News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  21 March 2016  •  No. 64

Early and abbreviated issue

This edition of “Signs of the Times” is both early and abbreviated—to clear space for another major writing assignment followed by hiking in Arches National Park in Utah. (You’ll be jealous when you view these National Geographic’s photos of the park.)
        This week’s edition, and those of the next two weeks, will be brief.

Call to worship. “Easter resurrection is never as assured / as the arrival of Easter bunnies. / Clothiers and chocolate-makers alike yearn / for the season no less than every cleric. / And yet, in my experience, the Spirit / rarely blows according to the calendar, / much less on demand.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Easter’s aftermath

Music suggestions for Holy Week.

        •Holy Tuesday.Bridegroom Hymn.”

        •Holy Wednesday. “Sinner’s Prayer,” B.B. King and Ray Charles.
        “To love the right, / yet do so wrong. / To be the weak, / yet burn to be so strong.”

        •Maundy Thursday.Lean On Me,” Bill Withers.
        “Lean on me when you're not strong / And I'll be your friend, I'll help you carry on / For it won't be long / 'Til I'm gonna need somebody to lean on.”

        •Good Friday.Stay With Me,” from the Taizé community of France.

        •Easter Eve.Ain’t No Grave (Can Hold My Body Down),” A Southern Gospel Revival & Jamie Wilson.

        (See last week’s “Signs of the Times” for several more Holy Week musical suggestions.)

The peril of Holy Week cannot be endured without at least a hint of the Resurrection’s promise. To that end, below are two brief stories—one from today’s headlines, the other from recent history—to provide ballast in the storm.

Right: Air Force 1 on approach to the Jose Marti International Airport in Havana. Photo by Jose Luis Casal. See story below.

Last remaining vestige of the Cold War under assault. In case you missed it, watch this historic video (1:10) of President Barack Obama and family deplaning in Havana, Cuba, this morning, 21 March 2016. —CNN

        Even during the Christian community’s Passion Week, a countersign—the Promise embedded within the Passion—can be discerned. History, despite its bloodied face, is not fated; and we, among history’s actors, need not abandon the field in hopes of a private realm of bogus atonement detached from fleshly circumstance.

        The last (and only other) sitting US president to visit Cuba was Calvin Coolidge, in 1928, and then only to speak at the 6th Pan-American conference. Following his term in office, former US President Jimmy Carter visited Cuba in 2002 and 2011. In fact, shortly after Carter was elected in 1976 he issued a secret directive on Cuban policy aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations. —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Background to the touch down: President Bartack Obama’s historic visit to Cuba

Two things distinguish the “Jesus Prince of Peace” icon. One is the sheer fact of the hand-drawn images of brutality and violence surrounding the central figure. This isn’t normal iconographic practice.

        The second distinctive is that the iconographer is a Baptist—not your usual religious affiliation for such artists. And he is from Georgia, but not that Georgia.

Right: "Jesus Prince of Peace" icon by Mamuka Kapanadze.

        The artist’s name is Mamuka Kapanadze. He is the iconographer for the Evangelical Baptist Church of The Republic of Georgia, whose liturgical culture is heavily influenced by the Orthodox tradition. —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Jesus in the middle of the fighting: Story behind the “Christ Prince of Peace” icon

Benediction. “Cellist Ruth Boden wanted to do something with music which ‘transcends the commonplace,’ and so in this video she puts her cello on her back to climb to the top of a mountain where she performs Bach’s cello suite.” (10:01)

Recessional.Deportee: Plane Wreck at Los Gatos Canyon,” Bob Dylan.

#  #  #

Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• “Christ has risen,” a litany for Easter morning, inspired by Psalm 118

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

• “Easter’s aftermath,” a poem

• “Refuge in the shadow,” a collection of Scripture for Holy Week, on "darkness" and "shadow" as the place of God's abiding presence

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

• “Come to the Waters: Litany of Confession and Pardon,” inspired by Isaiah 55

©Ken Sehested @ Language not otherwise indicated above is that of the editor. 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.

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