News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  26 May 2016  •  No. 74

Processional.Conga,” Miami Sound Machine.

Above: Deep in the Guangxi Province of China, photo by Trey Ratcliff.

Invocation. Sometimes God invokes us as we emerge from slumber—something like this. (1:05 video. Thanks Marti).

Call to worship. “When you’ve had your fill of huckster dreams and foolish /  schemes; when exhausted by self-help gurus and stock / market voodoos; when weight loss and hair gain on easy monthly payments disappoint: / Come home to the One who throws a party at your approach!” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Come home,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 146

Men behaving well—this will get your mojo cranked. “Single dad and daughter bond over braids.” —Steve Hartman, CBS Evening News (3:01 video)

Good news. “Posing in front of handcrafted stage sets as if starring in a school play, refugee children from Burundi and Syria re-enacted scenes of escape from their home countries while others dressed up for their dream jobs. Frustrated that most photos of refugee children in mainstream media depict images of despair and hopelessness, [French photographer Patrick Willocq] decided to let the children tell their own stories in their own way.” —"Refugee Children Act Out Their Stories and Dreams in These Beautiful Photos," Alexandra Ma

Getting better news. “While the situation is still dire, with Black farmers comprising only about 1% of the industry, we have not disappeared. After more than a century of decline, the number of Black farmers is on the rise.” Leah Penniman, Yes! Magazine

Hymn of praise.All God’s Chillin Got Wings,” Sons of the Pioneers.

Hundreds of people took part in a march in the Cuban city of Matanzas (right) commemorating the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Among the participants were Somos, a faith-based network of gayfolk in Cuba, and Iglesias de la Communidad Metropolitana (ICM), a new lgbt-affirming congregation in Matanzas founded by members of Iglesia Primera Bautista. —For more information on the march, see Michael K. Lavers, Washington Blade.

A must-read. “Seven things I’m learning about transgendered persons.” Rev. Mark Wingfield, Baptist News Global

Read the transcript of an NPR interview with Rev. Wingfield. —“Pastor Writes To Dispel Embedded Misconceptions About Transgender People

An extraordinarily powerful story. “Jake, born female, was 5 when he says he first told his dad he was a boy. Jon thought it was a phase, but came to accept it, and 15 years later Jake made his new name and gender official.” NPR interview (audio 8:14)

¶ “We are mostly being dragged into that conversation, of course. There’s always stormy weather when frontal boundaries move through. You would think people of faith would have learned by now that turbulence is the Holy Spirit’s middle name, and fireworks are her calling card.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Trans-formation: Controversy over the boundary of God’s welcome continues

Lexicon aids for us remedial students. Jennifer Barge provides “Some much needed basics on gender” language.

The larger tragedy highlighted by a few numbers, from the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.
        • 41% of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have attempted suicide as compared to 1.6% of the general population.
        • 47% said they had been fired, not hired or denied a promotion.
        • 19% reported being homeless at some point; 55% harassed by shelter staff or residents; 29% turned away from shelters; 22% suffered sexual assault.
        • 19% reported being refused medical care.

For more information on the Istanbul march, see “LGBT Muslims.”

¶ “Is homosexuality compatible with Christian faith? Is heterosexuality compatible with Christian faith?  Uncircumcised, or circumcised? Neither question, I would suggest, is relevant. To quote Scripture, ‘We believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will(Acts 15:11). —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “St. Peter and the Jerusalem Protocol: Commentary on Biblical Fidelity and Sexual Orientation

Confession. “I've got no time to look back, I've got no time to see, / The pieces of my heart that have been ripped away from me. / And if the feeling starts to coming, I've learned to stop 'em fast. / ’Cause I don't know, if I let ’em go, they might not wanna pass.” —Iris Dement, “No Time to Cry

This is part of God’s humor. “Police in [Istanbul] Turkey blast gay pride parade (see at right) with water cannons, accidentally create a rainbow.” Christopher Hooton, Independent

Can’t make this sh*t up. The daughter of America's most famous evangelical Christian has said God let 9/11 happen to show the US they need him. Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, claimed God has abandoned Americans because of their attitude towards transgender rights, evolution and the separation of church and state. ‘I think that’s why God allows bad things to happen. To show us that we need him.’” Samuel Osborne, Independent

Words of assurance.  “Life smooths us, perfects us as does the river the stone, and there is no place our Beloved is not flowing, though the current’s force you may not like.” —St. Teresa of Ávila

Blessing of the bicycles: Liturgy evolving to pronounce God’s goodness in a myriad of ways. On 30 April St. John the Divine Episcopal Cathedral in New York City held its 18th annual “blessing of the bicycles.” Here is a brief video (1:50) taken at the 2010 event.

Hymn of intercession.Take Your Burden to the Lord and Leave It There,” Rayna Gellert & Kristin Andreassen.

Best one-liner on the internet. “Make America Great Again for the People It Was Great for Already.” —New York Times op-ed by Bryce Covert, referencing The Donald’s campaign slogan

Use this 15-minute video for one of your weekly meditations. “Father Michael Lapsley at the UN (26 April 2016) speaking on the Healing of Memories.” Lapsley, an Anglican priest in South Africa, was the target of a letter bomb sent by South African security forces. Lapsley lost both hands, an eye, and was severely burned. Since then he has been a leader in the movement for reconciliation, founding the Institute for the Healing of Memories in 1998.

A wedding blessing (June being the most popular month for weddings in the US). “May you have each other always—and want to. May you know that in this wedding feast the Holy Spirit is establishing another beachhead in a fickle and faithless world. It is said that when Jesus rescued the wedding feast at Cana, turning common water into vintage wine, it was done to reveal the glory of God. Don’t you like that—for the glory of God!?” —Ken Sehested, “Blessings, benedictions & charges,” In the Land of the Willing

¶ “This is what vows are for. Because none of us are at our most brilliant, sexy and entertaining selves all the time! We don’t live our lives in party attire and crafted hair all the time. In fact, we all have the occasional morning breath, unaffectionate days and irritable episodes.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “This is why they make you take vows: A ‘holy union’ sermon

This is dumbfounding. “While residents of beleaguered Flint face rate hikes for the city's lead-poisoned water and Detroit sees teachers staging sickouts after lawmakers threatened to withhold their full salaries, the state treasury announced this week that Michigan businesses are to effectively pay nothing in taxes this year. In fact, Michigan is projected to give corporations a net refund—even while it faces a budget shortfall of $460 million.” Nika Knight, Common Dreams

Preach it. “The Body of Christ has seen queer folks angry. That anger is warranted. The church as the purveyor of a lot of violence against the queer community should witness that anger and make efforts to understand it.” —continue reading Hillary Brownsmith’s “‘The Lord has taken you up’: A testimony

Call to the table. “You have drunk a bitter wine / With none to be your comfort / You who once were left behind / Will be welcome at love's table.” —“By Way of Sorrow,” Julie Miller

Altar call. “I can say no to myself, I can say yes to God, and then every single day there are tests to prove whether I meant it. I may have meant it yesterday, but I would like to take it back today. Somebody has said, ‘Living sacrifices keep crawling off the altar.’” —Elizabeth Elliott

Post Memorial Day recommended viewing. PBS TV is premiering “War and Peace” this coming Monday. (Check your local stations for the schedule in your area.)  “The impact of war is discussed by former Marine-turned-actor Adam Driver; journalist Sebastian Junger; Albert Einstein Institution executive director Jamila Raqib; humanitarian Samantha Nutt; and Christianne Boudreau, whose son died fighting for ISIS in Syria. Also: a performance by Rufus Wainwright; and the films ‘Talk of War,’ about military families; ‘All Roads Point Home,’ about Maj. Gen. Linda Singh of the Maryland National Guard; and ‘Bionic Soldier,’ about biotechnology and wounded vets.”

Benediction. “There are times when / You might feel aimless / And can't see the places / Where you belong / But you will find that / There is a purpose / It's been there within you / All along / And when you're near it / You can almost hear it.” —“Glorious,” David Archuleta, performed by the One Voice Children’s Choir

Recessional. “Taps” (full version) performed by Melissa Venema with the Metropole orchestra in Amsterdam. The original version of “Taps” was called “Last Post,” and was written by Daniel Butterfield in 1801. It was rather lengthy and formal. In 1862 it was shortened to 24 notes and given its present name.

Lectionary for Sunday next. “May God bring you into the presence of widows whose faith is stronger than famine. May God send Elijah to accompany you to the place where hope outstrips horror. May God provide you with provisions that neither faint nor fail and teach you to say, along the risky journey of faith, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and bless God’s holy Name.” —adapted from Ken Sehested’s “Elijah and the widow,” a litany for worship inspired by 1 Kings 17:8-24

Just for fun. Need a virtual hug? Enjoy one minute’s worth with a baby elephant.

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• “Trans-formation: Controversy over the boundary of God’s welcome continues

• “Come home,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 146

• “The Lord has taken you up: A testimony,” by Hillary Brownsmith

• “Elijah and the widow,” a litany for worship inspired by 1 Kings 17:8-24

• “St. Peter and the Jerusalem Protocol: Commentary on Biblical Fidelity and Sexual Orientation

• “This is why they make you take vows: A ‘holy union’ sermon

Memorial Day resources

• “Memorial Day: A summary history: Why being for peace is not enough

• “Peace, like war, is waged,” a litany for worship adapted from a Walker Knight poem

• “Fear not! The nonviolent war cry of the People of God

• “Memorial Day quotes: The minority report

• “Public reasoning and ekklesial reckoning: Commentary on the Vatican conference calling for ‘spirituality and practice of active nonviolence’ to displace church focus on just war”

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