News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  14 February •  No. 186

Processional.We Have Come Into This House,” Wycliffe Gordon, Marcus Printup, Victor Goines, Eric Reed, Reuben Rogers, & Winard Harper. (Thanks Dale.)

Above: Few astronomical sights excite the imagination like the nearby stellar nursery known as the Orion Nebula. ©Francesco Battistella

Invocation. “The Just-and-Merciful One is a vigilant companion of all on the Way of justice and mercy. The corrupt and vengeful trudge the path of destruction. We are bound to this freedom road, prisoners of this hope, destined for the land where moaning and weeping are banished, destined for the land of joyous song, of laughter and dancing.” —continue reading “Bound to this freedom,” a litany inspired by Psalm 1

Call to worship. “Our truth is an ancient one: that love endures and overcomes; that hatred destroys; that what is obtained by love is retained, but what is obtained by hatred proves a burden. —"Speak Truth to Power,” American Friends Service Committee

¶ “It is said that a jailer in a Roman prison had a daughter who was one of St. Valentine’s patients before he was arrested. He tended her for her blindness, but when he was arrested she still had not regained her sight. Before his execution, Valentine asked the jailer for some parchment and ink. He wrote the girl a note and signed it ‘From your Valentine.’ When she opened the note, a yellow crocus flower fell out of the parchment and it was the first thing she had ever seen. She had received her sight.” —continue reading more of the historical background to Valentine’s Day, “St. Valentine: Remembering prisoners on his feast day

Valentine’s Day is mostly subsidized by sentimental card makers and chocolateers. That’s not to say practicing the habits of expressing regard, even affection, should not be fostered. This stereotypical “feminine” practice is one that all healthy human beings should cultivate. And not just for romantic partners but for children, for friends, for any with whom we collaborate.

        No one likes cloying, suffocating repetition of devotion. But the art of timely and tender words of appreciation and encouragement should be one of our spiritual disciplines: which is to say, we need to consciously work at it, even against discomfort.

        So this issue of “Signs of the Times” features a series of good news stories, mostly small ones (don’t fail to mark these!) but large ones, too.

        Like other major cultural observances (like Thanksgiving and Christmas) which highlight time feasting with beloveds, Valentine’s Day is for some a reminder of loss. When your Facebook page only has exhibits of cheery emotion, those who have suffered loss, because of mortality or fractured relations, Valentine’s Day is hard to swallow.

        So this issue also gives reminders of such: In particular, the first anniversary of the mass murder at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. —kls

Hymn of praise. “Gracias a la vida” (“Thanks To Life”), Mercedes Sosa & Joan Baez.

Left: "Women's wall" in Karala, India-photo by TA Ameerudheen

Women’s uprising in India. On New Year’s Day, well over three million women (some reports say five) stood shoulder to shoulder along national highways in the state of Kerala to form a “Women’s Wall” that stretched for almost 385 miles. The event was billed the largest congregation ever of women in Kerala.

        The precipitating event was the controversy over women’s ability to enter the Hindu temple, Sabarimala Sree Dharmasastha. The mobilization included support from a coalition of political parties as well as another 175 civil society groups. Kamala Thiagarajan, NPR

A series of small, overlooked good news stories.

        • “Truckers Against Trafficking is an organization that teaches drivers to recognize the signs of human trafficking and has helped rescue more than 1,100 victims.” (1:40 video. Thanks David.) —NBC/Washington

        • “The European Union Just Voted To Ban Single-Use Plastics By 2021.” Robin Andrews, Forbes

        • The government of Wales has just voted to end its use of fossil fuels. In the past Wales was one of the world’s top coal users. Julia Conley, CommonDreams

        • Meet Corey Fleischer, who uses a powerwasher to scrub hate speech graffiti. (2:06 video)

        • Last July Ireland became the first nation to completely divest from the fossil fuel industry. (1:00 video. Thanks Loren.) —

        • Fayetteville, Arkansas, is 54th city in the US to commit to 100% renewable energy, a list which includes the tiny town of Abita Springs, Louisiana to the Atlanta, Georgia metropolis. In addition 6 counties and one state (Hawaii) have made the same commitment. See the list compiled by the Sierra Club.

Confession. “Let us agree / for now / that we will not say / the breaking / makes us stronger / or that it is better / to have this pain / than to have done / without this love. / Let us promise / we will not / tell ourselves / time will heal / the wound, / when every day / our waking / opens it anew. . . . / the only cure for love / is more of it.” —Jan Richardson, “Blessing for the Brokenhearted.” (Thanks Ashlee.)

This is big, from Canada. “In 'Victory for Land and Water,’ Canada's Supreme Court Rules Bankrupt Fossil Fuel Companies Must Clean Up Pollution Left Behind: Bankruptcy is not a license to ignore rules," said the nation's highest court.” Julia Conley, CommonDreams

Hymn of supplication. Magnify, O My Soul,” Moscow Patriarchal Choir.

Historic vote. The US House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a legislation that would require President Trump to end US military support for the ongoing Saudi-led war in Yemen.” Two things are especially significant.

        First, the Senate approved such a bipartisan measure last December by a 58-41 margin. Second, the vote expressly employs the War Powers Resolution which authorizes Congress the power to remove US forces from “hostilities abroad” if the president hasn’t sought a declaration of war or an authorization of the use of force.” Jon Queally, CommonDreams

Words of assurance. “Don’t faint in despair when the gunslingers flourish. Don’t let fearmongering threats upset your soul. Let the confidence of Heaven throttle your breathing and the breath of delight inspire all that you do. Don’t go gettin’ all worked up when the hucksters and the hypesters and the sub-prime shysters come out ahead.” —continue reading “Pace yourself,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 37

Professing our faith. “We want to bathe in the blood of the dragon and drink from the blood of the Lamb at the same time. But the truth is that we have to choose.” —Dorothee Soelle

Hymn of resolution. “Gonna be a transformation in your heart and soul / Gonna be a transformation, baby, now that you know / Get used to righteousness when it makes you feel whole / Gonna be a transformation, baby, down in your soul.” —Van Morrison, “Transformation

Happy 50th anniversary, Sesame Street! —watch this short (3:52) highlight video 

Short take. “Dutch Cabinet Allows Armenian Family to Stay in Country After 96-Day Church Service(1:40 video). For more see “96 Days Later, Nonstop Church Service to Protect Refugees Finally Ends,” New York Times.

Hymn of intercession.Shine.” —students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of the 14 February mass shooting, give a moving performance of this original song written by survivors Sawyer Garrity and Andrea Peña, at the end of CNN's town hall. (Thanks Michael.)

PARKLAND and beyond. “Last year’s shooting [14 February] at a Florida high school sparked a movement among a younger generation angered by gun violence and set the stage for a significant shift in America’s gun politics. . . .

         “‘What we’ve seen here is a tectonic shift in our politics on the guns issue,’ said Peter Ambler, executive director of Giffords, the gun violence prevention group founded by former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. These people ‘didn’t get elected despite their advocacy for safer gun laws. They got elected because of their advocacy for safer gun laws.’” —Lisa Marie Pane, Associated Press

¶ Read brief bio sketchs of each of the 17 students and faculty/staff killed in the 14 February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Phil Valys & Mike Mayo, Sun Sentinel

¶ “Since Parkland: 12 months; 1,200 kids killed by guns; 1,200 stories about the lives they led, reported by teen journalists across the country.” (Thanks Dorie.)

¶ In January of this year alone, more than 80 children were wounded or killed by guns. Gun Violence Archive

Preach it. “The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.” —Nelson Mandela

Can’t makes this sh*t up. “Fox & Friends” news host Pete Hegseth reported, on air, that he hasn’t washed his hands in 10 years, claiming “Germs are not a real thing. I can’t see them, therefore they’re not real.” Sam Wolfson, Guardian

Call to the table. A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshiping we are becoming. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

The state of our disunion. “Four aid volunteers are facing prison time after leaving food and water inside an Arizona national wildlife refuge where undocumented migrants have died trying to enter the United States. The volunteers, part of the No More Deaths ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, could be sentenced to up to six months in prison and fined up to $500.” Ray Sanchez, CNN
        Then watch this brief (1:29) video of US Border Patrol agents destroying food and water left for migrants.

Left: “15,000 school children on climate strike today in Liège, Belgium.” —Greta Thunberg, Instagram

¶ “Primary school children tell politicians: ‘I'll do my homework when you do yours.’” As many as 35,000 students in Belgium walked out of classrooms in Brussels, Liège, and Leuven, in the fourth straight week of protests to pressure policymakers for bolder response to climate change. Jessica Corbett, CommonDreams

Altar call. “The Maître D’ of Heaven commands the ’poverished-poor to table: the halt and helpless, lamed and maimed ushered up for honored seating. Our Maker’s steadfast love is like a lip-smacking feast of abundance. But the Market’s squaloring famine sows the seeds of violent harvest. Is it against the law to feed the immigrant? Then join the jailhouse chorus singing praise for God’s provision!” —continue reading “Maître D’ of Heaven,” a litany for worship

Best one-liner. “Can you remember who you were, before the world told you who you should be?” —Charles Bukowski (Thanks Amy.)

For the beauty of the earth.Amazing trees from around the world.” (Thanks Jaroslav.)

For Black History Month, let me urge you to do two things. First, watch this 56-minute film, “Backs Against the Wall: The Howard Thurman Story.” Thurman, as much as any other in US history, knew the deep connection between spiritual vision and fruitful activism. Then read his book, Jesus and the Disinherited, a book Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. carried everywhere in his travels.

Benediction. Dan Forrest’s musical composition of Howard Thurman’s poem, “The Work of Christmas.”

Recessional. “Rhapsody in Blue,” George Gershwin. Read more about the origins of this remarkable piece of music in “Good News in History.” Scroll down to click on the music video. (Thanks Anne.)

Lectionary for this Sunday. Three litanies for worship inspired by Psalm 1:

        • “We Shall Not Be Moved

        •”Multiply Their Presence

        •”Bound to this freedom

Lectionary for Sunday next.Pace yourself,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 37.

Just for fun.Blessed are the cheesemakers” a short clip (2:17) from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian.” (Thanks Missy.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “St. Valentine: Remembering prisoners on his feast day

• “Maître D’ of Heaven,” a litany for worship

• ”Bound to this freedom," a litany for worship

• “Pace yourself,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 37

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