News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  10 March 2016  •  No. 62

Processional. St. Mary’s Academy (New Orleans) Marching Band.

Invocation. “Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua. Osanna, Osanna in excelsis” (“Heaven and earth are full of thy glory. Hosanna, hosanna in the highest”), “The Ground,” by Ola Gjeilo, performed by the Heritage Concert Choir at Western Washington University.

Right: Chimney Rock, Ghost Ranch, Abiquiu, New Mexico. Photo by Patti Temer at Sol y Luz Photography.

Call to worship. “Who then will contend, or with malice descend with a heart made bitter with blame? No longer shall dread rear its fraudulent head, for my Vindicator stands by my way. —read Ken Sehested’s “Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9a

This decision has encouraging long-term implications. “The U.S. Supreme Court, without hearing oral argument, has unanimously reversed an Alabama Supreme Court ruling that denied parental rights to a lesbian adoptive mother who had split with her partner. The decision is a direct repudiation of an Alabama Supreme Court decision that refused to recognize a Georgia adoption.” —Nina Totenberg, NPR

Paulley Perette (key character on the highly successful “NCIS” TV series, and now executive producer of “An Act of Love”) offers concise (45 seconds) Wesleyian theological affirmations in support of LGBTQ people in the United Methodist Church. Reconciling Ministries Network

Encouraging news. “[Georgia] Governor Nathan Deal, a reliably conservative Republican, cited Jesus last week to cast doubt on the wisdom of broadly worded ‘religious liberty’ legislation that has passed Georgia’s legislature and awaits his action. His stunning words might signal that the anti-gay fever that has swept conservative Christian America, especially in the wake of the 2015 Supreme Court gay marriage decision, could be about to break.” —David Gushee, Religion News Service

Left: Honduran environmental activist Berta Caceres accompanied The Nation‘s expose of the US role in her death. (image: Goldman Environmental Prize)

Women’s History Month profile. Berta Cáceres, Honduran environmental activist supporting the rights of indigenous people, was murdered in her home in La Esperanza on 3 March. A winner of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize, many think Cáceres was targeted by the Honduran government which came to power in a 2009 US-supported coup against former President Manuel Zelaya. —see Adam Johnson, FAIR
       For a longer background piece on the US role in recent Honduran politics, see Greg Grandin, The Nation.

Confession. “We walk on through the darkness / we walk on through the light / through the confusion and illusion / through the floods and the fire / we walk back to the future / we walk back from the flame / we walk back to the beginning / where we’re given a new name.” —“We Walk On," Tonio K. (Thanks, Keith.)

On International Women’s Day, “It is right and proper to retrieve and celebrate the memory of women of significant achievement who model excellence, infused with righteousness, for us all. However, the vast majority of such women (and men) are highly contextual, inconspicuous, and will only be known to a handful of witnesses. Kathy Waters is one of those.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Wedding on the oncology ward: A meditation on the hurried-up wedding of my youngest and the occasion of International Women’s Day

“Know your history” (see art at right) is the first of “Seven sacred works for young activists (like me)” by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, from “For the Love of Justice,” Geez

Prophetic word from Republican Senator Margaret Chase Smith in 1950, decrying the state of her political party: “I don’t want to see the Republican Party ride to political victory on the Four Horsemen of Calumny—Fear, Ignorance, Bigotry and Smear. . . . I don’t believe the American people will uphold any political party that puts political exploitation above national interest.”

Women who changed the world. If you’ve not already seen this, get a visual preview (2:08) of 48 female Nobel Laureates.

Words of assurance. “You who endure contentious tongues, threatened by gangsters and banksters of every sort, / Come to the Sheltering Presence of the One who knows, / The One who tapes your photo to Heaven’s refrigerator door, / The One who rekindles in you the gift of love on the wings of a dove.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “By Thy might,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 31

Needless to say, not all women’s history is salutary.  Few remember that 23 October 1923 was declared “Ku Klux Klan Day" at the Texas State Fair in Dallas, drawing many thousands to march downtown and crowd the fair grounds. Some 800 women were welcomed as new members of the Klan’s female auxiliary. 5,631 men pledged the new member loyalty oaths. —Bryan Woolley, Dallas Morning News

Lenten lesson from Phyllis Tickle. "And in these last months, Phyllis has been teaching me about one final, very important (and yet not so important), matter: death. Mainly, that it is nothing to be afraid of. Death is merely the next step, the next part of the journey toward the heart of God." —see more of Jana Riess’ tribute to Trible, who died 22 September 2015

St. Patrick's Day. St. Patrick wasn’t Irish, didn’t expel snakes from Ireland, has no “miracle” attributed to him (which now is required for sainthood), and didn’t write the poem “St. Patrick’s Breastplate(which was likely penned 3-4 centuries after Patrick died in the late 5th century). Ironically, though, his fame was sufficiently established in his lifetime that his followers waged a war for custody of his body. Relatively little is known for certain about his life, but this much is documented: He was likely the first early church leaders to speak out against the abuse of women.

Hymn of praise. Among my all-time favorite recordings is “The Deer’s Cry,” aka “St. Patrick’s Breastplate,” performed here by Angelina.

Listen to Sinead O’Connor sing the mournful song, “Skibberren,” about the Irish famine of 1846-47, when as many as 400,000 died of starvation and related disease even though British landlords were exporting huge amounts of food. For more on that history see Bill Bigelow, “The Real Irish-American Story Not Taught in Schools.
        “Oh, it's well I do remember, that cold December day,  / The landlord and the sheriff came, to drive us all away  / They set my roof on fire, with their demon yellow spleen  / And that's another reason why I left old Skibbereen.”

As preparation for Holy Week' confrontation, watch this amazing storm photos video. (42 seconds. Thanks, Susan.)

In case you hadn't already figured this out, you can listen to the musical recommendations on this page while you read the text. Simply open the prayer&politiks site on two different tabs, listening on one, reading on the other, switching back and forth between them.

Best one-liner humor. “God only gives us what we can handle. Apparently God thinks I’m a bas-ass.”

¶ “Faith-based efforts are a common but often underplayed component of the progressive coalition,” says Jack Jenkins, regarding Flint, Michigan’s struggles to overcome its horrific water crisis, “It’s worth noting that . . .  most of the first responders turned out to be faith groups of all stripes and creeds, with Unitarians, Catholics, Muslims, and other religious institutions working together. —“Last Night’s Democratic Debate Went Theological. Here’s Why That Matters,” ThinkProgress

Left: St. Brigid, Patron of Ireland, Students, Infants & Saint for House-Blessing.

Prayer of intercession. “Who said that everything's lost? / I'm here to offer my heart, / So much blood carried away by the river, / I'm here to offer my heart.” —first verse in English translation of “Yo vengo a ofrecer mi corazón,” Mercedes Sosa

Highly relevant Lenten discipline. On the first Sunday of Lent, Annapolis, Maryland United Church of Christ Pastor Rev. Ryan Sirmons was one of several faith leaders who encouraged his congregation to give up plastic bags instead of chocolate. They have the backing of environmental groups that are pushing a bill in the Maryland General Assembly that would ban plastic bags and levy a 10-cent fee on paper bags. —Pamela Wood, The Baltimore Sun

Prophetic photo? A fuel truck (at right) broke through the ice on one of the Canadian Northwest Territories “ice roads” crossing Great Bear Lake near Deline. (Thanks, Margaret.)
        • Federal meteorologists say the winter that has just ended was the hottest in US records, thanks to the combination of El Nino and man-made global warming. Last month was the second warmest February. The fall of 2015 also was a U.S. record. —Seth Borenstein, Associated Press
        •In January scientists report that 2015 was the globe’s hottest year on record, breaking the previous record set in 2014.

Anticipating Easter’s promise: "And the desert shall bloom." Watch this video (1:01) of a “super bloom” of wildflowers in Death Valley.

More promising news. “After years of being ravaged by severe weather and shrinking habitats, the monarch butterflies hibernating in the Mexican mountains rebounded last year. The World Wildlife Fund said that the species, which fly more than 2,500 miles each year from Canada and the United States to a cluster of mountain forests in Mexico, covered about 10 acres this winter, an area more than three times as large as the space they covered last year.” —Victoria Burnett, New York Times

Preach it. “The greatest threat to children in modern liberal societies is not that they will believe in something too deeply, but that they will believe in nothing very deeply at all.” —William Galston, Liberal Purposes

You could say this as well about more than a few Methobapterians. “Her Episcopalian friends were persuading her to their wishy-washy way of worship. They really believed you could get to heaven without any shouting.” —novelist Dorothy West, The Living Is Easy

My “Most Creative Electoral Commentary” award goes to “Ralph Cramden Rips Donald Trump a New One.” (54 seconds. Thanks, David.)

Lectionary for Sunday next. “With glad songs of vict’ry, from the formerly vanquished, let the festal procession loot the treasury of fear. With soul-rested hope doth my voice still rejoice. Incline us, consign us, to steadfast Embrace.” —read Ken Sehested’s “Mutinous lips,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 118

Spectacular photos. See the winners of the 2016 World Press Photo Contest.

Call to the table.What a Wonderful World,” Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.

Altar call.Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” B.B. King.

Benediction. “Lord, Now lettest Thou Thy Servant Depart In Peace,” by Sergey Rachmaninoff, performed by the Orthodox Singers Male Choir.

Recessional. “God Be With You Till We Meet Again,” Gospel-styled by Gene Martin.

Just for fun. An indigenous instrumental rendition of “Unchained Melody” (remember the Righteous Brothers’ 1965 version?) by Alex North and Hy Zaret.

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• “Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9a

• “By Thy might,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 31

• “Wedding on the oncology ward: A meditation on the hurried-up wedding of my youngest and the occasion of International Women’s Day

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

Other resources for Lent

• “Raucous: God’s mutiny against Lenten tedium and patriotic pablum,” particularly if Lenten piety gets wearisome or politician’s God-promotion makes atheism a viable option

• “Fasting: Ancient practice, modern relevance

• “Wilderness: Lenten preparation: A collection of biblical texts that speak of wilderness

• “Lent is upon us,” a liturgy for Lent

• “Deepening the Call: A wilderness fast opposing a “Desert Storm,” a Lenten essay protesting the 1991 Gulf War

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