News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  17 June 2016  •  No. 77

Processional.Dedication,” San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus sings in solidarity with Orlando victims. (Click the “show more” button for more background. Thanks Patrick.)

View more photos of Michael Grab’s extraordinary artistry as a “rock balancer.” He uses no strings, wires or other aids—only gravity and the shape of the rocks. Catie Leary, Mother Nature Network.  See Grab’s “Gravity Glue” page on Facebook.

Prelude: “Steal away to Jesus”
        I was planning an abbreviated edition of “Signs of the Times” to allow time this week for other projects. The Pulse nightclub butchery, in a location named by many of its patrons as a “sanctuary,” sent us all tumbling into ravaging emotions of grief, horror, anger and despair.
        I’m not alone in the work of attempting to write my way out of such despondence. (See “Hate crime vs. terrorism: How our language highlights or disguises violence.”)
        In such moments, we are inevitably caught in the conflicting needs of making sense of such tragedy and mourning it. Some do these very different tasks more or less together. Others separate them. Both demand attention, both needs must be met.
        Then my friend Susan sent this note on Facebook:
        “In the thinnest grasp on hope this morning, would folks share where they have recently witnessed kindness?”
        I knew instinctively that what I needed to do was round up a collection of stories responding to Susan’s timely plea. And there were more than I imagined—see the annotated list below. (I hope you will add your own, in the “reader comments” section at the bottom of this page.) —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Steal Away to Jesus: When the pulse is imperiled, find what is needed to keep on keeping on

Invocation.Steal Away (to Jesus),” Michael Tippett arrangement, East Tennessee State University Chorale.

Call to worship. “The beginning of hope is to be conscious of despair in the very air we breathe, and to look around for something better.” —Walker Percy

Hymn of praise. “No fight left or so it seems / I am a man whose dreams have all deserted / I've changed my face, I've changed my name / But no one wants you when you lose / Don't give up / ’cause you have friends / Don't give up / You're not beaten yet / Don't give up / I know you can make it good.” —Sinead O’Connor and Willie Nelson, “Don’t Give Up

Confession.Come Ye Disconsolate,” Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway.

Juneteenth marks the date, 19 June 1865, when the official news of slavery’s end reached Texas.

        •“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.” —Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger, General Orders, Number 3; Headquarters District of Texas, Galveston, June 19, 1865

        •“The slave went free; stood a brief moment in the sun; then moved back again toward slavery.” —W.E.B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction

Words of assurance. “Don't give up / It's just the weight of the world / When your heart's heavy / I will lift it for you / Don't give up / Because you want to be heard / If silence keeps you / I will break it for you.” —Gosh Groban, “You Are Loved (Don’t Give Up)”

Hymn of intercession.Kyrie,” Emmylou Harris with John Paul White. (Thanks Randy.)


Candles are visible in Orlando’s dark aftermath.
You need not ignore the latter to focus on the former.

Here is some of the evidence.

        § A grandmother on her way to Orlando to be at her grandson’s funeral received a JetBlue plane load full of condolences. Her grandson, Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo, was one of those killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting. As she rolled her cart down the aisle, flight attendant Katie Davis Karas (and her co-workers) quietly asked each passenger if they would like to sign a card to the woman. Read what else happened. —Colby Itkowitz, “Orlando-bound flight crew, passengers comfort grieving grandmother," Chicago Tribune

        § “‘My Heart Has Changed': Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox Apologizes To LGBT Community.” —a moving interview by Kelly McEvers, National Public Radio (audio and script)

        § “Megachurch pastor Joel Hunter: 'Evangelicals must repent of LGBT oppression.'” Florence Taylor,

        § On Tuesday evening First Baptist Church of Orlando held a special service in memory of the lives lost in the Pulse nightclub shooting. A significant contingent of the city’s LGBT community were present, and Victoria Kirby York, national campaign director of the National LGBTQ Task Force spoke.
        York, who grew up in the area, made reference to the Bible: “That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
        She said: “It didn’t say whosoever who’s black, or whosever that’s white, or whosever that’s Latino or Asian or indigenous. It didn’t say whoever that’s cisgender or transgender or lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer or questioning. It said whosoever, full stop. . . . “So in our prayer, I urge you tonight and every night to pray for those graceful conversations that will help bridge the gap in communities and in families here in Orlando and across the world.” David Smith, The Guardian

        § “Queer Muslims exist—and we are in mourning, too. We are now used to the fact that, every time a criminally misguided Muslim commits an act of violence, the entire religion and all its followers are questioned and placed under suspicion in a way that isn’t replicated with other faiths. We—and this of course includes queer Muslims—have to take extra care walking down the street at night and entering our mosques for fear of Islamophobic attacks.” Samra Habib

        § See Samra Habib’s “Just Me and Allah: A Queer Muslim Photo Project.” 

        § “Here’s Your List Of Muslim Leaders Around the World That Condemned the Massacre in Orlando.” Evelyn Anne Crunden & Adrienne Mahsa Varkiani, Think Progress

        § “Chick-fil-A [not known as a queer-friendly company] typically closes on Sundays, but this Sunday was different. Workers from the Chick-fil-A in Orlando, Florida, went to work Sunday to offer free food to those lining up to give blood to help those injured in the shooting at LGBT club Pulse. Food went to those on line as well as law enforcement working the scene. Cavan Sieczkowski, Huffington Post

¶ “I was once asked by a senior British diplomat to evaluate a rural development scheme in the Caribbean run jointly by Rastafarians and Christians.  ‘Can't make it out, Elliot’ said the diplomat, ‘They give away what they don't need.  And when I asked them what it was all in aid of, d’you know what they said? ‘It's all for love, man, all for love.’ My God, Elliot. if that gets around, there's no knowing where it will end.” —Charles Elliot, Anglican priest and former director of Christian Aid, an ecumenical relief and development agency in the UK

Preach it. “There are, to be sure, moments of high drama in the / work of holy obedience. . . . / On rare occasions, the whole world is watching. / Much more often, the storyline of faith is lived without / notoriety, is forged without fanfare: / in familiar places, / in small acts of courage against petty tyrants, / with commonplace forbearance in the midst / of garden-variety stress.” —continued reading Ken Sehested’s “Faith without fanfare,” a litany for worship inspired by Galatians 5

Today is the first anniversary of the terrorist attack on Bible studiers at “Mother” Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the nation’s oldest African American congregations, in Charleston, SC. Pictured at left are those who lost their lives. The shooter, 21-year-old Dylan Roof, said he hoped to start a race war.

Call to the table. Oh, you're in my blood like holy wine / You taste so bitter and so sweet / Oh, I could drink a case of you, darling / And I would still be on my feet / Oh, I would still be on my feet.” —Joni Mitchell, “A Case of You

For the beauty of the earth. Watch the fierce beauty of lightening storm in Florida filmed at 7,000 frames per second.  Florida Institute of Technology

Altar call. “Oh my love, you have grown so cold / To the world outside, to the house next door / She who has been loved much, has so much to give / Mercy is the fragrance, of the broken / Justice will roll down, oh justice will roll down / From high upon those mountains with a mighty river sound.” —Sandra McCracken, “Justice Will Roll Down

On the night before my Dad’s funeral in 2001, my wife found this card (right) in his Bible. He had at some point typed it out, hunt-and-peck-one-finger method, on their old manual typewriter. Author unknown.

Like most holidays, Father’s Day has its competing histories. The dominant one seems to be the story of Sonora Smart Dodd, a woman who in 1909 wanted to honor her father, William Smart, a Civil War veteran whose wife died giving birth.
        Ironically, Ms. Dodd came up with the inspiration after hearing a Mother’s Day sermon in her church and later convinced her pastor to dedicate a Sunday to fathers. Later US presidents endorsed the idea, with Lyndon Johnson signing a declaration in 1966 and, in 1972, Richard Nixon signing legislation making it a permanent holiday.
        So the holiday, signed into law by a president who very nearly overthrew our constitutional government, is actually a recognition of the struggle of single parents. All of us with children know how difficult parenting can be even when shared by two people. So, yes, we can honor the special circumstances of single-parent households, particularly those where the surviving parent has to be less absorbed with power-tool sales and more attentive to laundry and dark-of-night cries and stretching food budgets. —Ken Sehested, from a 2005 Father’s Day sermon

Benediction. “A spontaneous prayer which—oddly, for a deep-water baptist—I’ve come to love, broke from my lips. ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.
            “And also with you. To meet this day will require the fearless presence of all who live in full awareness that death does not have the last word.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Hate crime vs. terrorism: How our language highlights or disguises violence

Recessional. “As my soul slides down to die. / How could I lose him? / What did I try? / Bit by bit, I've realized / That he was here with me; / I looked into my father's eyes. / My father's eyes. / I looked into my father's eyes. / My father's eyes.” —Eric Clapton, “My Father’s Eyes

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads of a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.” —Galatians 5:25-26, Eugene Peterson’s The Message translation

Just for fun. Bird goofing around with golf balls. (32 seconds.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• “Steal away to Jesus: When the pulse is imperiled, find what is needed to keep on keeping on

• “Faith without fanfare,” a litany for worship inspired by Galatians 5

"Steal Away," a litany for worship

• “Hate crime vs. terrorism: How our language highlights or disguises violence

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