Come again and feed the earth

A litany for worship inspired by IEzekiel 34:11-22.

by Ken Sehested

Enough! says the Insurgent of Heaven. I’ve had enough of your bank-bailing politicians and private-jetting executives! Enough of your trickle-down economies and your holiday-charity binges! Enough of your bloated-budget militaries and gated-community developers! Enough of your water-wasting, soil-squandering, air-fouling habits!

Hear, oh people of provident pasture: Judgment is coming. Heaven’s Reign and earth’s regimes are destined for collision.

You who feed on good pasture, why must you trample every meadow? You who drink pure water, why must you muddy the entire stream? Read more ›

Covenant-making on Earth Day

A sample pledge statement to encourage concrete practices to sustain the earth

My Earth Day commitment
For renewing my intent to care for the earth

My name: ___________________________________________________________________________

  Read more ›

Cuba’s Historic Crossroads

A new president—one not named Castro—will soon take office

By Stan Hastey

            Cuba stands at a crossroads unlike any other in the 59 years since a rebel army headed by Fidel Castro and his younger brother, Raul, defeated the supposedly far superior armed forces under the command of Fulgencio Batista. Batista, the last in a series of corrupt and repressive Cuban presidents backed and kept in power by the United States for the previous half century, fled the island nation as three columns of rebel soldiers bore down on Havana during Christmas week 1958. Declaring victory on New Year’s Day 1959, the three commanding officers—Raul Castro, Ernesto (Che) Guevara, and Camilo Cienfuegos—welcomed Fidel to Havana one week later, where the charismatic leader formally declared victory before a massive crowd of supporters convinced that a new day had dawned on the economically and educationally deprived nation.

Right: Cubans voting in precinct elections, November 2018.

            Among the undeniably significant achievements of the Castro brothers’ revolution have been the virtual elimination of illiteracy by means of a system of public education funded and overseen by the government from kindergarten through university graduate studies and a public health system premised on prevention that boasts a lower infant mortality rate than that of the United States. These are measurable successes. Read more ›

Reflections on Changes in US-Cuba Relations

by Stan Hastey, guest columnist

Part One

       Growing up in Mexico as a missionary kid gave me a different perspective on my native land. Whether always welcomed or not, I could not help but filter my own early sense of patriotism through the lenses of classmates. Their take on the United States was that of the colossus to the North that had stolen a huge section of their country in an illegitimate war and given it a new name—Texas.

       When Fidel Castro and his revolutionary compatriots seized control of Cuba on January 1, 1959, I was 14. In Torreón, the city in northern Mexico where my family lived during my junior and senior high school years (except for 11th grade in 1960-1961 when I attended Polytechnic High School in Fort Worth) spontaneous street celebrations broke out. It would take me a good while longer to understand better why Mexicans took such glee in the triumph of the Castro brothers, Che Guevara and the other bearded firebrands on a Caribbean island most of them never dreamed of visiting.

       What the crowds in Torreón and countless other cities and towns throughout Latin America were cheering was that an apparently rag-tag bunch of indigenous dreamers had run off a military dictator put in power by the United States of America. (This brings to mind another bit of hubris that we U.S. citizens tend to have, that of referring to the USA as “America” as though we owned the entire continent. My school friends, by the way, liked to make the point that the formal name of their country is the “United States of Mexico.”) Read more ›

Cuba’s historic electoral process November 2017 – April 2018

For the first time since its revolution, Cuba will not have a president named Castro

by Ken Sehested

        You will be excused for not knowing that Cuba is in the midst of a historic electoral process which, when completed, will feature a Cuban president not named Castro. (It’s quite possible you didn’t even know Cuba had elections.)

        The process began on 26 November 2017 when citizens went to polling stations in every district across the country to select leaders to serve on ward [precinct] and municipal governing bodies as “delegates.” On 11 March, candidates for provincial and national legislatures will be chosen. The National Assembly will then chose a new president to succeed Raúl Castro, who retires on 19 April.

        For the first time since the country’s 1959 revolution, Cuba will not have a president named Castro. Read more ›

News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  31 March 2018 •  No. 157

Processional.The Angel Cried, Christ Has Risen,” Russian Orthodox Chant for Easter.

Above: Memphis, Tennessee sanitation workers on strike, 1968.

Invocation. “Shake out your qualms. / Shake up your dreams. / Deepen your roots. / Extend your branches. / Trust deep water / and head for the open, / even if your vision / shipwrecks you. / Quit your addiction / to sneer and complain. / Open a lookout. / Dance on a brink. / Run with your wildfire. / You are closer to glory / leaping an abyss / than upholstering a rut.” —excerpt from James Broughton’s “Easter Exultet” Read more ›

Open Letter to My Daughter

Easter morning, with the stench of death still in the air

by Ken Sehested
Eastertide 1991

Background. In 1991, after hearing that the bombing had begun in Iraq, I knew I had to respond—respond in a way like never before. After discussing it with my family and then with a clearness committee of trusted friends, I began a bread-and-water fast. It started on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, and lasted until Easter morning.

To prepare for the breaking of the fast I invited friends in Memphis to join me in a sunrise eucharistic service at the “Yellow Fever Martyrs Memorial and Mass Grave” park (right) on the banks of the Mississippi River, honoring those who died while tending the sick during several yellow fever epidemics that swept through the city in the 1870s. I asked my oldest daughter, 14 years old at the time, to preside at the meal. During the following week I wrote her the following open letter to further interpret the season just past. Read more ›

The God Without Price

Litany of confession and pardon, inspired by Isaiah 55 and Acts 4:32-35

by Ken Sehested

Call to Confession

The Word of Strong Deliverance is whispered in the ears of all who long for the relief of pardon. “Listen,” says the Assuring One, “all of you who thirst for righteousness, who hunger for justice, come to the waters. All of you who know you are broke, who have no way of buying your freedom, no way of bargaining for joy—come, buy, eat and rejoice!”

Here, in this Circle, the good news is learned: “Come, buy wine and milk with neither cash nor credit. Provision is freely offered, but only to those acquainted with their penniless condition.” Read more ›

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be

Commentary on the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, DC

by Ken Sehested
Saturday 24 March 2018

I am not ashamed to admit it. They made me do it. Cry. More than once. “They” being the uncommonly common students who led the March For Our Lives rally—three-quarters of a million strong—in Washington, DC. The day may well be accounted as among the most significant in our nation’s history.

What makes all of us commoners uncommon is when we experience the pain of trauma up close and personal, find the resilience to endure, take a hammer of righteous rage to that trauma and pound it on the forge of conviction that another world is possible, another way will open if we hold out, hold on, hold up, and hold over—over against those who say things can’t change, that’s the way it is, get over it, in our kiss-up-and-kick-down culture. Read more ›