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This is something you must do

This Saturday. You need to be there. Even if it’s inconvenient. Even if you have to travel some distance. Even if you have to rearrange your day. Dare to be bothered. Endure whatever bad weather brings your way. Even if you had other plans, postpone them. Allow whatever discomfort you endure to signify your commitment in addressing the outrage in which we now live.

Collar one or more of your friends and say, “I really need you to do this with me..”

Support our young people in calling for sensible gun policy reforms. The weight these young people bring to the public debate may very well tip the balance and overthrow the NRA’s stranglehold on our public policy decision making.

Our nation is an outlier among the family of nations in the easy access to guns we allow resulting in 20 times or more deaths compared to other nations, who look at us with pity and alarm. Our nation is at war in several countries; and yet the deaths of children by guns in our own nation far surpasses the fatality rate of our troops in combat abroad.

If you’re never marched, well, this is your exception. It is literally the case that lives depend on your presence. Many people profit from the way things are, and it will take a massive turnout to disrupt the political equilibrium that keeps things the way they are. Our elected officials are scared to death of the clout the NRA brings to the table. This march will indicate to our public servants that we—who formerly stayed on the sideline in this debate—are now up on our feet, lending our voices, and providing the needed political coverage for legislators to reclaim their courage.

This Saturday, young people (and supportive families) will undertake a “March for Our Lives” in the US and worldwide, calling for an end to gun violence. There are already 763 events on the schedule. Go here <goo.gl/syaqFK> for a searchable database to see if one is planned in your vicinity.

If you don’t have children or grandchildren of your own at stake, do it for the children in your church, the children in your neighborhood, the children in the nearby schools. Let your legs do you praying for what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called “The Beloved Community.”

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News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  22 March 2018 •  No. 156

Processional.All Glory, Laud and Honor,” Palm Sunday procession, Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York City.

Above: Rainbow Mountain (aka “Vinicunca”), Peru. “The reason we see the rainbow coloration in the stratigraphic layers of the Ausangate Mountains is largely due to weathering and mineralogy. Red coloration of sedimentary layers often indicates iron oxide rust as a trace mineral.” —for more see Geologist Trevor Nace, Forbes

Invocation. “Is there no song to be sung, no bell to be rung, no laughter from the fields at play with their yield? Morning by morning my Sovereign awaits my wakeful embrace of the dawn. My ears rise, eager, despite my heart’s meager consent to the summons of grace.” —continue reading “ Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9a

Call to worship. Celebrating the spring equinox: Listen to English actress Noma Dumezweni's beautiful reading of Wordsworth's “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” (1:24 video. Thanks Rose.)

Join our youth in Saturday’s “March for Our Lives,” in Washington, DC, or in your own town. On 24 March, young people (and supportive families) will undertake a “March for Our Lives” in the US and worldwide, calling for an end to gun violence. There are already 763 events on the schedule. Go here for a searchable database to see if one is planned where (or near) you live.  Also, see the New York Times pictorial summary from 14 March’s “School Walkout: Photos From Across the Nation.”

Introduction to this issue.

        I can testify that in compiling “Signs of the Times” I spend proportionately far more effort locating “good news” stories than bad. Generally speaking, when it comes to traffic lights, our complaints over red ones far exceeds our rejoicing at green ones. In our letters to the editor, you and I and everybody I know are more likely to take the trouble of registering a complaint than expressing gratitude.

        In recognition of these realities, this issue of “Signs of the Times” focuses on some of the good news surrounding climate change responses—without any hint that there’s plenty of despairing news available. —read the entire piece, “Why good news is harder to find than bad news

Hymn of praise.They That Wait (Upon the Lord),” UC Berkeley Chorus & Contare Con Vivo.

There are now 3 rivers—one in New Zealand and two in India—that legally have the same rights as humans. Adam Taylor, Washington Post

¶ “Sweden is so good at recycling that, for several years, it has imported rubbish from other countries to keep its recycling plants going. Less than 1 per cent of Swedish household waste was sent to landfill last year or any year since 2011.” Hazel Sheffield, Independent (Thanks Scott.)

Audacious nuns. This was the scene as the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a Catholic order of nuns, dedicated their new open-air chapel. (See photo at left.) But this open-air chapel isn't just for prayers. It's a protest. It's built directly in the path of an incoming natural gas pipeline. —for more see James Gaines, Upworthy. Photo above: Sister Janet McCann at the chapel's dedication. Photo from David Jones/Lancaster Against Pipelines.

Confession. “When you don’t want to see, you don’t see.” —Pope Francis, after seeing the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in areas of the Caribbean

¶ “We all know the bad news when it comes to climate change. What most people don’t know is that there is also a lot of good news. In this video (3:16) we explore some of that good news, like the fact that real solutions exist and that we’re already seeing the benefits of them.The Climate Reality Project

Hymn of supplication. “Holy Spirit, welcome / You are welcome here / Guide us, Holy Spirit / Speak to us again.” —English translation of lyrics to “Wairua Tapu,” traditional song of the Maori people of New Zealand, performed by Gondwana Cantique

¶ In recent weeks several major institutions have announcing or seriously considering withdrawal from investing in fossil fuel companies.

        • “As world leaders convene at the One Planet Summit on the second anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, environmental advocates are cautiously celebrating the ‘historic announcement’ by the World Bank that it will stop funding oil and gas exploration and production projects after 2019. . . .

Right: “Gaia,” Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber www.holywomenicons.com

        • “Alongside the World Bank's announcement, the French company Axa—one of the world's largest insurers—announced Tuesday that it plans to dump investments and stop providing insurance to U.S. oil pipelines as well as quadruple its investments in environmentally-friendly projects by 2020.” Jessica Corbett, CommonDreams

        • “Warning that climate change amounts to the mother of all risks,’ three of the world's biggest insurance companies are demanding that G20 countries stop bankrolling the fossil fuels industry.” Lauren McCauley, CommonDreams

        • “The Norwegian central bank, which runs the country’s sovereign wealth fund – the world’s biggest – has told its government it should dump its shares in oil and gas companies, in a move that could have significant consequences for the sector.” Adam Vaughan, The Guardian

¶ “Solar power is now the cheapest form of energy in 58 countries, including in China, India, and Brazil. Solar power is predicted to be the lowest-cost energy option in almost all parts of the world in less than a decade.” —Otta Scharmer, “Trump, Dark Money, and Shifting Consciousness

¶ “Climate activists claimed ‘an undeniable victory’ after New York City and New York State officials called for city and state pension funds to halt investments in fossil fuels. ‘The dam has broken,’ said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben. ‘It's a crucial sign of how fast the financial pendulum is swinging away from fossil fuels.’” Andrea Germanos, CommonDreams

Hymn of intercession. “We bow down before your cross.” —The Orthodox Singers, “Basso Profondo

¶ “A transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050—or even sooner—is not only possible, but would also cost less and create millions of new jobs, according to new research presented in Bonn, Germany on Thursday.” Julia Conley, CommonDreams

Signs of things to come. “Kentucky coal company announces plans to build the state’s largest solar farm.” Natasha Geiling, ThinkProgress

Important news you likely didn’t hear. “For the first time, Exxon shareholders [in their June 2017 meeting]—by an impressive 62% majority—voted for a resolution that requires the company to publish an annual report detailing the risks of climate policies and technological advances to its oil and gas holdings.” Kelly Mitchell, CommonDreams

¶ “Dozens of our country’s cities have already united to implement measures that combat climate change, so the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement is not representative of our nation’s leaders and their communities,” said Columbia (SC) Mayor Steve Benjamin, Second Vice President of the US Conference of Mayors which represents 1,408 cities with populations of 30,000 residents or more. Mark Karlin, buzzflash

The General Electric Energy Financial Services “announced late [in June 2017] its cumulative investments in renewable power sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric had surpassed $15 billion. Representing its fastest-growing business segment, the scope of investment shows the increasing economic viability of fossil fuel alternatives.” Paul Schott, Stamford Advocate

¶ “According to a new study from the liberal group Media Matters for America, the Sunday political shows and nightly newscasts on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox’s broadcast network devoted a total of 260 minutes to climate change in 2017. That’s a huge increase over 2016 and by far the most climate coverage since the group started tracking that data in 2009.” Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones

There “are already more American jobs in the solar industry than in coal mining." US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. The fact-checking agency Politifact considers this as “true.”

Words of assurance. “You who endure contentious tongues, threatened by gangsters and banksters of every sort, / Come to the Sheltering Presence of the One who knows, / The One who tapes your photo to Heaven’s refrigerator door.” —continue reading “By Thy might,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 31

Hymn of resolution. “Then why, O blessèd Jesus Christ / Should I not love Thee well? / Not for the hope of winning Heaven, / Nor of escaping hell. / Not with the hope of gaining aught, / Nor seeking a reward, / But as Thyself hast lovèd me, / O everlasting Lord!” —Darrell Adams, “My God, I Love Thee,” words attributed to Fancis Xavier

¶ “Directly contradicting much of the Trump administration’s position on climate change, 13 federal agencies unveiled an exhaustive scientific report on Friday that says humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization.” Lisa Friedman & Glenn Thrush, New York Times

Preach it (World Water Day is 22 March). “End-game ecological trends press Christians to re-read our tradition from the perspective of the groaning creation, as did Paul in Romans 8:21–22—including and especially our theology and practices of mission. Water is a strategic place to start. It is the resource we North Americans arguably most take for granted—a privileged and unsustainable conceit that must change.” —read more of Ched Myers’ “Reinhabiting the River of Life (Rev 22:1–2): Rehydration, Redemption, and Watershed Discipleship

Can’t makes this sh*t up. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (which coordinates response to natural disasters) recently issued a new “strategic plan” for the coming four years, failed to mention climate change, global warming, sea-level rise, extreme weather, or any other terminology associated with scientific predictions of rising temperatures and their effects. —see Jessica Corbett, CommonDreams

Left: Hugh Thompson (at left) greeted by a Vietnamese women whose life he saved when he intervened to stop the US massacre of civilians in My Lai, 16 March 1968, on Thompson's trip back to My Lai in 1998.

Call to the table (on the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre). “Thompson could’ve stayed hovering above it all. Instead he entered the suffering. The story at this table is remembering that Jesus could’ve stayed hovering above the suffering. He entered it. At this table he invites us to do the same.” —Continue reading Nancy Hastings Sehested’s “Call to the Table” remembering Hugh Thompson an Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam war who intervened to stop the My Lai massacre

The state of our disunion. President Trump has been a big booster of coal mining. Ironically, his Administration’s regulatory actions have actually led to a spike in coal miner deaths, given that safety inspectors no longer have the authority to issue a violation charge against coal companies. —for more info see “Coal mine deaths surge, putting feds and miners at odds,” CBS News

Altar call. “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” —Dr. Seuss

For the beauty of the earth. For the first time in 30 years, the International Cloud Atlas, first published in 1896, has added 12 new cloud types, including “Asperitas" cloud, pictured at right. (Thanks James.) —Tim De Chant, Nova Next

Benediction. “Proclaim with confidence the Beloved’s promise to those who live in the ashes: Thus says the Host of Heaven: 'I will restore to you the years which the locusts have eaten.'” —Joel 2:25

Recessional. “We are of the Spirit, truly of the Spirit / only can the Spirit turn the world around.” —"Turn the World Around," by Harry Belafonte, performed by Berklee College of Music students and faculty

Lectionary for this Sunday. “From the depths of distress, every sail sagged and limp, / my mutinous lips offer insurrecting sighs. / With heart-aching hope doth my voice still rejoice.  / Incline us, consign us, to steadfast Embrace.” —continue reading “Mutinous lips,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 118

Lectionary for Sunday next.Choral reading of John 20:1-18,” a script for 8 voices.

Marking Romero’s martyrdom. This is what true saints do: inspiring saintliness to those around them rather than clutching the status for themselves. (See the illustration at left.) Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero, who was gunned down by a right-wing death squad while saying Mass on 24 March 1980, one day after his radio broadcast sermon calling for soldiers to lay down their guns and end the repressive government’s rule. will be canonized as a Roman Catholic saint. The Plough Publishing House published The Violence of Love, a marvelous collection of Romero quotes. They also offer a free ebook download and audio book.

Just for fun. Just when you’re ready for a challenging adventure—dressed for the occasion, courage collected, risk factor calculated, equipment in hand, your eyes on the prize, adrenaline flowing, bystanders ready to capture the moment on film, narrative outline of the experience later to be recorded in your journal already formed in your mind—this happens. (0:07 video. Thanks Brynn!)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Resurrection’s approach,” a poem for Holy Week

• “Mutinous lips,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 118

• “Pulling back the veil: The call to penitential living (in light of the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre),” a sermon

• “Call to the table (on the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre),” a communion meditation by Nancy Hastings Sehested
 
Other features

• “Choral reading of John 20:1-18,” a script for 8 voices

• “Why good news is harder to find than bad news,” a brief essay

©Ken Sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org. Language not otherwise indicated above is that of the editor, as are those portions cited as “kls.” Don’t let the “copyright” notice keep you from circulating material you find here (and elsewhere in this site). Reprint permission is hereby granted in advance for noncommercial purposes.

Feel free to copy and post any original art on this site. (The ones with “prayer&politiks.org” at the bottom.) As well as other information you find helpful.

Your comments are always welcomed. If you have news, views, notes or quotes to add to the list above, please do. If you like what you read, pass this along to your friends. You can reach me directly at kensehested@prayerandpolitiks.org.

 

News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  13 March 2018 •  No. 155

Processional. “All my life I've been waiting for / I've been praying for / For the people to say / That we don't wanna fight no more / They'll be no more wars / And our children will play / One day.” —Koolulam leading 3000 people in Haifa singing “One Day” (Thanks Marnie.)

Above: “As the Trump administration eyes the border wall, so does an elusive French street artist. Building a massive dining table across both sides of the US-Mexico border in the small Mexican town of Tecate, artist JR painted ‘the eyes of the dreamer’ on top of the bench. In a special one-day-only setup, one eye is meticulously placed on either side of the border.” —for more see Khushbu Shah, CNN

Invocation.Psalm 51 – Schaffe in Mir Gott (“Create in Me”),” Johannes Brahms, performed by California State Fullerton University Singers.

Call to worship. “Create in me a clean heart, O God. / In the measure of your abundant mercy, clear the debris from my life. / My failures are before me; they mock and taunt me. / Even my bones feel the weight of disappointment. / Mercy, mercy, have mercy on me.” —continue reading “Create in me a clean heart,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 51

Rev. Micah Bucey (pictured at right) is associate minister of Judson Memorial Church in New York City, a congregation with a decades-long history of advocacy on behalf of immigrants and a member of New York City’s interfaith New Sanctuary Coalition. For more background see this site.   Recently, the matter got personal when one of Judson’s own, Jean Montrevil, a Haitian immigrant and vigorous advocate for other immigrants, was arrested, imprisoned in Miami, and then deported. Judson's senior minister, Rev. Donna Schaper, was a co-founder of the New Sanctuary Coalition. —for more see Connie Larkman, UCC News

Hymn of praise.Lord of the Dance,” Heath Mount School Choir. Sydney Bertram Carter, an English poet and folk singer wrote the song’s lyrics and adapted the Shaker song, “Simple Gifts,” to create “Lord of the Dance.”

Confession. “Happy are those who walk in the Way of Beauty, harnessed in the Bridle of Mercy and according to the Weal of Justice. / From Creation’s Promise to Redemption’s Assurance, may Your Faithful Word leap from our lips and exclaim with our limbs. / In this Law I delight! May it rule soul and soil and society alike.” —continue reading “In this law I delight,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 119

Net neutrality. “The term was coined by Columbia University media law professor Tim Wu in 2003, as an extension of the longstanding concept of a common carrier, which was used to describe the role of telephone systems.” The principal is amazing simple: That all internet data should be treated equally.

        “Net neutrality” doesn’t lend itself to a rallying cry, a protest poem, or a dissenter’s street graffiti. So why does it (occasionally) make headlines? In short: It’s one more way large corporations seek to corral a public asset, now available under approximately equitable terms and without regard to financial clout, and turn it into a cash cow for wealthy investors.

        Last December the Federal Communications Commission voted to abolish previous net neutrality policies governing the internet, which will allow the communications giants like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T to construct platforms giving a “fast lane” to those who can afford higher premiums, bumping others into cyberspace traffic jams. What follows is a short list of resources to understand what’s at stake.

¶ “The FCC just voted to repeal its net neutrality rules, in a sweeping act of deregulation.” Brian Fung, Washington Post

¶ Here are two brief videos on net neutrality.

        • “Why we must protect net neutrality,” Robert Reich. (3:08 minute video)

        • A PBS video (1:22) on what’s at stake with net neutrality. (Thanks Rhonda.)

¶ Here’s an introduction to the topic of “net neutrality” by Anna Baltzer, especially in the context of Israeli-Palestinian relations. (11:41 video. Thanks Joe.)

¶ “Adding to the growing backlash among the public and members of Congress against the FCC's party-line vote on Thursday to repeal net neutrality protections, nearly 20 state attorneys general have lined up to sue the FCC, calling the Republican-controlled agency's move a violation of the law and a serious "threat to the free exchange of ideas." Jake Johnson, CommonDreams

Breaking news. The mayors of 11 cities have taken a vow to refuse to do business with internet service providers that don’t support net neutrality. The “Cities Open Internet Pledge”  was announced on Sunday at the South by Southwest conference in Texas. Jake Johnson, CommonDreams

Hymn of supplication. “We rest on Thee, our shield and our defender! We go not forth alone against the foe. / Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender / We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go.” Mennonite Hour Singers

Those crazy Canadians are at it again. “Nearly 800 Quebec Doctors Demand Their Pay Raises Go To Nurses, Improving Healthcare Overall.” Julia Conley, CommonDreams

Words of assurance. “Is there no song to be sung, no bell to be rung, no laughter from the fields at play with their yield? Would that my mouth be formed and my lips unleashed to speak a word, a true and hearty word, to all grown deaf with grief. Make our tongues worthy—make them constant and true—to sustain the weary with a word.” —continue reading “Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by 50:4-9a

Professing our faith. “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” —continue reading “Heart Religion,” a litany for worship using texts from Ezekiel, the Psalms, Matthew, and Acts

In preparation for St. Patrick’s Day.

        • “St. Patrick wasn’t Irish, didn’t expel snakes from Ireland, has no ‘miracle’ attributed to him (which now is required for sainthood), and didn’t write the poem ‘St. Patrick’s Breastplate’ (which was likely penned 3-4 centuries after Patrick died in the late 5th century). Ironically, though, his fame was sufficiently established in his lifetime that his followers waged a war for custody of his body. Relatively little is known for certain about his life, but this much is documented: He was likely the first early church leaders to speak out against the abuse of women.” —see more in "St. Patrick and his Day: Connecting the saint to his Irish context, especially the 19th century 'Great Famine'"

        • “Who was St. Patrick?,” a brief (1:09 video) biographical sketch.

        • See Susan B. Barnes’ “17 St. Patrick's Day celebrations for March 17 and beyond”  for a summary of St. Patrick’s Day events around the US.

Hymn of intercession.Weeping Eyes,” Amir Bar-David & Revital Khalfon

Preach it. This is what we hope Lenten practices will do: Create "a creeping discomfort about my confidence in the way I've always viewed the world." —quote by Rick Steves, popular travel reporter, in the third edition of his book, “Travel As a Political Act: How to Leave Your Baggage Behind.” For a review, see Genevieve Valentine, NPR (Thanks Ashlee.)

Can’t makes this sh*t up. In federal law, when hunting migratory birds the number of rounds of ammunition in your shotgun is limited by law to 3. But you can get 100-round magazines for your AR-15.

¶ This Friday, 26 March, is the 50th anniversary of the massacre in My Lai, Vietnam. “We privilege confession and absolution in our liturgy not because God enjoys our humiliation. Just the opposite. By the grace of God, confession frees us from the power of our failures. Confession provides the possibility to begin again. The wreckage wrought by human behavior is real; but the future is not thereby fated.

        What does attention to penitential life have to do with the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre? Everything—if we’re looking for root causes and not merely explanations.” —continue reading “The ties that bind: The Integrity of Penitence, on the 50th Anniversary of the Massacre at My Lai"

If you’re within traveling distance, there will be a public vigil this Friday, 12 noon–1:00 pm, in Lafayette Park (across from the White House in Washington, DC), commemorating the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre. For more information on this and other activities, see the Vietnam Peace Commemoration Committee site.  A worship resource, including liturgical material and historical background, is also available.

Call to the table. “No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, / ‘Know the Lord,’ / for they shall all know me, / from the least of them to the greatest, / says the Lord; / I will forgive their iniquity / and remember their sin no more.” —continue reading “I will put my law within them: A choral reading of Jeremiah 31:31-34"

The state of our disunion. On Saturday, 3 March, President Trump reached a milestone: his 100th day at one of his golf resorts. That comes to nearly one out of every four of his days in office. The Washington Post estimates Trump's flight costs alone cost $514,000 per hour. Tab for golf carts rented for his Secret Service security detail? $103,000. The city of Palm Beach, Florida, site of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago luxury resort, spends $60,000 per day on extra security while the President is there. —for more see CheatSheet

Best one-liner. “The only tired I was, was tired of giving in.” —Rosa Parks, whose refusal to relinquish her bus seat to a white passenger prompted the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955, effectively launching the modern Civil Rights Movement

For the beauty of the earth. The BBC series “Planet Earth: Blue Planet II” is among the most amazing things I’ve ever seen on TV, accompanied by David Attenborough’s majestic narration. “How in the world did they get that shot?!” I repeatedly said aloud. For a little background, watch this brief (1:00) video of how the filming was done. If you have access to PBS, watch your local listings for the show’s offerings. (Thanks Joshua & David.)

Altar call. “As a young adult, however, I began to sense that the text had little meaning in face of the context. What does the heart have to do with the array of power relations in the world? What does giving your heart to Jesus have to do with realities of war, of continuing racial disparity and economic injustice?” —continue reading “Religion of the heart,” a sermon inspired by Jeremiah 31:31-34

Benediction. “I see Christ as the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality.” —Sydney Carter, author of “Lord of the Dance”

Recessional. “I arise today / Through God’s strength to pilot me / God’s eye to look before me / God’s wisdom to guide me / God’s way to lie before me / God’s shield to protect me / From all who shall wish me ill / Afar and anear / Alone and in a multitude / Against every cruel / Merciless power / That may oppose my body and soul.” —“The Deer’s Cry,” (aka “St. Patrick’s Breastplate”), Rita Connolly, with the Curtlestown Choir

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Create in me a clean heart, O God. / In the measure of your abundant mercy, clear the debris from my life. / My failures are before me; they mock and taunt me. / Even my bones feel the weight of disappointment. / Mercy, mercy, have mercy on me.” —continue reading “Create in me a clean heart,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 51

Lectionary for Sunday next. “From the depths of distress, every sail sagged and limp, / my mutinous lips offer insurrecting sighs. / With heart-aching hope doth my voice still rejoice.  / Incline us, consign us, to steadfast Embrace.” —continue reading “Mutinous lips,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 118

Just for fun. Snow shovelers’ dance. (10 second video. Thanks Shawn.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

"Resurrection's approach," a poem for Holy Week

• “Create in me a clean heart,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 51

• “Mutinous lips,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 118

• “Religion of the heart,” a sermon inspired by Jeremiah 31:31-34

• “I will put my law within them: A choral reading of Jeremiah 31:31-34"

• “In this law I delight,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 119

Other features

• “The ties that bind: The Integrity of Penitence, on the 50th Anniversary of the Massacre at My Lai,” an essay

• “Plastic Jesus,” a Lenten meditation on plastic,” an essay

©Ken Sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org. Language not otherwise indicated above is that of the editor, as are those portions cited as “kls.” Don’t let the “copyright” notice keep you from circulating material you find here (and elsewhere in this site). Reprint permission is hereby granted in advance for noncommercial purposes.

Feel free to copy and post any original art on this site. (The ones with “prayer&politiks.org” at the bottom.) As well as other information you find helpful.

Your comments are always welcomed. If you have news, views, notes or quotes to add to the list above, please do. If you like what you read, pass this along to your friends. You can reach me directly at kensehested@prayerandpolitiks.org.

 

Choral reading of John 20:1-18

A script, using 8 voices, to tell aloud John’s resurrection account

by Ken Sehested
Introduction: Choral readings (this one for eight voices) are an effective way to enrich and dramatize the hearing of biblical texts in worship. See preparation instructions at bottom.

Early,  [1]

on the first day of the week,  [1, 2]

while it was still dark,  [1, 2, 3]

still dark,  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

still dark,  [ALL]

Mary Magdalene came to the tomb  [3]

and saw that the stone had been removed  from the tomb. [6, 7, 8]

So she ran, [8]

she ran,  [1, 2, 3, 4]

she ran,  [ALL]

and went to Simon Peter   [8]

and the other disciple,  [7]

the one whom Jesus loved,  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

and said to them,  [7]

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,  [ALL]

“and we do not know  [1, 2, 3]

“where they have laid him.”  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

Then Peter  [2]

and the other disciple  [1, 2, 3]

set out  [4, 5, 6, 7, 8]

and went toward the tomb.  [2]

The two were running together,  [4]

but the other disciple outran Peter   [6, 7, 8]

and reached the tomb first.  [1, 2, 3]

He bent down to look in   [2]

and saw the linen wrappings lying there,  [6, 7, 8]

lying there,  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

lying there,  [ALL]

and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head,  [1, 2]

not lying with the linen wrappings  [3, 4]

but rolled up in a place by itself.  [5, 6, 7, 8]

Then the other disciple,  [1]

who reach the tomb first,  [2, 3]

also went in,  [4, 5, 6]

and he saw,  [1, 2, 3]

he saw,  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

he saw,  [ALL]

and he believed;  [7]

for as yet they did not understand the scripture,  [8]

that Jesus must rise from the dead.  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

Then the disciples returned to their homes.  [6]

But Mary stood weeping,  [1, 2]

weeping,  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

weeping,  [ALL]

outside the tomb;  [2]

and she saw two angels in white,  [1, 2]

sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying,  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

one at the head  [7]

and the other at the feet.  [7, 8]

They said to her,  [4]

“Woman,  [1, 2,]

“Woman,  [1, 2, 3]

“Woman,  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

“why are you weeping?”  [ALL]

She said to them,  [1]

“They have taken away my Lord,  [7, 8]

and I do not know where they have laid him.”  [1, 6, 7, 8]

When she had said this,  [6]

she turned around,  [6, 7, 8]

turned around,  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

turned around,  [ALL]

and saw Jesus standing there,  [4]

but she did not know that it was Jesus.  [6]

Jesus said to her,  [3]

“Woman,”  [1, 2, 3]

“Woman,  [2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

“Woman,  [ALL]

“why are you weeping?  [3]

“Whom are you looking for?”  [1, 2, 3]

Supposing him to be the gardener,  [7]

she said to him,  [6, 7, 8]

“Sir,  [7]

“if you have carried him away,  [4, 5]

“tell me where you have laid him,  [1, 6, 7, 8]

“and I will take him away.”  [7]

Jesus said to her,  [2]

“Mary!  [1, 2, 3]

“Mary!  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]

“Mary!”  [ALL]

She turned  [2]

and said to him in Hebrew,  [2, 3]

“Rabbouni!”  [ALL]

(which means teacher).  [2]

Jesus said to her,  [4]

“Do not hold on to me,  [4, 5]

“because I have not yet ascended to the Abba.  [3, 4, 5]

“But go to my disciples  [4]

“and say to them,  [3, 4, 5]

‘I am ascending to my Abba [2, 3, 4, 5]

‘and your Abba,  [2]

‘to my God  [2, 3, 4, 5]

‘and to your God.’”  [ALL]

Mary Magdalene went  [1]

and announced to the disciples,  [4, 5]

“I have seen the Lord;  [1, 2, 3]

“I have seen the Lord,  [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

“I have seen the Lord,”  [ALL]

and she told them all that Jesus has said to her.  [1]

#  #  #

Instructions

For the leader

      •Print a copy for each reader, and number them. Then use a highlighter for each script, according to that readers’ lines (per the numbers following each line).

      •Put a check mark at the bottom of the page if that reader has a line coming first on the subsequent page, to alert them.

      •You can reduce or increase the number of voices—adjust the numbering of each line as appropriate.

      •To begin the first practice, read the first dozen or so lines for the group, to give them a sense of the pace.

      •It’s important that the readers practice this together several times to synchronize the rhythm.

For the readers

      •Speak up and out!—a bit more loudly, and a bit more slowly, than your normal conversational volume and pace.

      •Enunciate each word.

      •Aim your voice so that the person sitting farthest from you can hear and understand.

     •Pause a half-beat at the commas, a full beat at the periods.

©Ken Sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org

 

I will put my law within them

Choral reading of Jeremiah 31:31-34

by Ken Sehested
Introduction: Choral readings (this one for five voices) are an effective way to enrich and dramatize the hearing of biblical texts in worship. See preparation instructions at bottom.

The days are surely coming,    [1]

says the Lord,   [all]

when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.  [1]

A new covenant.   [2, 3]

A new covenant with the People of Blessing   [all]

It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors   [2]

when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—   [3]

a covenant that they broke,   [4, 5]

though I was their lover,  [1, 2]

says the Lord.    [all]

But this is the covenant   [2]

THIS is the covenant   [3, 4]

This is THE covenant   [all]

that I will make with the house of Israel after those days,   [2]

says the Lord:   [all]

I will put my law within them,   [4]

and I will write it on their hearts.   [1]

Write it on our hearts!   [1, 2, 3]

Write it on our hearts!   [all]

and I will be their God,   [1]

our God   [all]

and they shall be my people.   [1]

God’s people.   [all]

No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other,   [2]

"Know the Lord,"   [2, 4]

“Know the Lord,”   [all]

for they shall all know me,   [1]

from the least of them to the greatest,   [2]

says the Lord;   [all]

for I will forgive   [4]

I will forgive   [4, 5]

I will forgive their iniquity,   [all]

and remember their sin no more.   [1]

Remember their sin no more!   [all]

                         #  #  #

Instructions for preparation

For the leader

      •Print a copy for each reader, and number them. Then use a highlighter for each script, according to that readers’ lines (per the numbers following each line).

      •Put a check mark at the bottom of the page if that reader has a line coming first on the subsequent page, to alert them.

      •You can reduce or increase the number of voices—adjust the numbering of each line as appropriate.

      •To begin the first practice, read the first dozen or so lines for the group, to give them a sense of the pace.

      •It’s important that the readers practice this together several times to synchronize the rhythm.

     •Make sure readers know how to pronounce some of the unusual names.

For the readers

      •Speak up and out!—a bit more loudly, and a bit more slowly, than your normal conversational volume and pace.

      •Enunciate each word.

      •Aim your voice so that the person sitting farthest from you can hear and understand.

     •Pause a half-beat at the commas, a full beat at the periods.

      •Practice saying any words that are unusual.

©ken sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org

Why good news is harder to find than bad news

by Ken Sehested

In her recent address at the Conservative Political Action Conference, NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch trotted out the usual sarcastic criticism of those calling for gun control legislation in the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. One thing she said, though, is spot on.

“Many in the legacy media love mass shootings. . . . Crying white mothers are ratings gold to you and many in the legacy media.”

It is most certainly true that the difference between tabloid-sensationalist journalism (the National Enquirers breed) and mainstream media lessens with every passing season. It’s not unlike how the Weather Channel loves extreme weather outbreaks. Disaster reporting of every sort plays to the human weakness for fascination with trauma—like rubberneckers on the highway slow down to gander at car wrecks.

The cynical (but still operative) maxim of journalism in deciding newsworthiness: If it bleeds, it leads.

But besides the exploitation of this human weakness, disasters are so much easier to notice than acts of actual significance. The premier beat of your local news reporting is tuned to emergency responder radio, aka, ambulance chasing. It just takes less work to spot these events. Finding and filming the good, the uplifting, the courageous, the hopeful, and the beneficial is more labor intensive and less scintillating.

I can testify that in compiling “Signs of the Times” I spend proportionately far more effort locating “good news” stories than bad. Generally speaking, when it comes to traffic lights, our complaints over red ones far exceeds our rejoicing at green ones. In our letters to the editor, you and I and everybody I know are more likely to take the trouble of registering a complaint than expressing gratitude.

Being able to be present both to the awful and the awesome currents of history is an essential practice of spiritual formation. Lament should not be suppressed any more than rejoicing neglected.

In recognition of these realities, this issue of “Signs of the Times” [22 March 2018, No. 156] focuses on some of the good news surrounding climate change responses—without any hint that there’s plenty of despairing news available.

#  #  #

©ken sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org

Call to the Table

Remembering Hugh Thompson, US Army helicopter pilot who stopped the My Lai massacre

by Nancy Hastings Sehested

It is difficult to look at the suffering of people. But during the My Lai massacre there was an American soldier who looked. He was a helicopter pilot named Hugh Thompson. From his copter he saw the bodies of men, women and children on the ground dead and wounded. He realized that something horrific was going on. He then saw some people hiding in a bunker, cowering. He saw advancing American soldiers.

He landed his helicopter between the Americans and the Vietnamese. He told the Americans that if they opened fire on the Vietnamese, then his crew would stop them, and open fire on them.

Right: Hugh Thompson (at left) greeted by a Vietnamese women whose life he saved when he intervened to stop the US massacre of civilians in My Lai, 16 March 1968, on Thompson's trip back to My Lai in 1998.

It stopped. But 504 Vietnamese had been killed. Hugh Thompson later said that it was the only way he knew to stop “the madness.”

Thompson testified at the trial against the soldiers. He did not get much support for decades. But on the 30th anniversary of the massacre he went back to My Lai to meet some of the people he had saved. One of the survivors asked him why the soldiers who committed the crimes had not come back. Then she added, “So we could forgive them.” Recounting the experience he said, “I’m not man enough to do that. I wish I was, but I won’t lie to anybody. I’m not that much of a man.”

On that return visit Thompson wondered if anybody knew that all the Americans were not like the killers. “Did they know somebody tried to help? And yes, they did know that. That aspect of it made me feel real good.”

Thompson could’ve stayed hovering above it all. Instead he entered the suffering.

The story at this table is remembering that Jesus could’ve stayed hovering above the suffering. He entered it. At this table he invites us to do the same.

#  #  #

Circle of Mercy Congregation, Asheville, NC, March 18, 2018
(Story about Hugh Thompson from LATimes article by Jon Wiener on the 50th Anniversary of My Lai, March 16, 2018)
©prayerandpolitiks.org

Pulling back the veil: The call to penitential living

(In light of the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre)

Ken Sehested
Circle of Mercy, Asheville NC
18 March 2018
Texts: Psalm 51:10-19, Jeremiah 6:14-15

         Most of you know I’m a pretty mild mannered sort of guy. I was reared to be nice. “Y’all be nice” was what my parents said any time I went out. Occasionally they would say “y’all be good.” But we were never told “y’all be truthful.”

         Being truthful is not always nice. And tonight I’ve decided to come out swinging.

         It’s a helluva time we’re living in. Recently, I was writing a friend, musing about the multiple tragedies of the age. For some reason I got on a roll and listed one damnable thing after another. I paused before signing off, and a closing thought came out of the blue. Before I knew it, I had typed, “WHAT A GREAT TIME TO BE ALIVE.”

         It is a great time to be alive, even if it’s not always a pleasant time to be alive. We are witnesses to some extraordinary things. In the past four weeks, in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, I have time after time been gobsmacked by the passionate eloquence of the survivors of that trauma, and with the relentless and articulate organizing they are doing to demand policy changes on gun control. After the elementary school shooting in 2012 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, I was sure as sure could be that Congress would rise up, with President Obama’s passionate support, to enact sensible gun control measures. It didn’t happen. All we got was “thoughts and prayers.” Since that disappointment, I pretty much gave up on any realistic possibility that change could happen. At least in my lifetime.

         But this student movement has added a new factor to the political calculus. Last week hundreds of thousands of student across the nation, from some 30,000 schools, staged a walk-out to demand action. I was stunned to watch Florida Senator Marco Rubio publicly reproached by students in a national television broadcast by CNN. There is no one in the nation that could have done that other than those students.

         There is a line from the Hasidic tradition of Judaism: “God is not nice. God is not an uncle. God is an earthquake.”

         This is a great time to be alive, even in the face of the political earthquakes happening in our nation. We are in the age of trumphoolery. Most everything we thought was nailed down is coming loose.

         Those of you who’ve been to Matanzas, Cuba, may have met Samuel Gonzalez who works for the Kairos Center. When Stan Dotson was there in November 2016, listing to the news from a distance of Donald Trump’s election, Samuel made some of the most insightful commentary I’ve heard. He commented to Stan that Trump would be America’s chemotherapy: a poison injected into the system to combat malignant growth. “What is cancer,” Samuel said, “but uncontrolled growth,” referring to the type of gangster capitalism that now controls our economy. Few seem to realize that the ascendant engines of our nation’s economy are at war with our democratic values.

         The thing about chemotherapy, there’s always a risk that the poison will kill before the cancer does. Right now, with regard to the future of our democracy, my sense is that the odds are at best about 50-50.

         If you think I’m being alarmist, listen to what 4-star General Barry McCaffrey—the most decorated general in US history—had to say this week. President Trump, McCaffrey tweeted, “is a serious threat to US national security.” Then on Friday, John Brennan, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency, was even more scathing. Speaking directly to Trump, he wrote, “When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.” These guys aren’t snowflakes or lollypop lefties—they come from the elite of our warrior class.

         The truth is not always nice. The work of conciliation will always and forever be part of our ministry and mission as a community of faith. But so, too, the work of confrontation. The trick is to known when and where to do which and how. And the most important place we learn these discernment skills in right here in this Circle.

         Oh, it’s a great time to be alive. In my better moments I can imagine a way through this malignant thicket of political corruption, economic debauchery, and military adventurism. I believe there is still time to turn toward the Beloved Community, to hear and respond to the announcement of the coming Reign of God. Doing so, however, means we must rediscover a very old-fashioned word. That word is penitence.

      Not long ago, New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote, “Concealment makes the soul a swamp. Confession is how you drain it.” And in that same vein, Maya Angelou wrote, “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”

      Except in a few traditional religious settings, penitence is a seldom used word. While its more common synonyms—confession, apology, contrition, and repentance—are standard parts of many church liturgies, the images they convey have generally fallen out of favor.

      There are good reasons why this is so. The primary definition of penance is “voluntary self-punishment inflicted as an outward expression of repentance for having done wrong.” A web search for images of penance reveals more than a few pictures of people whipping themselves.

      We privilege confession and absolution in our liturgy not because God enjoys our humiliation. Just the opposite. By the grace of God, confession frees us from the power of our failures. Confession provides the possibility to begin again. The wreckage wrought by human behavior is real; but the future is not thereby fated.

        The Prophet Jeremiah, living in a time of ancient Judah’s culture of corruption and fraud, spoke these complaints and accusations from God to the people of promise: “They have treated the wound of my people carelessly. They acted shamefully, they committed abomination, yet they did not know how to blush” (6:14-15).

        It seems like every time I read the newspaper, or listen to radio or television newscast, I think of this phrase from the prophet: “They acts shamefully . . . and they did not know how to blush.” Our wounds have been treated carelessly.

        Just this past Friday marked the 50th anniversary of the massacre by US troops in the hamlet of My Lai, Vietnam, which our current national security advisor Lt. General H.R. McMaster called the greatest American foreign policy disasters of the twentieth century." By the way, Bill Ramsey represented us in Washington, taking part in a vigil on Friday outside the White House remembering this painful history, reading a penitential litany he and Joyce wrote for the occasion.

        This year my Lenten imagination has been fixed on that massacre. On March 16, 1968, a platoon of soldiers led by Lt. William Calley committed war crimes in the small village of My Lai. There was no resistance. For reasons beyond human capacity to comprehend, they began systematically killing women, children, and elderly men—500 or so. Of the 26 officers and soldiers initially charged with crimes at My Lai, only Lt. Calley was convicted—of premeditated murder. He was remanded to life in prison but, in the end, served only 35 months under house arrest. Calley never wavered from his trial testimony that he was simply following orders.

      The capacity for penitential living is our only hope for a different future. But alas, the language of penitence has fallen on hard times.

        Our recent national history is replete with apologies of the “mistakes were made” variety that deny responsibility and make vague statements of remorse. “I apologize if I offended anyone.” Often, here’s what is really being said: “I’m sorry you were offended, but I meant no offense, so it’s really your fault that you feel this way.”

        It’s easy to understand public disdain for any sort of penitential language. If absolution comes with no resolution to live differently, then confession is emptied of all meaning.

        If we are to envision anything other than a dystopian future—rule of the brutal, by the brutal, for the brutal—we must recover language for what the Greek New Testament calls metanoia, meaning “to turn around, to change one’s life,” usually translated as “repentance.” To get there involves seven steps.

        The first step is distinguishing between shame and guilt. In our culture guilt is confused with shame, a form of self-preoccupation that engenders paralysis and passivity, an escape—knowingly or not—from response-ability. Shame removes agency, whereas the proper function of guilt is to authorize and mobilize the work of restoration.

      The second step in the recovery of penitential language is recognition of such work as a public process, not just a private solitary event. Admitting and facing up to public wrongdoing has come to be seen as a political weakness rather than a strength. To do the work of penitence requires that we support leaders strong enough to admit mistakes.

      The third step in the recovery of penitential language is understanding that the purpose of judgment is restoration, not retaliation—the goal is the reclamation of virtue, not the authorization of vengeance.

      The fourth step is acknowledging that the process of restoration is almost always discomforting, frightening, and strenuous. Kathleen Norris writes “For grace to be grace, it must give us things we didn’t know we needed and take us to places where we didn’t want to go.” The work of reconciliation will require considerable dislocation.

      The resolve to no longer be silent in the face of abuse is the fifth requirement in a recovery of penitential living. Among the many memorable lines from Dr. King’s bold and dangerous speech critiquing the Vietnam War is “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” “Peace” is not silence in the face of abuse.

      Ending silence in the face of abuse begins with the ritual work of lament, itself a form of penitence. This sixth step in penitential living requires that we give space and time for grief—whether in speech or music or dance or moaning. Our capacity to grieve and lament are directly related to our capacity for hope, much like the circumference of a tree’s canopy is proportionate to its root system.

      The last of these seven steps in penitential living comes from Rebecca Solnit’s amazing book Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities, and it brings us back to where we began. Solnit writes, “Hope is not like a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. Hope is an ax you break down doors with in the case of emergency. . . The future is dark, with a darkness as much of the womb as of the grave.”

      The penitential life, which begins in disillusionment and grief, pushes toward clarity, which leads toward a kind of hope that is more than daydreaming. Hope binds us to a process designed to overcome injustice by forging equitable relations.   

      As Dr. King wrote in his anguished essay “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” These cords neither smother nor strangle. Such covenants are essential both for human and ecological flourishing. And this is what it means to be righteous in the eyes of God.

        The fact that this year—on April 4, less than three weeks after the My Lai anniversary—we also mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. King is especially instructive. King was not murdered because he was a dreamer. He was not assassinated for insisting on integrated water fountains, bus seating arrangements, and voting rights. He was murdered because he dared to identify a more persistent and deep-seated flaw in our national character which gave (and continues to give) rise both to domestic oppression and international aggression.

        This flaw is stuck in our craw. The recovery of penitence is our only hope. Today we stand with the psalmist and pray, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within us all” (51:10)

        It’s a great time to be alive. Let me close with hopeful word from the poet adrienne marie brown:

        “Things are not getting worse. They are getting uncovered. We must hold each other tight and continue to pull back the veil.”

        So may it be.

#  #  #

©ken sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org

Hope Remains

A story from prison

by Nancy Hastings Sehested
(excerpt from an upcoming book of stories from work as a prison chaplain)

            As I greeted the men at the door for the midweek Christian service I was surprised to see Blake, a regular in the Wiccan group.

            “Chap, I didn’t come for the service. I came to see you. I gotta see you now.”

            Ushering him into my office, he started talking even before he sat down. “You got some time? Oh, hell, it doesn’t matter. This is life or death. I wanna kill a guy.”

            Accustomed to such impulsive threats I simply asked, “Anyone in particular?”

            The gap in his front teeth made a runway for his tongue to push his words through. “Yeah, a guy on my block. He called me a liar and a snitch. I gotta stand up to him. I gotta keep my good name.”

            Blake’s good name was usually associated with words like annoying and mouthy. I told him it sounded like his mind was already made up.

            “Well, I started thinking about it,” he said. “I got six years left and if I do this guy in, even if I just beat him up real bad, I’ll get more time. And I got plans once I get outta here. So I figured that I’d come see you first and see if you have any ideas.”

            “Can you just avoid this guy?”

            “No way. I hear his lies about me and I just wanna smash him.”

            “But you haven’t yet. That’s good. What does your religion tell you?”

            “This got nothin’ to do with religion.” Blake anchored his arms on top of his crossed legs. “Oh, I see what you’re tryin’ to do. You want me to say that Wiccans believe in ‘respect all life.’ You want me to say that my religion says ‘don’t hurt anyone.’ But Chap, that’s just not practical. You can’t believe what we’re up against in here. If I don’t stand up to this guy then everybody’ll think I’m weak. No can do.”

            “Why do you give a flyin’ fig what that guy thinks about you? Blake, didn’t you tell me that you liked reading The Lord of the Rings? Remember when they were going into battle and they were sure that their enemy would destroy them? Lady Galadriel said, ‘Hope remains while the company is true.’ You got some buddies to hang in there with you. Let that guy go. I’ll bet you can come up with something.”

            He jumped out of his chair and headed for the door. “That’s it!” He stomped one foot and then the other, chanting, “Hope remains while the company is true.” I wasn’t sure what I’d just witnessed, and can’t say I held out a great deal of hope for him.

            The next afternoon Blake returned with news from the front lines. “Chap, I talked to my buddies. Then I sat up all night thinking about it. I even thought about some stuff I did in the past and how I made things worse. I didn’t wanna do time in lock-up over this guy. So when the canteen opened I bought two cups of coffee and a bag of chips. Then I asked the guy if he wanted coffee and we sat down at a table. I opened up the bag of chips and said, ‘Hey man, why don’t we just lay this stuff down?’ He just kinda smiled and kept drinking the coffee. Then he ate all the chips. And that was it.”

            “That was it!”

            “Thanks, Chap. Just thought you should know.” He left with a wave, and saying again, Hope remains while the company is true!

Nancy Hastings Sehested previously served as chaplain in a maximum security prison for men. She is also co-founder and co-pastor of Circle of Mercy Congregation, Asheville, NC. ©prayerandpolitiks.org

Shed a little light

Pastoral prayer in a season of madmen

by Nancy Hastings Sehested

Holy Light,

We stand somewhere in the shadows, in-between the battlefield of our struggles and the sanctuary of our souls.

Shed a little light on our way. Keep your lighted sanctuary within us portable, able to see clearly, to walk courageously, to withstand the forces that corrupt the truth of our belonging to your one world-wide family.

Shed a little light on our way, kicking up the star-dust of our humanity.

Thank you that it was the wrong button pushed on news of missile fires. Thank you that another wrong button of retaliation wasn’t pushed right after it.

May all the destroying buttons always be the wrong ones. Keep our madmen world leaders away from buttons of annihilation. Keep them clearly out of range of pushing our buttons toward hopelessness and helplessness. Don’t give them security clearness to our spirits. Keep us ever secure in You.

Shed a little light on our way.

Shed your light of healing on all who struggle with illness of body, mind and spirit.

Shed your light of grace for all who stumble with regrets and shame too tender to touch.

Shed your light of mercy on all who fear for their lives, who are caught in the crucible of suffering.

Shed your light for us again on Jesus, that one who was accused of being from that no-good expletive place called Nazareth. May his way of love for all be our all in all in service to You.

Here, now, once again…shed a little light on us all. Amen.

#  #  #

Circle of Mercy Congregation
Asheville, NC
January 14, 2018

The “shed a little light” phrase references James Taylor’s song by that name about Martin Luther King Jr.

©prayerandpolitiks.org