News, views, notes, and quotes

24 September 2015  •  No. 39

Bees catch a break. “A federal court has overturned the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s approval of sulfoxaflor, a pesticide linked to the mass die-off of honeybees that pollinate a third of the world’s food supply.”
        “Because the EPA’s decision to unconditionally register sulfoxaflor was based on flawed and limited data, we conclude that the unconditional approval was not supported by substantial evidence,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit panel wrote in its opinion. —Taylor Hill, “Bees Have Their Day in Court—and Win Big.” Photo at right by Shutterstock.

Fast facts about honeybees.
        •Honeybees account for 80% of all insect pollination. Without such pollination, we would see a significant decrease in the yield of fruits and vegetables.
        •Bees collect 66 pounds of pollen per year, per hive.
        •Honey is the only insect-created food eaten by humans, and it is the only food that includes all the substances necessary to sustain life.
        •There is only one “queen” bee in each hive. She lays up to 2000 eggs per day.
        • All worker bees are female, but they are not able to reproduce.
        • A hive of bees will fly 90,000 miles, the equivalent of three orbits around the earth, to collect 1 kg of honey.
         View this fascinating video (3 minute) of the “honeybee dance  For information on how to create a “bee garden” in your yard, see “Plant a Bee Garden—Create an oasis for bees and other pollinators.”

Invocation. “Prayer is more than something I do. The longer I practice prayer, the more I think it is something that is always happening, like a radio wave that carries music through the air whether I tune in to it or not.” —Barbara Brown Taylor

¶ “[Phyllis Tickle, who died this week] showed me that age is just a number, that it’s possible to be BFFs with someone half your age or twice it. Kindred spirits are generation-agnostic. . . . 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

Another of this week’s obituaries is for legendary baseball player Yogi Berra, who is even more widely known for his mind-bending aphorisms (“Yogi-isms”), several of which made their way into common usage in the US. Below are four of my favorites. (See this USA Today article  for more.)
            •”It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
            • “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”
            • “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
            • “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.”

In memory of one whose absence is still felt. "Absent now the countenance, the familiar / inflection, the identifiable measured / sound of steps, the scent of palm / and cheek. / Lungs, stilled. / But breathless?" —continue reading Ken’s Sehested’s poem, “Breathless

Call to worship. "I am in Poland every day, on the battlefields. I am with the hungry, with the ill-treated and the dying, every day. But I am also with the jasmine and with that piece of sky beyond my window." —Etty Hillesum, writing from a Nazi concentration camp in World War II

Little Rock Nine anniversary. After weeks of resistance from Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, nine black students successfully enter Little Rock's Central High School on 25 September 1957 with protection from the National Guard and the 101st Airborne Division authorized by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
        Here is a 3+ minutes video about the Little Rock Nine; and another 9+ minute video. —for more information see this profile of Daisy Bates, president of the Arkansas NAACP, who was instrumental in the Central High desegregation

Mighty girl. “After 16-year-old Olivia Hallisey from Greenwich, Connecticut saw news reports of the devastation caused by last year's Ebola epidemic in West Africa, she became determined to find a way to help prevent the highly infectious and often fatal virus from spreading. In response, this inventive Mighty Girl has developed a new Ebola Assay Card which can be shipped and stored without refrigeration and detect Ebola in as little as 30 minutes.” —read the complete story

Intercession. “I asked God if it was okay to be melodramatic / and she said yes / I asked her if it was okay to be short / and she said it sure is / I asked her if I could wear nail polish / or not wear nail polish / and she said honey / she calls me that sometimes / she said you can do just exactly what you want to. . . .” —Kaylin Haught, “God Says Yes to Me.” Here  is a video rendition of the complete poem (3+ minutes).

Does your liturgy ever allow time for this kind of prayer?

Another student initiative. “Columbia University has become the first college in the US to divest from private prison companies, following a student activist campaign. The Ivy League school—with boasts a roughly $9 billion endowment—will sell its shares in G4S, the world's largest private security firm, as well its shares in the Corrections Corporation of America, the largest private prison company in the United states.” —“Columbia Becomes First US University to Divest From Prisons” (Thanks, Rick.)

Grateful praise. “When there was no ear to hear /  You sang to me. . . / When there were no strings to play / You played to me. . . / When I had no wings to fly / You flew to me. . . / When there was no dream of mine / You dreamed of me.” —“Attics of My Life,” Grateful Dead

Confession. "To the Blessed One of Heaven does my heart heave its burden. / For release from my shame, I wait all the day long. / Silence accusers; still every sharp tongue. / For pardon amid failure, I wait all the day long." —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “All the day long” litany inspired by Psalm 25

Hymn of assurance. “O Love That Will Not Let Me Go,” an cappella jazz arranged and sung by Sam Robson

Emmy Award history. “In my mind I see a line. And over that line, I see green fields and lovely flowers and beautiful white women with their arms stretched out to me over that line. But I can’t seem to get there no how. I can’t seem to get over that line.” —Viola Davis, first black woman to win the best actress in a drama category, in her award acceptance speech, quoting Harriet Tubman, the 19th century abolitionist who rescued dozens of slaves, then struggled for women’s voting rights after the Civil War. In her acceptance speech, Davis went on to say that “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity.”

Hymn of praise.Nearer My God to Thee,” beautiful arrangement by James L. Stevens, sung by Brigham Young University Men’s Chorus

Today, one in five amputees in the world lives in Sierra Leone, the tragic consequence of the 1991-2002 civil war. “Amputee football is one of the few ways those affected can bond and transcend the war’s trauma. Watch this 47-second clip from The Flying Stars,” an inspiring documentary from Al Jazeerz that brings world issues into focus through compelling human stories.

¶ “Free” enterprise, aka, the depths to which the language of freedom has sunk. “This isn’t the greedy drug company trying to gouge patients, it is us trying to stay in business,” Martin Shkreli, former hedge fund manager turned pharmaceutical mogul, after buying the rights to a 62-year-old drug used for treating life-threatening parasitic infections and increasing the price overnight from $13.50 to $750. Several years ago, prior to being bought by different pharmaceutical companies several times, the drug cost $1.00 per tablet. Tom Boggioni

In San Francisco, a billboard for an e-trading firm proclaimed, “Make love not war,” and then—down at the bottom—“Screw it, just make money.” —Barbara Enrenreich

The Bible uses a variety of words to denote the reality of “sin.” Maybe the best English synonym is “cluelessness”—as when Martin Shkreli (see above) responds to complaints with “It really doesn’t make sense to get any criticism for this.”

Can Iran be trusted? The better question is: Can we be trusted, given our national insecurities? How else to explain the case of Ahmed Mohamed (handcuffed, at left), the 14-year-old smart brown kid in Irving, Texas arrested when he created an ingenious homemade clock that school officials and police figured must be a bomb?

The axial moment in the Jewish Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) confessional liturgy are the dozens of lines that begin with Al cheit (“for the sins of. . . .”). The range of sins, from minor to mortal, is significant.
            But one in particular is “Al cheit shechatanu lefanekha betimhon levav,” which is best translated as, “For the sin that we have committed before you through confusion of heart and mind.” (Levav is Hebrew for heart, but in traditional Jewish culture the heart was considered the seat of reason as well as emotion.) —Mark Silk, “Why Yom Kippur calls us to repent for confusion,” where he challenges the opposition to the nuclear arms agreement with Iran by major Jewish leadership organizations in the US

Last week’s prayer&politiks post featured “Days of awe and Meccan pilgrimage: Reflections on the confluence of Jewish and Islamic holy days.” Here’s another reflection—“A rabbi and an imam: The story of Isaac and Ishmael can be a source of hope”—on the same subject.

¶ “The World’s in a Bad Condition” (when politicians, bankers and preachers are on the make), by bluesmen Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin. Here is the original 1939 version of the song by the Golden Gate Jubilee Quarter.

Preach it. "As believers we have parallel callings, distinct in their performance but woven together in their origins and growth. There is the call to sacrificial engagement with the world’s pain; and there is the call to relax into the confident quiet and stillness of the abiding presence of God. Their rhythm has its own ecology, its own alternating impulses, its own distinctive and mutually-reinforcing requirements and disciplines." —from Ken Sehested’s “Remembering the Future: Bright with Eden’s dawn,” a sermon for World Communion Sunday

Just for fun. Comedic lip syncing of Patsy Cline’s classic, “She’s Got You.”

Altar call. "We learn some things to know them; others, to do them.” —St. Augustine

Lection for Sunday next. “Remembering the Future: Bright with Eden’s dawn," a sermon for World Communion Sunday.

Benediction. “God be in my head,  / And in my understanding;  / God be in mine eyes,  / And in my looking;  / God be in my mouth,  / And in my speaking;  / God be in my heart,  / And in my thinking;  / God be at mine end,  / And at my departing." —Henry Walford Davies, from the “Sarum Primer, 1558,” sung by the Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks:

• “All the day long,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 25

• “Remembering the Future: Bright with Eden’s dawn,” a sermon for World Communion Sunday

• “Breathless: In memory of one whose absence is still felt,” a poem on the anniversary of a friend’s passing

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