jesus then prays aloud – it is his final scene in this performance. Demonstrating the power of God over death.

“Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Just as in the prophesy given to Ezekiel, God demonstrates total and complete mastery over life and death.
Jesus has also through the death and resurrection of Lazarus, prepared his followers, for his death and resurrection.

I’d like to close with the following passage from the eighth chapter of Romans.

It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes,
who was raised,
who is at the right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ezekiel 37:1-14

The hand of the Lord came upon me, and he brought me out by the spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me all around them; there were very many lying in the valley, and they were very dry. He said to me, “Mortal, can these bones live?” I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones, and say to them: O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
So I prophesied as I had been commanded; and as I prophesied, suddenly there was a noise, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them; but there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, mortal, and say to the breath: Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood on their feet, a vast multitude.
Then he said to me, “Mortal, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: I am going to open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you back to the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and bring you up from your graves, O my people. I will put my spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you on your own soil; then you shall know that I, the Lord, have spoken and will act,” says the Lord.

Romans 8:6-11

To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law– indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.

John 11:1-45

Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair; her brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent a message to Jesus, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” But when Jesus heard it, he said, “This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Accordingly, though Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus, after having heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was.
Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now trying to stone you, and are you going there again?” Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Those who walk during the day do not stumble, because they see the light of this world. But those who walk at night stumble, because the light is not in them.” After saying this, he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to awaken him.” The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will be all right.” Jesus, however, had been speaking about his death, but they thought that he was referring merely to sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. For your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” Thomas, who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”
When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, some two miles away, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them about their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary stayed at home. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask of him.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
When she had said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, and told her privately, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” And when she heard it, she got up quickly and went to him. Now Jesus had not yet come to the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. The Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary get up quickly and go out. They followed her because they thought that she was going to the tomb to weep there. When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus began to weep. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”
Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him.

Hernandez v Mesa

Chief Justice, John Roberts, Jr.
The Supreme Court of the United States
One First Street N.E.
Washington, DC 20543

Chief Justice Roberts,

I had not thought that anything could move me to write to you and your fellow justices again. In reading about and watching the video of the death of Sergio Hernandez I feel so moved. I realize that Sergio’s death is only peripherally connected with the case of Hernandez v Mesa, and for you to maintain your vaunted judicial objectivity it is necessary that you keep yourself as ignorant of real world events as possible, however, make an exception this time. It is a video of several fifteen year old boys running back and forth across a concrete river bed – touching the US side and running back across the international border which runs in the center of this river bed. Four boys fooling around. How many times did you in Indiana, or I in Ohio as we were growing up do stupid things like this? A border patrolman runs up between the boys and the Mexican side of the border grabbing one of them – the lucky one – as we later see, because he then starts shooting into Mexico at the other boys. He kills Sergio Hernandez – by his own admission in his report. He does not enter Mexico to check Sergio or to render assistance, he is not allowed to enter Mexico. Only his bullets are allowed to enter Mexico, depending upon how you and your fellow justices rule in this case.

Please give the Hernandez’s family the legal recourse to have standing in the federal courts of our United States to sue for damages in the wrongful death of their son.

It is not that much, it is the very least that we can do to give this family a semblance of justice. How sad is it that I will be surprised if your court grants this family even this small consideration.

Respectfully yours,

Doug Mitchell

CC
Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy
Associate Justice Clarence Thomas
Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer
Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr.
Associate Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor
Associate Justice Elena Kagen

8,102,216 Views

I sent the following to Senator Mitch McConnell yesterday via his senate website message form after watching Senator Elizabeth Warren’s celebrated video posting. (Now at over 11 million views)

 

Elizabeth Warren now has 8,102,216 Views of her video of some of the truth about the record of the ‘Honorable’ Jeff Sessions. It is too bad that the truth about the Senator is prejudicial to his confirmation to the office of Attorney General of our United States.

You go ahead and confirm Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. It won’t do you any good.

 

Time

I am unstuck in time.
Each moment unique:
momentarily eternal.

What is time?
I am discovering,
some truths of time.

Time can be an illusion.
Consciousness and perception conspiring,
in creating causality.

Time can be a product of our limitations.
We cannot experience everything, all happenings,
all at once.

Instead, we experience time;
stretching those events,
across a lifetime.

I am unstuck in time.
Past is present is future.
My presence is.

last letter

President Barack Obama,

This is my fortieth and last letter to you as president of our United States. I wrote a few letters to George W Bush, I am not sure whether I will write any letters to Donald Trump. As I reflect on those letters, my focus has consistently been to appeal to your humanity. To appeal to your empathy toward all people in your policy and decision making as the president of our United States. I have been harsh in my letters to you, but have I been harsh enough? I feel that I have failed my country, and all humanity in my efforts.

I’ve just read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ article in the Atlantic, “My President was Black”.

Ta-Nehisi Coates, I believe, has captured in his article something essential about your view of the world. A much more optimistic view than either Ta-Nehisi Coates or I can conjure from our experiences living in our United States. I had written yet another letter critical of your presidency, but after reading and more importantly thinking about the Ta-Nehisi Coates article, I feel that your optimism in the American people which powered your elections to office; was also the fatal flaw which limited your effectiveness in office. I continue to believe that you could have been a more effective president, but it is just an academic argument now. Winter is coming, and we will all just have to survive as best we can.

I am encouraged by your plans of a post-presidential campaign to work against political gerrymandering. This is a useful fight. I wish you every success in this effort, and will do everything I can to support you in it.

last_1 last_2

Paradox

I was privileged to preach at my church yesterday.

Listen to this sermon here.

The readings for today are at the bottom of this post.

 

I really like the parable from the gospel reading for today.
I like it because it contains several paradoxes, depending on how you approach it as a story. One of the definitions of paradox, from the Merriam-Webster online dictionary is:

a statement that is seemingly contradictory or opposed to common sense and yet is perhaps true.

Paradox to me, represents ideas and situations that surprise us,
it is like a person surprising us – but only after we feel we know them,
it is a puzzle or problem that takes some time to work out.

It is from the paradoxes in our lives that we learn and grow.
How boring it would be, if everything just behaved exactly as we expect it too?
These paradoxical surprises are, for me, what makes life so interesting.

One paradox presented to us in the parable of the Pharisee and the the Tax Collector is that the religious man who does everything he can to live his life according to the law of Moses,
who fasts twice a week,
who tithes one tenth of his income,
who often prays in the temple,
is not as justified or forgiven in the sight of God as a Tax Collector who is genuinely remorseful and humble.

How can this be?

How could this Tax Collector,
a man who works for the local Roman authorities,
a man who some might think is a traitor to his own people,
just because he is humble,
and recognizes his own faults,
who beats his breast and pleads for forgiveness,
how could God – hear this man and forgive him?

But as Christians we know that God listens to everyone.
We know that God forgives everyone.

This is such a simple story, but it has such power.
It contains the living heart of the good news of Christ Jesus, that we,
no matter how good we try to be,
we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
That we can be justified or forgiven,
that God is ready to grant us forgiveness, if we would just ask for it.

There are many paradoxes that contain a trick.
Sometimes a word or phrase,
sometimes the situation as it is presented, and this trick contains the paradox.

In this parable with the Pharisee and the Tax collector, the trick is that we are told the inner thoughts of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. Something that we typically have no way of knowing.

The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.

Whereas the Tax Collector

standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, `God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’

We all fall short in what we should be doing.
We all fall short of what we should be.

The biggest difference in God’s sight between the Pharisee and the Tax Collector is that the Tax Collector is aware that he is a sinner,
the Pharisee thinks that he is good and that he does not need God’s forgiveness.
The Pharisee is not asking for forgiveness because he is unaware that he needs to do so.

Jesus addressed this parable to a particular audience:

Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt

I believe, Jesus was addressing this parable to an audience of pharisees, the most religious of his fellow Jewish people. The word pharisee means ‘separated one’, the pharisees organized themselves into communities apart from both other Jewish people and gentiles. They felt that to truly practice their faith, they had to keep themselves separate from others.

If Jesus were telling this parable today, who would he be addressing?

This is not a parable for thieves and rogues.
The thieves and rogues of this world know that they have sinned against God and their neighbors, they know they are in trouble. If they pray, they pray for forgiveness, healing, and help for themselves.

Once again the surprising, paradoxical nature of this simple parable becomes apparent when we imagine Jesus’ telling this parable today.

This is a parable for church folk.
This is a parable for the faithful.

Jesus would probably be telling it to us.

How many of us are as faithful as the Pharisee in this story?

He fasts twice a week!
(point at my own stomach)
Maybe I should be fasting every week?

He tithes a tenth of his income!
Speaking for a moment as your Treasurer, during the Fall season, when we are asked to estimate what we can give back to God for next year.
I have got to say that this Pharisee is a better man than I am with regard to his support for his temple.

The Pharisee in this story is a fine, upright, church going man!
He represents the very best, most righteous among all mankind, just as the Tax Collector represents the thieves and the rogues.
This Pharisee also in the privacy of his mind, in his thoughts and prayers,
this good man the Pharisee despises his fellow men and women, and regards them with contempt.

Both of these men of the parable, like every one of us, has sinned, and fallen short of what we all should be.

According my favorite Science Fiction writer, Roger Zelazny, in his novel “Lord of Light”

A sermon is a warning

The warning in this sermon is very simple.
That we must always remember that we cannot save ourselves.
Our good works can make us better neighbors,
better parents,
better friends,
better members of our congregation,
and help us to spread the idea of the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

But, if we fool ourselves into believing that we are good, that we we don’t need God’s help and forgiveness,
Our self-righteousness,
our pride in ourselves,
our regard of others with contempt,
will separate us from God our Father, and this belief condemns us.

for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted

I believe, that it all begins with humility.
Practicing humility, helps us to keep our egos in check.
Humility helps us to be honest with ourselves, to know our limitations and our faults.
With our own faults firmly in mind, we may then pray to God for help, for strength, for support and guidance.

I will close with a paradox, the paradox of salvation.

Humility and honesty before our Creator helps us to remember that we have sinned.
Humility before Jesus the Christ, allows us to accept God’s grace of forgiveness, which is always available to us.
Humility helps us to maintain that inner silence necessary to hear the small quiet voice of the Spirit.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.
Amen.

Joel 2:23-32
O children of Zion, be glad
and rejoice in the Lord your God;
for he has given the early rain for your vindication,
he has poured down for you abundant rain,
the early and the later rain, as before.
The threshing floors shall be full of grain,
the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.
I will repay you for the years
that the swarming locust has eaten,
the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,
my great army, which I sent against you.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
and praise the name of the Lord your God,
who has dealt wondrously with you.
And my people shall never again be put to shame.
You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,
and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other.
And my people shall never again
be put to shame.
Then afterward
I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;
your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
your old men shall dream dreams,
and your young men shall see visions.
Even on the male and female slaves,
in those days, I will pour out my spirit.
I will show portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke.
The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved;
for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape,
as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

2 Timothy 4:6-8,16-18
I am already being poured out as a libation, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for his appearing.
At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them!
But the Lord stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.
The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Luke 18:9-14
Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray,
one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, `God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves,
rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.
I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying,
`God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you,
this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

An Invitation to Dinner

I was privileged to preach at my church today.

Listen to this sermon here.

The readings for today are at the bottom of this post.

In our gospel lesson for today, Jesus gets invited to a dinner party at someone’s house.
Not just any dinner – but the Sabbath meal.
Not just any house – but the house of a leader of the Pharisees. A leader among the most traditional and conservative of the priests in the city of Jerusalem.

Most of us who have had some success in our careers, get opportunities like this. We get invited to the Boss’ house, and we make polite conversation. We admire his or her home, we accept a seat at the table, we watch how much we drink. We don’t express our opinions too forcefully. We just try to make a good impression.

Jesus does not act the way we usually do.

(pause)

Over the last two Sundays, our gospel readings have shown Jesus as the revolutionary, the firebrand, who came to bring fire to the earth!

Who said

Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division!

Who rebukes the leader of a synagogue with

“You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”

All too often, when I see some problem with our country, or our community, I feel this outrage!
Something must be done about this right now!

I sometimes then waste my limited time and energy confronting people, rather than finding some way to work with them.

In our gospel readings of the past couple of weeks, Jesus seems to be feeling this outrage, this need for action.
But Jesus knows when to be forceful, and when to use a different approach.

A leader of the Pharisees invites Jesus, this wild, rough, Galilean prophet, the son of a carpenter from the countyside, invites this Jesus to his home for the Sabbath meal.
Jesus could have been loud and reactionary. He could have blamed the Pharisees present for many of the problems with their society. But, Jesus does not see the Pharisees as his adversaries.
Jesus ministered to everyone, even the Pharisees.
Everyone.

Can you imagine Jesus at this Sabbath dinner?
Jesus is the special guest, with all these high status religious leaders. He could claim if not the best seat, at least the second best seat at that table. Maybe, one of the Pharisees, has not gotten the word and has already claimed the seat reserved for Jesus. The other Pharisees are whispering to this man, you should move to another seat, we want Jesus to sit here so we can question and watch him closely.

Jesus is watching these men, with the love and regard he has for everyone.
Jesus then speaks,

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, `Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, `Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

After Jesus said this, I wonder if there was a sudden rush for the seats at the foot of the table?

Jesus, once he has their attention, also gives them a bit of his revolutionary, kingdom of God stuff, which he addresses directly to the leader of the Pharisees who invited him to this dinner.

When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid.”

I am sure, that Jesus’ tone was friendly, but this message is a rebuke, because this is exactly who the leader of the Pharisees had invited to this dinner.

“But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

I wonder how the leader of the Pharisees received this message from Jesus?
It seems that Jesus was not invited to dinner again.
We do not see in the gospels that Jesus regularly attended the sabbath dinner at a Pharisee’s house.

How are we to spread the message of the good news of Christ Jesus?
How are we to move our society towards the kingdom of God?

(pause)

It is very easy for us to demonize people who do not agree with us. We disagree about some issue, and we label them as liberals or conservatives, progressives or libertarians. Once we have labeled them, they in turn label us. Their and our positions on issues harden as our hearts harden, so that even if we talk to one another, we are shouting slogans at each other, rather than listening to each other in the give and take of a conversation.
We start to see these people as our adversaries,
as an obstacle to be overcome.

As I was writing this sermon, I remembered two people who lived lives of protest. Who creatively and courageously worked to bring about the kingdom of God. Who also consciously and consistently refused to see the people who disagreed with them as adversaries or opponents to be overcome, but saw them as neighbors, friends and collaborators who had not yet joined with them.

John Woolman was born in 1720 in the colony of New Jersey. As a young man he learned how to tailor clothes, and how to run a business. He was a Quaker, and came to a personal realization that slavery was wrong, and that he must do something about it. With the support of his local Society of Friends meeting, he traveled to Quaker and other church meetings throughout New England for over 30 years, speaking against slavery, asking everyone who owned slaves to free them. In 1772 he traveled to England presenting the case to end slavery to the Yearly meeting of British Quakers. This one man, working throughout his life to convince his fellow Quakers to end slavery, led to the Quakers getting slavery abolished in Pennsylvania in 1790. Converting people who owned slaves on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line to give up the institution of slavery; convincing them to free their slaves by talking to them one on one.

Mahatma Ghandi was the other person who came to my mind as someone who creatively and courageously protested British rule, seeking freedom for the people of India.
Ghandi felt very strongly in the worth of every person he met. So when he was invited to a gathering where there was a servant present waiting on himself and the other guests. He would take the serving tray from the servant, thank them, and serve the other guests himself. Ghandi would do this at meetings with Indian leaders to remind them that the people were not protesting just for the Indian leaders to replace the British ones. But that those Indian leaders should see themselves as public servants of a free India. Ghandi’s act of service to others is a great example of a personal act of protest and awareness.

Before we protest,
before we work to change anyone elses’ opinions on the great issues of our day,
we have our own inner work to do.

In our hearts and in our minds, we should know that these people, our neighbors,
who disagree with us,
who we are protesting,
who we are confronting, are not our adversaries.
These people, are our brothers and sisters of God, our Father and Creator.

We should strive to strike that balance, as Jesus did, delivering our message of protest to the powerful, in a creative way.
With the resolve of John Woolman, pleading for the dignity of all people for over 30 years; never giving in or giving up.
With the moral force and firmness of our own conduct and example as Mahatma Ghandi did throughout his life.
Courageously seeking to convert,
always seeking to speak to our common humanity.
Always listening to that small, still voice of the spirit.

Jeremiah 2:4-13

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:
What wrong did your ancestors find in me
that they went far from me,
and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves?
They did not say, “Where is the Lord
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that no one passes through,
where no one lives?”
I brought you into a plentiful land
to eat its fruits and its good things.
But when you entered you defiled my land,
and made my heritage an abomination.
The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?”
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the rulers transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal,
and went after things that do not profit.
Therefore once more I accuse you, says the Lord,
and I accuse your children’s children.
Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look,
send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has ever been such a thing.
Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for something that does not profit.
Be appalled, O heavens, at this,
be shocked, be utterly desolate,
says the Lord,
for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,
cracked cisterns
that can hold no water.

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.
Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured.
Let marriage be held in honor by all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled; for God will judge fornicators and adulterers. Keep your lives free from the
love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” So we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid.
What can anyone do to me?”
Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same
yesterday and today and forever.
Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share
what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.

Luke 14:1, 7-14

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely.
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit
down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come
and say to you, `Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the
lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, `Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the
table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich
neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind.
And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Eccentricity

A new thought, sparks in a mind.
Not like a fire, or the sun’s light,
not as any thing, which is only physical.
An idea, an inspiration, an obsession.

She meditates on it.
It is disruptive,
she does not want it.
It cannot be unthought.

It challenges beliefs long held.
She has discovered
a cracked foundation stone,
in her tower of understanding.

Over several months,
she examines it.
Though her variable moods,
she holds it in her heart.

The world reels around her,
as the reality of what was true,
ceases to exist.
Her new Truth is born.

A new tower takes shape,
out of the rubble of the old.
Each Truth examined anew,
as each course is laid.

A new thought, sparks in a mind.
Not like a fire, or the sun’s light,
not as any thing, which is only physical.
An idea, an inspiration, an obsession.