News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  29 December 2016  •  No. 102

Processional (and prayer&politiks theme song for 2017). “I’m Gonna Walk It With You,” by Ellie Grace and Brian Mercier Claflin.
        The artists were at work on a new CD, “but we stole a few moments to write this song. We have been at a loss for how to respond to the darkness and hatred running rampant in our world in recent days, so this is our musical pledge of support for all who are marginalized and oppressed by those coming into power.”

Above: This week President Obama designated two new national monuments in Utah and Nevada. Pictured above is the 1,000-year-old Wolfman Petroglyph Panel on a rock face within the newly designated Bears Ears National Monument near Bluff, Utah. Significantly, the monument declarations stipulate a roll for Native American tribes in management of the sites. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/European Pressphoto Agency

Invocation. “Look with pity, O heavenly God, upon those in this land who live with injustice, terror, and death of family and friends. Have mercy upon us and help us to eliminate cruelty wherever it is found. Strengthen those who seek equality for all. Grant that every one of us may enjoy a fair portion of the justice of this land.” —Brazilian theologian Rubem Alves

Right: The Magi Journeying (Les rois mages en voyage) by James Tissot 

¶ If you’re among the (estimated) 200,000 people going to DC for the Women’s March on Washington, 21 January, Amber Jamieson’s “Women's March on Washington: a guide to the post-inaugural social justice event,” has lots of helpful information. —The Guardian

Call to worship. Listen to T.S. Eliot read his poem, “Journey of the Magi(2:25 minutes).

“We’re all familiar with the image of three men on camels, traveling trackless sand dunes by starlight: ‘Field and fountain, moor and mountain / Following yonder star.’ But how accurate are our Hallmark greeting cards? Philippine Mission of the Russian Orthodox Church

See new and revised lyrics to “We Three Kings.”

Hymn of praise.Go Tell It On the Mountain,” Dolly Parton.

Good news. As of the last reported count, the number of tech employees signing a pledge refusing to build a registry of Muslims living in the US had risen to 2,830. Himanshu Goenka, RawStory
      •See a copy of the pledge and the current signatories.
      •See “A Running List of Tech Companies That Have Pledge Not to Build a Muslim Registry.” —Inc.BrandView

Confession. “Why do you call me Lord and not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46)

The 2016 Alternative Christmas Message. In June, leading up to Britain’s controversial “Brexit” vote on whether to leave the European Union—in part as a protest against immigrants—Member of Parliament Jo Cox was murdered by a man shouting “Britain first.” (See The Guardian’s profile of Cox.  )
            Shortly before Christmas, Brendan Cox, Jo Cox’s spouse, recorded an extraordinary message of hope (2:38 video), saying “She would have wanted two things above all else to happen now–one, that our precious children are bathed in love and two, that we all unite to fight against the hatred that killed her.”

¶ “UN: Migrant deaths in Mediterranean tops record 5,000 this year.Jessica Durando, USA Today

¶ “Reporter helps pull refugees out of Mediterranean.” —USA Today (2:30 video)

Right: “The Holy Family today,” photo by Dan Buttry. See Dan’s recent blog post, “RefuJesus.”

¶ “Love is not just one unending cuddle puddle.” “Tell them that this is the great awakening. / Tell them that we humans have made some huge mistakes / And that’s how we now find ourselves in this tenuous place. / Teach them that hate is the poison. / Teach them that love is the remedy, / That it is better to be readied for what comes next, / Even if the revelation is painful. . . . / Tell them love will win this war, / But only if we remember / That love is not just one unending cuddle puddle, / But fierce as a mother bear protecting her cubs.” —read Rachel Kann’s poem, "What To Tell the Children," written shortly after the US election

Hymn of lamentation. “O God of earth and altar, bow down and hear our cry, / Our earthly rulers falter, our people drift and die; / The walls of gold entomb us, the swords of scorn divide; / Take not Thy thunder from us, but take away our pride.” —“O God of Earth and Altar,” lyrics by G.K. Chesterton

Terrorism as blasphemy: a few quotes

      • “The problem with the person who drove a lorry into a crowded market of Christmas shoppers wasn’t that he was too religious, but that he wasn’t religious enough. It was the action of a half-believer, the sort of thing done by someone who doesn’t so much believe in God—but rather believes in the efficacy of human power exercised on God’s behalf, as if God needed his help.” —Giles Fraser’s “How to defeat terrorists? True extremism,” The Guardian

      • “For the person who resorts to random killing in order to promote the honour of God, it is clear that God is not to be trusted. God is too weak to look after his own honour and we are the strong ones who must step in to help him. Such is the underlying blasphemy at work.” —former Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams

      • “The point of religious terrorism is to purify the world of corrupting influences. But what lies beneath these views? Over time, I began to see that these grievances mask a deeper kind of angst and a deeper kind of fear. Fear of a godless universe.—Jessica Stern in Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill

      • “The war on terror is the outgrowth of a deeply problematic theology of imperial violence which is a terrible perversion of true Christianity and which is adding to a global cycle of violence.” —Michael Northcott

      • Former US President George W. Bush’s original name in 2001 for his announced “war on terrorism” was “Operation Infinite Justice,” a phrase employed in several religious traditions as an exclusive attribute of God.

Words of assurance. Muslim girls choir in Lebanon participated in the annual Beirut Chants Festival, singing “Silent Night” in Arabic.

¶ “I didn’t invent the word ‘trumpery.’ According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, ‘trumpery’ first appeared in English in the mid-15th century. Webster's 1913 Dictionary defined ‘Trump´er`y” — noun 1. Deceit; fraud. 2. Something serving to deceive by false show or pretense; falsehood; deceit; worthless but showy matter; hence, things worn out and of no value; rubbish.’ Who knew a dictionary could speak words of prophecy?—Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Report

Left: “Epiphany,” ©John August Swanson

Professing our faith. “There are three versions of what Epiphany (“Manifestation”) is meant to commemorate in the church’s calendar. One of those traditions is to celebrate Jesus’ baptism on January 6. Another tradition links Epiphany Sunday with the birth of Jesus. Yet another tradition celebrates Epiphany as marking the arrival of the magi—of “We Three Kings” fame, the figures played in every Christmas play by children dressed in bathrobes. Yet the common element in each is the inauguration of a confrontation between God’s Only Begotten and those in seats of power.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Epiphany: Manifesting the bias of Heaven

The first counterterrorism operation in the New Testament was Herod’s slaughter of the infants in and around Bethlehem (Matthew 2), commemorated by the church’s observance of the Feast of the Holy Innocents on 28 December.

Howard Blum’s 2014 book, Dark Invasion: 1915: Germany’s secret war and the hunt for the first terrorist cell in America, tells of German saboteurs in the US prior to our entry into World War I. The assumption made in the subtitle is telling: “terrorists” are, by assumed political definition, non-US citizens, which rules out homegrown terrorists like the Ku Klux Klan and their neo-Nazi and white supremacist cousins.

Hymn of intercession. “When in disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, / I all alone beweep my outcast state, / And trouble deaf Heaven with my bootless cries.” —Shakespeare, Sonnet 29, musical rendition by Rufus Wainwright (Thanks Abigail.)

Preach it. “And what do we mean when we speak of the Lordship of Christ? Is this to say that the Holy One is the ultimate author of vengeance and retribution? Of demeaning power and humiliation? No, a thousand times, NO! The Lordship of Christ speaks of the coming end of all lording, of the day when the cords of subjugation will unravel.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Christ as Lord?” a litany inspired by Ephesians 3:1-12

When only the blues will do.Joy To the World,” bluesy rendition by Etta James. (Thanks Kimberly.)

Call to the table. “I will bow and be simple, / I will bow and be free, / I will bow and be humble, / Yea, bow like the willow tree. / I will bow, this is the token, / I will wear the easy yoke, / I will bow and will be broken, / Yea, I'll fall upon the rock.” —a Shaker hymn, “I Will Bow and Be Simple” performed The Christmas Revels

Remembering the Feast of St. Stephen. “Tear a hole in the world’s veneer, you little ones—that world and its minders and binders and brokers of deceit bent on disparity’s rule; for another reign, the Sovereignty of Mercy, is marshaling beyond the reach of menace and rancor, where the armor of faith is fired in hope and fashioned in steeled compassion.
        “Here in this steal-away place lies the staging ground of Heaven’s planned redress, the garrison where grief’s smear turns to cheer and insurgent resolve is unshackled, from which incendiaries of the Spirit launch raids, even now, against a rancid world to reclaim the resplendent earth for its created purpose and pleasure and joy.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Fear not the dark: On the Feast of St. Stephen, inaugural Christian martyr”

Right: Sign outside pub in Clerkenwell, England.

The state of our disunion. “‘I think a lot of people are afraid to talk about slavery, are afraid to talk about lynching and segregation because they fear they will be punished,’ Bryan Stevenson [founder of the Equal Justice Initiative] said on ‘PBS NewsHour’ on Dec. 19. ‘We don’t have an interest in punishing America for this history, but we don’t believe we can be free until we acknowledge this history.’” —Jonathan Capehart, “What the lyinching memorial will force us all to face,” Washington Post (Thanks Gareth.)

For the beauty of the earth. Paul Stamets spent his life exploring fungi and their role in enriching the soil. A remarkable video (2:24). (Thanks Bruce.)

Altar call. “There's so many things going on in the world / Babies dying / Mothers crying / How much oil is one human life worth / And what ever happened to peace on earth.” —Willie Nelson, “Whatever Happened to Peace On Earth

Benediction. “May your heroes be earthy, / dusty-shoed and rumpled, / hallowed but unhaloed, / guiding you through seasons / of tremor and travail, apprenticed / to the godly art of giggling / amid haggard news and / portentous circumstance.” —watch this video (2:30) recitation of Ken Sehested’s “Benedicere: A New Year’s Day blessing,” or read the text

Recessional.Song of the Maji,” Anaïs Mitchell.

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Arise, shine; for your Light has come, for heaven’s Glory rises to greet you! / But how can such frivolous claims be made? For blind rage covers the earth, and the nations are allied in enmity. / Open your eyes, oh People of Promise! Throw off fear’s blinding cover and see the Radiance that lights the Way Home.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Every portal of sight,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 60:1-6

Just for fun. The Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada) swim team practicing in snow. (Thanks Ivan.) 

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Benedicere: A New Year’s Day Blessing

• “Epiphany: Manifesting the bias of Heaven

• “Every portal of sight,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 60:1-6

• “Christ as Lord?a litany inspired by Ephesians 3:1-12

Other features
• “Fear not the dark: On the Feast of St. Stephen, inaugural Christian martyr

• “Watch night history: Awaiting the quelling word

• “The quelling word,” a poem inspired by Revelation 21:1-6a

• “New year resolutions,” a litany for worship

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