News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  9 May 2019 •  No.193

Processional. Blue Ridge Mountain Dancers with Pete Seeger, at the Newport Folk Festival, 1964. May 3 was the 100th anniversary of Seeger’s birth.

Invocation. Bread baking, kitchen-dwelling, breast-feeding God, / We return to your lap and to your table / because we are hungry and thirsty. / Fill us again / with the bread that satisfies, / with milk that nourishes. / Drench parched throats with wet wonder; / feed us ‘til we want no more.” —continue reading “Bread baking God

Call to worship. “Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe but no one is comfortable. Help us to hold one another to the truth.” —Rachel Held Evans, rest in peace (I’ve gathered my top 10 favorite quotes from Evans—add one or more of your own to this list.)

Good news. “‘We've Made History’: Ireland Joins France, Germany and Bulgaria in Banning Fracking.” Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch

Hymn of praise. "Pie Jesu" (“Merciful Jesus”), Andrew Loyd Hebber, performed by Hauser (cello), Zagreb Philharmonic Orchestra Choir Zvjezdice, & Josephine Ida Zec (vocals).

Confession. “There are times when life is cruel beyond imagination and against all explanation. At such times, we simply wrap our arms around the still-breathing bodies of those we cherish. And we pray, and we sing, and we speak tenderly through the tears, chanting aloud or silently the promise that one day, all tears will be dried; one day, all mourning will pass away; one day, all crying will cease; one day, death itself shall come undone (Rev. 21:4). Vaya con Dios, my friend, as you journey through the valley of this deathly shadow.” —condolence letter to a close friend after the trauma of losing a dearly beloved

Well, that’s a start. “The provincial government in British Columbia, Canada, has amended workplace legislation to prevent employers to force women to wear high heels at work.

        “‘In some workplaces in our province, women are required to wear high heels on the job. Like most British Columbians, our government thinks this is wrong. That is why we’re changing this regulation to stop this unsafe and discriminatory practice,’ said BC premier Christy Clark. A mandatory high-heel dress code “is a workplace health and safety issue,” she said. ‘There is a risk of physical injury from slipping or falling, as well as possible damage to the feet, legs and back from prolonged wearing of high heels while at work.’” —, Guardian

¶ “I once suffered a miscarriage shortly before Mother’s Day. When I entered the sanctuary that Sunday, an usher carrying a basket of carnations greeted me. ‘Happy Mother’s Day, pretty lady!’ He innocently beamed. ‘I know you must be a mom! Here’s a flower.’ In a sudden daze I accepted the flower from his hand and rushed to the bathroom crying.” —continue reading “Pastoral dilemmas with observing Mother’s Day

Words of assurance.  “Down in the valley while on my knees / I asked my Jesus, carry me please / He promised that he’d take care of me / If I would lift him up / He said if I  / Be lifted up  / He said if I / Be lifted up (be lifted up) / I’ll be your father, I’ll be your mother / I’ll be your sister, and your brother.” —Emmy Lou Harris, “If I Be Lifted Up

Professing our faith. “Peace is the fruit of love, a love that is also justice. But to grow in love requires workshard work. And it can bring pain because it implies loss—loss of the certitudes, comforts, and hurts that shelter and define us.” —Jean Vanier, rest in peace

Short story. “During the Christmas holidays of 1964, [Jean Vanier] visited a friend who was working as a chaplain for men with learning difficulties just outside Paris. Disturbed by conditions in which 80 men did nothing but walk around in circles, he bought a small house nearby and invited two men from the institution to join him.” —continue reading Martin Bashir, “Jean Vanier: Founder of L’Arche dies,” BBC

Hymn of contrition. “Gospel shoes are laced with shackles and chains / Fitted for the poor runners of the race / Now every hand is folded shape of a gun / Target's ever changing but the war it rages on / So the armies march onward for the mother and the son / As this world of screaming color is bleached in the blood.” —Madolin Orange, “Gospel Shoes

Word. “I wanna talk about the grief. I know a lot of people they really wanna stick on the hope train. Let’s just be hopeful, it’s all gonna be okay.

        “We need to sit in the grief. We need to sit the enormity of the issues because I’m telling you; if we don’t sit in the reality of the situation, we are just going to spend all this time, all this energy, this life force — giving to false solutions and I really don’t want that for our generation moving forward. I don’t want to just be taken away by these commercials for our greater future and then put all this energy into it and realize in 30 years, oh my gosh — what have we really done?” —Ayana Young at Humboldt State University (Thanks Shelley.)

Hymn of supplication. “We hunt your face and long to trust that your hid mouth will say again / let there be light, a clear new day. / But when we thirst in this dry night, / we drink from hot wells poisoned with the blood of children. / And when we strain to hear a steady homing beam, / our ears are balked by stifled moans / Wellspring gold of dark and day, be here, be now.” —James Taylor, “New Hymn

Preach it. “It’s the realization of how to create a culture which is no longer a culture just of competition, but a culture of welcoming, where tenderness, where touch is important. It’s neither sexualized nor aggressive. It has become human. And I think that this is what people with disabilities are teaching us.” —read more of Krista Tippett’s interview with Jean Vanier, “On Being” (Thanks Mike.)

¶ “Ramadan is about re-establishing your relationship with God.” [The daytime fasting means that] “every day of Ramadan reminds us of our life cycle. We start the day strong, like we’re very young.—we’re ready to go. But by the end of the day, no matter your age, you get very weak, and you’re reminded of your death. Then [after sundown] you break your fast and are reminded of Paradise.” —listen to the first 1:06 of this video “A Ramadan etiquette guide for non-Muslim” (Thanks Kristen)

        • “Why Ramadan is called Ramadan: 6 questions answered.” —Mohammad Hassan Khalil, Religion News

        • Here is a short overview of the tradition and practices of Ramadan.

        • Learn how to pronounce the traditional greetings in Arabic: "As-salamu alaikum," which translates “Peace be upon you”; and the traditional response: “Wa alaykumu as-salam,” or “And unto you peace.” (The transliteration of the Arabic into English varies in spelling. Here is one very brief aid in pronouncing of these two phrases.)

      • For more on the commonalities in peacemaking traditions among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, see “Peace Primer II: Quotes from Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Scripture & Tradition.”

      • For more on the need for building interfaith coalitions, see “The things that make for peace: The purpose, promise and peril of interfaith engagement.”

Can’t makes this sh*t up. “Our objective is to get the Islamic Republic of Iran to behave like a normal nation,” says US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo [without the least bit of irony, given that the US has 45 military bases in countries bordering Iran]. —Pompeo quoted in Lolita Baldor & Zeke Miller, Associated Press

Hymn of lament. “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” Odetta.

Call to the table. We come to your lap and to your table / and rediscover your romance with the world. / As you nourish us with the bread of life and the milk of your word, / let your Spirit hang an apron around our necks. / Fashioned and patterned like that worn / by our Lord-become-friend, Jesus.” —continue reading “Bread baking God

The state of our disunion. On Monday, 6 May, the United Nations released a report saying that one million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction due to climate change, “with alarming implications for human survival.” On that same day, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blocked an Artic Council policy statement referencing extreme polar ice melting, instead celebrating the amount of money to be made on the new shipping lane being created by the thaw, which would add dramatically to the flooding threat of rising sea levels. Rick Noack, Washington Post

        For context on the latter, watch this short (2:44) video on “How Earth Would Look If All The Ice Melted.”

Best one-liner. “I would rather put a song on people’s lips than in their ears.” —Pete Seeger (3 May was the 100th anniversary of his birth)

Hymn of intercession. “Holy Mother, where are you? / Tonight I feel broken in two. / I've seen the stars fall from the sky. / Holy mother, can't keep from crying. / Oh I need your help this time, / Get me through this lonely night. / Tell me please which way to turn / To find myself again.” —Eric Claption & Luciano Pavarotti, “Holy Mother

For the beauty of the earth. Incredible time lapse footage shows a beautiful sunset in Western Australia, followed by a view of the Milky Way as it spins overnight into dawn. ABC News

Altar call. “You will always have what you gave to love / In this life the love you give / Comes back around / To be your treasure / What you lose will be what you win / A well the echoes down too deep to measure.” —Beth Nielson Chapman, “Deeper Still

Pastoral suggestion. If you’re willing to veer off the lectionary reading for this Sunday, consider preaching from Proverbs 8, featuring the character of “Wisdom” (“Sophia”).

Benediction. Women: Arise, then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! / Men: Speak up, that all may hear! / W: Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. / M: Oh, brothers, can you hear?—continue reading “Mother’s Day,” a litany for worship, drawn from the words of Julia Ward Howe

Recessional. “Like a Woman,” Ryan Amador, a modern Mothers’ Day anthem celebrating the women who teach boys to grow into a different kind of manhood.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “The One on the Throne will pitch his tent there for them: no more hunger, no more thirst, no more scorching heat. The Lamb on the Throne will shepherd them, will lead them to spring waters of Life. And God will wipe every last tear from their eyes." —Revelation 7:15b-17

Lectionary for Sunday next.

• “Oak and ash, black bear and red robin, ladybug and dragonfly, you city-folk and you farmers, acclaim the One whose breath is your bounty, whose mercy is your salvation.” —continue reading “Acclaim the One whose breath is your bounty,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 148

• “Hallelujah,”  a poem adapting Psalm 23; musical rendition performed by Ken Medema, a Leonard Cohen tune

Just for fun. Watch master potter Vernon Owens create a ceramic candlestick holder on the wheel.

#  #  #

Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Hallelujah,”  a poem adapting Psalm 23; musical rendition performed by Ken Medema, a Leonard Cohen tune

• “Acclaim the One whose breath is your bounty,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 148

For Mother’s Day

• “A brief history of Mother’s Day

• “Mother’s Day,” a litany for worship, drawn from the words of Julia Ward Howe

• “Bread baking God,” a poem

• “Pastoral dilemmas with observing Mother’s Day” 

Other features

• “Eastertide: The outing of the church,” an essay

©Ken Sehested @ Language not otherwise indicated above is that of the editor, as are those portions cited as “kls.” 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.

Feel free to copy and post any original art on this site. (The ones with “” at the bottom.) As well as other information you find helpful.

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