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Signs of the Times  •  30 April 2019 •  No. 192

Processional. “Lord I’m free, free, free, Lord I’m free.” —Melanie DeMore, “Free, Free, Free

Invocation. “We seek justice in the world, we fight for the flourishing of each and all, not just because we suffer with others, but because we sense the luminosity and love the loveliness.” —Mayra Rivera

Special issue
A collection of short reflections

Introduction. “Eastertide was the period when the early followers of Jesus were forced to recalibrate their messianic expectations. Good Friday’s execution was a crushing blow to their hopes. Despite Jesus’ repeated teachings to the contrary, the apostles still presumed Jesus would be the leader of a divinely-inaugurated coup d’état that would expel Roman occupiers and restore King David’s regal dynasty.” —continue reading “Eastertide: The outing of the church

Call to worship. “For this, improbably, is the / Little Flock of Jesus empowered: / To stand amidst the rule of the / imperium, the markets of the / emporium and the impunity / of their praetorian guards—  / each with global reach and / aspirations, though none / so imperative as the / implausible mercy of God. . . . / How, indeed, shall we then live / in this enduring season between / Easter, / God’s Resurrection Moment, and / Pentecost, / God’s Resurrection Movement?” —continue reading “This Little Flock of Jesus

Hymn of praise. “Death’s flood has lost its chill  / since Jesus crossed the river; / Lover of souls, from ill / my passing soul deliver.” —St. Mark’s Church Choir, “This Joyful Eastertide

The entire universe’s supply of tears is insufficient to wash away the tragedy of human enmity. This is why Easter’s promise is not just important but is essential to any thought of any tomorrow devoid of death’s fragrance. —kls

Confession. "Is the sweetest melody the one we haven't heard? / Is it true that perfect love drives out all fear? / The right to be ridiculous is something I hold dear / Oh, but a change of heart comes slow. . . ." —U2, “I'll Go Crazy If I Don't Go Crazy Tonight

¶ “We should not be surprised that the women are overcome with 'fear.' The disciples have in fact been described as ‘fearful’ (phobeisthai) at several important ‘passages’ in their journey with Jesus: both stormy boat crossings (4:41; 6:50), his transfiguration (9:6), the portents of his execution (9:32), and the journey up to Jerusalem (10:32). . . .

        “The second epilogue, like the first (8:21), ends with a challenge to the reader in the form of an unresolved question. Will we ‘flee’ or will we ‘follow’? . . . We do not entirely understand what ‘resurrection’ means, but if we have understood the story, we should be ‘holding fast’ to what we do know: that Jesus still goes before us, summoning us to the way of the cross. And that is the hardest ending of all: not tragedy, not victory, but an unending challenge to follow anew. Because that means we must respond.” —continue reading this short excerpt from Ched Myers’ book, “Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus,” reflecting upon the open tomb ending of the first Gospel. “Jesus Still Goes Before Us”

Hymn of supplication. “Abide With Me,” David Hartley, steel guitar.

¶ “The sealing of the tomb is, I believe, notoriously misunderstood. I grew up with a Sunday School notion that to seal the tomb was a matter of hefting the big stone and cementing it tight. The seal, in my mind’s eye, was something like first-century caulking–puttying up the cracks to keep the stink in. Not so. This is a legal seal. Cords would be strung across the rock and anchored at each end with clay. To move the stone would break the seal and indicate tampering. . . . To move the stone and break the seal is a civil crime. The resurrection is against the law.” —continue reading this short excerpt from Bill Wylie-Kellermann’s book, “Seasons of Faith and Conscience

¶ “Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free. He has destroyed it by enduring it. He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see. O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?” —excerpt from the Easter Sermon of John Chrysostom (347–407 CE) Archbishop of Constantinople. To see the full text, and more about Chrysostom, see this Orthodox Church in America link.

Words of assurance. For what can we hope? “Only this: confidence that / the dust is not that of / abandonment, but / of adama, of earth, earth / from which all adam receive / breath, and shall again, on / that rapturous occasion when / creation comes / unbound.” —continue reading “Psalm 30 interrogation: For Madeleine, too soon departed

Right: Barbara Rose Jones is featured in one of 18 statues of leaders and participants in the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial in Richmond, Virginia commemorating protests which helped bring about school desegregation in the state. After losing a court challenge to the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education (Topeka, Kansas) Supreme Court ruling outlawing school segregation, number public schools in Virginia were closing—some for only a day, but one entire school district, Prince Edward County, remaining closed for five years. (See more below.)

Short story: an April remembrance. “On April 23, 1951, quiet teen Barbara Johns (1935-1991) organized a strike of 450 students, fed-up that their dilapidated school in Farmville, VA had no desks or cafeteria and was dangerously overcrowded. An NAACP lawsuit went all the way to the Supreme Court, but, ordered to integrate, the county chose instead to close all public schools for 5 years! White terrorists forced the Johns family to leave town. But Martin Luther King Jr. was right about the arc of the moral universe. Persistent activism won out. In honor of Johns’ courage, a state office building in Richmond has been renamed for her.” —Pam McAllister; see more of her profiles—usually of unrecognized heroes—at her blog, “Activists With Attitude
        For more on Johns, see “Virginia celebrates first-ever Barbara Johns Day,” WTVR, Richmond, Va.

Professing our faith. Once “the power of Easter has burst upon us . .  now we no longer strive to be good because we have to, because it is a duty, but because our joy is to please him who has given all his love to us! Now our life is full of meaning!” —Thomas Merton

Hymn of resolution. “The shackles are undone / The bullets quit the gun / . . .The stone it has been moved / The grave is now a groove / All debts are removed / Oh can't you see what love has done?—U2, “Window in the Skies” (Thanks Kevin.)

¶ “One empty tomb poses no threat / to present entanglements, / any more than annual and / specially-adorned sanctuary / crowds encroach on Easter morn. / It’s Easter’s aftermath, / resurrectus contagio, / contagious resurrection / that threatens entombing empires / with breached sovereignty. / The Lamb Slain sings / of tribulation annulled, / of death undone, / of heaven reraveling the / sinews of soil and soul.” —continue reading “Easter’s aftermath

Did you know? After fire ravaged the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, innumerable commentators mentioned in their statements of grief how this building represents “our shared European heritage and identity.” Few know that the architectural design owes its origins to Middle Eastern predecessors. Diana Darke, Middle East Eye

¶ “The journey towards peace / is one in which the end is not / known at the beginning. / Frequently, the journey cannot / be made by flying over the conflict, / or by driving past the conflict. / Those paths are tempting, / but in the end often futile. / It’s only by walking through the conflict, / with the people who are living it, / sharing the dust, and the fatigue, / stumbling on rocks, and starting again; / weeping with those who weep, / and rejoicing with those who rejoice / that transformation can be reached.” —Janice Jenner, in “Footpaths,” newsletter of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University

Hymn of intercession. “When Jesus wept, the falling tear / In mercy flowed beyond all bound. / When Jesus groaned, a trembling fear / Seized all the guilty world around.” —OnlyAStarvingWriter, “When Jesus Wept” (Thanks Tim.)

Preach it. “But hope is not about what we expect. It is an embrace of essential unknowability of the world, of the breaks with the present, the surprises. Or perhaps studying the record more carefully leads us to expect miracles . . . to expect to be astonished. . . . And this is grounds to act. I believe in hope as an act of defiance. . . . There is no alternative, except surrender. And surrender not only abandons the future, it abandons the soul.” —Rebecca Solnit, excerpted from “Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities"

Your weekly devotional. Take a 17 minute break as you begin Eastertide to listen to Mahler’s “Symphony No. 2 Mov V,” featuring the Simón Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, the National Youth Choir of Great Britain, and soloists Miah Persson & Anna Larsson (Thanks Kimberly.)

Can’t makes this sh*t up. The Trump administration is threatening to veto a UN Security Council resolution seeking to end the use of rape as a weapon of war. Why? Because the resolution contains language on the need for victims’ support from family planning clinics. Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

Call to the table. “It isn’t always easy here. We share in the conflicts common to all creation. Sometimes the vision seems slow, and weariness overtakes us. But joy sustains, and grace is sufficient. Our guiding creed is the Rule of Mercy. To its Author alone do we pledge faithfulness.” —continue reading “Covenant vows for new and renewing members,” a litany for worship

The state of our disunion. “Someone had to pick the cotton / Someone had to plant the corn / Someone had to slave and be able to sing / that’s why darkies were born.” —lyrics to “What’s Why Darkies Were Born,” sung by Kate Smith (1907-1986), who premiered the iconic song, “God Bless America”

Best one-liner. “The funny thing about the heart is a soft heart is a strong heart, and a hard heart is a weak heart.” —Criss Jami (Thanks Amy.)

¶ “Easter demands not sympathy for the crucified Christ but loyalty to the risen Christ. The proof of Easter is not a rolled-away stone, but carried-away Christians.” —William Sloan Coffin

For the beauty of the earth. When the trees slow dance: video from above of forest in Tulum, Mexico, swaying in the wind. (1:04 video. Thanks Kathryn.)

Altar call. “The greatest failure in the history of Christian thought is the separation of souls from bodies, spirit from soil, the wrenching of hearts from habitation—all representing the abdication of the realm of earth from the rule of Heaven. It is the great anthropomorphic heresy: that redemption is for humans alone, and then only for some ethereal essence: no bodies, no biology, no hills or dales, neither minnows nor whales.” —continue reading “Realm of earth, rule of Heaven: Bodified faith and environmental activism

Benediction. "Martin Luther King did not become an icon of social change by giving a speech that said ‘I have a complaint. No, he dreamed of a different kind of world." —Rabbi Michael Lerner

Recessional. A most familiar piece of music—but that’s not the point. It’s the spontaneous dance. Count me among those who have a hard time sitting still and quiet in worship when splendor and/or revelation break out. (2:27 video. Thanks Martha.)

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Discard your reluctance, you saints and you sinners: Shout vowels of praise, sing consonants of delight. . . . Take my mourning heart and teach it to dance;  tailor my grieving gown into festival attire!—“Weeping may linger," A litany for worship inspired by Psalm 30”

Lectionary for Sunday next. “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

Just for fun. The Hooded Grebe Courtship Dance. —National Geographic

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

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

 • "Easter’s aftermath,” a poem

• “Realm of earth, rule of Heaven: Bodified faith and environmental activism,” an essay

• “Earth Day: The link between Easter and Pentecost,” an essay

• “Psalm 30 interrogation: For Madeleine, too soon departed,” a poem

• “Weeping may linger,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 30

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