News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  19 January 2017  •  No. 105

Processional, in honor of this week’s women’s march in Washington, DC (and many other cities). “I can see a world where we all live / Safe and free from all oppression / No more rape or incest, or abuse / Women are not a possession / You’ve never owned me, don’t even know me / I’m not invisible, I’m simply wonderful / I feel my heart for the first time racing / I feel alive, I feel so amazing.” —Tena Clark and Tim Heintz, “Break the Chain

Above: photo by Peter Holme III

Invocation. “Sleep, sleep tonight / And may your dreams be realized. / If the thunder cloud passes rain / So let it rain, rain down on he. / So let it be. / So let it. “ —"MLK," U2’s song in honor of Martin Luther King Jr., performed here by Darrell Adams, who also produced this video

Call to worship, in light of the Women’s March on Washington.

The morning was, a memorable pomp,
More glorious than I ever had beheld.
The sea was laughing at a distance; all
The solid mountains were as bright as clouds,
Grain-tinctured, drench'd in empyrean light;
And in the meadows and the lower grounds,
Was all the sweetness of a common dawn
Dews, vapours, and the melody of birds,
And labourers going forth into the fields.
Ah! Need I say, dear friend, that to the brim
My heart was full? I made no vows, but vows
Were then made for me
: bond unknown to me
Was given, that I should be—else sinning greatly—
A dedicated spirit. On I walked
In blessedness, which even yet remains
—William Wordworth

Hymn of praise.My Roots Go Down,” Annie Patterson.

Good news. “In one of his last official acts, President Obama designated Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and other civil rights landmarks in Birmingham, Ala., as the Birmingham Civil Rights National Monument. The designation protects the historic A.G. Gaston Motel in that city, where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders had their 1963 campaign headquarters, as well as Kelly Ingram Park, where police turned hoses and dogs on civil rights protesters.” Religion News Service

¶ “City parking permits for 200 buses are being sought for our Slander-in-Chief's Inauguration Day. The number for the Women’s March: 1,200,” Perry Stein, Washington Post

The Women’s March has turned into a global day of action. “Over 600 marches will take place in 57 countries around the world.” Find out more, and see a map of locations, in Nika Knight, CommonDreams.

Find out more about “Break the Chain and the One Billion Rising campaign of defiance against the exploitation of women.

Confession. “The truth of these words is beyond doubt, / but the human spirit cannot move without great difficulty / against all the apathy / in the surrounding world, / yet we must move on / and some of us have already begun / to break the silence of the night.—listen to Carla Christopher recite her poem, “The Silence of the Night,” which draws on language from Dr. King’s writing (video 4:08)

Absolution’s resolution. “We are indeed strangers; but not foreigners. This “world” is not our home; but this earth is. We are not drifters: directionless, detached, disaffected, suffering neither loves nor longings, risking no hopes, claimed by no promises.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Pacem in terres"

Hymn of perseverance. “What do you do  / when you've done all you can / And it seems like it's never enough? / When you've given your all, / and it seems like / you can't make it through? / Well you just stand / when there's nothing left to do / you just stand.” —Donnie McClurkin, “Stand” (Thanks Bob.)

As you’ve probably heard, 2016 was the earth’s hottest year, the third record-setter in a row, conclusions reached both by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and by NASA scientists. Watch this NASA produced animation of the history of global temperatures, from 1880-present. (0:49 video)

        Other details in the year-end reporting:
        • The last time the world was warmer was about 125,000 years ago.
        • The 2016 increase was by the largest margin ever.
        • Most of the warming happened in the past 35 years, and 16 of the 17 warmest years have occurred since 2001.
        • Temperature records were set on nearly every continent, and no land mass was cooler than average.
        • The first eight months of 2016 were the warmest for that month since record keeping began in 1880. Doyle Rice, USA Today

Words of assurance. “I was born to endure this kind of weather / When it's you I find like a ghost in my mind / I am defeated and I gladly wear the crown.” —First Aid Kit, “Emmylou

¶ “As democracy is perfected, the office of the President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. One some great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be occupied by a downright fool and a complete narcissistic moron.” —H.L. Mencken

I am a fan of Mencken’s wit (see the above quote) but not his political judgment. It is the “plain folks of the land” that are, in fact, among the biggest losers in this election. That some find it rather easy to manipulate them, yes, that much is true. That they deserve it, no. It is we, the unplain, the cosmopolitans, who are complicit in this disaster. And we shall continue our complicity until we find the wherewithal to fashion movements—across racial and class and urban-rural divides—sturdy enough to topple the gangster-bankster class, and their illicit aspirants, from their duplicitous thrones. —kls

Professing our faith. “We can’t have a testimony without a test, and we are being tested right now for whether or not we’ve got courage enough, hope enough, fight enough, love enough to do what is necessary.” —Nina Turner, former Ohio State Senator, speaking on behalf of Bernie Sanders at a gathering in front of the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial in Washington, DC. (Thanks Karen.) You can listen to her at this link.

Short story. Being in Matanzas [Cuba] and watching election results on the night of November 8 was surreal. . . . The most interesting conversations came from people like my friend Samuel, who didn't seem at all bothered by a Trump presidency. Samuel's view is that America has long been suffering from a political/economic cancer, and perhaps Trump is the poison, the chemotherapy or radiation, that we need to deal with our cancer. Our cancer is the imperial illusion/fantasy of unlimited growth (isn't that what cancer is? he asked me). We are a discontented people, never satisfied unless our bank accounts and material storehouses are growing.” Stan Dotson

¶ “When President Obama killed the 22-year-old policy giving preferential, fast-track citizenship to Cubans who could make it to the US [aka “wet feet/dry feet policy], his administration nixed another program, too. Not well known to most Americans, it sought to undermine the Cuban government through a form of brain drain. The Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, created in 2006 under then-President George W. Bush, aimed to lure away some of the tens of thousands of doctors, nurses and other medical workers the island nation dispatched around the world.
            “If you were a Cuban doctor and bumped into some guy from the U.S. Embassy in Johannesburg, South Africa, and told him you wanted to take advantage of the medical parole program, then you’d be taken to the embassy and eventually be flown to the US, get residency—citizenship—and a job.” Les Neuhaus, Los Angeles Times

Hymn of intercession. “Inspired by love and anger, disturbed by need and pain, / Informed of God’s own bias we ask him once again:  / ‘How long must some folk suffer? / How long can few folk mind?  / How long dare vain self interest turn prayer and pity blind?’” —Choir of Trinity College, University of Melbourne, Australia, “Inspired by Love and Anger” (Thanks Andrew.)

Oh, for the good ol’ days. “The traditional hospitality of the American people has been severely tested by recent events, but it remains the strongest in the world. Republicans are proud that our people have opened their arms and hearts to strangers from abroad and we favor an immigration and refugee policy which is consistent with this tradition.” —from The Republican Party’s platform, 1980 (Thanks Karen.)

This fact is not only a scandal but also evidence of heresy. “Eight men own the same wealth as half the world's population, a level of inequality which 'threatens to pull our societies apart,' Oxfam said on Monday ahead of the World Economic Forum opening in Davos. The wealth of the world's poorest 3.6 billion people is the equivalent to the combined net worth of six American businessmen, one from Spain and another from Mexico.” Yahoo News

Preach it. “We are each other's / harvest: / we are each other's / business: / we are each other's / magnitude and bond.” —Gwendolyn Brooks

Call to the table. “Maybe this is why [Jesus] says to the curious, ‘Come and see.’ Don’t try first to learn all about me as though that were possible. Just be with me. Watch me. Come hang out in the places I hang out. Let yourself weep and laugh over the same things that move me to tears and laughter.” —Kayla McClurg, inward/outward

Hymn of conviction. “There have been times that I thought I couldn't last for long / But now I think I'm able to carry on / It's been a long, a long time coming / But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will.” —Sam Cooke, “A Change Is Gonna Come
            Rolling Stone now calls “A Change Is Gonna Come" one of the greatest songs of all time, but in 1964 its political message was a risky maneuver. Cooke wrote this song after he and his band were turned away from a hotel in Shreveport, La. Cooke’s silvery voice and the music’s soothing tempo understate the song’s resolve. Eventually it became something of an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement.

Best one-liner. “I believe in being truthful, not neutral . . . we must stop banalizing the truth." —Christiane Amanpour, Chief International Correspondent for CNN

"To remake a Churchill quote for the current slate of cabinet members, "never in the course of human events have so many known so little about so much." One way to trim "big government" is to provide leadership that doesn't know what they are supposed to oversee and having no commitment to doing a good job with what they have responsibility for. I have never seen such an embarrassing display of American "leadership," and these folks haven't even begun yet." —Dan Buttry

Can’t makes this sh*t up. “A Russian metal working company has minted a sterling silver coin to commemorate President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, featuring Mr. Trump’s face and the slogan (on the back side) ‘In Trump we trust.’” CBS News

For the beauty of the earth. Glowworms in Motion: A Time-lapse of New Zealand's Glowworm Caves. (1:48 video)

Altar call.What Does the Lord Require of You?—Hilary Donaldson teaching a group to sing this simple song in the round. (It doesn't take long, even for a group of nonprofessional singers; and the resulting sound is marvelous.)

Benediction. “Good adventure to you when you don’t have it all together. God is in the middle of the mess. . . . Good adventure to you who hunger for healing and justice. God is filling your belly with hope.” —continue reading Nancy Hastings Sehested’s “¡Las bienaventuranzas! (Good adventure),” Matthew 5’s Beatitudes paraphrased

Robert McAfee Brown has noted that the famous injunction in Micah—“What does the Lord require, but to do justice, to love kindness, to walk humbly with God” (6:8)—is not a three statement sentence but a sentence saying the same thing in three different ways. Our minds have a hard time comprehending this.

Recessional. One day we’ll all recess like this.

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Harness your tongue and guard it from slanderous speech! Stand by your word, even if it comes at a price! Lend without interest and resist the insult of bribery. Snatch our hearts from the temple of vengeance. And plant our feet on your holy hill of mercy!” —“Sweet surrender,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 15

The Beatitudes. hear 7 year-old Sydney read the text in worship at my congregation

Just for fun. "Panda at Toronto Zoo finds a Snowman playmate." (1:43 video)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Sweet surrender,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 15

• “¡Las bienaventuranzas! (Good adventure),” Matthew 5’s Beatitude paraphrased, by Nancy Hastings Sehested

• "Beatitudes,” a litany for worship (which can also be sung to the tune of Pat Wictor’s “Love Is the Water

 • “Pacem in terres,” a new poem

©Ken Sehested @ 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.

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