News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  25 January 2019 •  No. 184

Processional.Hark, the Song of Jubilee,” Maungaturoto Congregational Church, Ralph Cullen, organist.

Above: Ice castles in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Invocation. A reading (2:11) of Evelyn Underhill’s poem, “Immanence.”

Call to worship. “What is it you wish to know, oh mortal one? Do you think you must ascend to the highest heaven or descend to the deepest pit? Do you not know that Wisdom has pitched a tent in your midst?” —continue reading “Go out in joy,” a litany for worship

Hymn of praise. “This is the year of Jubilee / My Lord says He’s coming by an’ by  / My Lord has set His people free  / My Lord says He’s coming by an’ by.” —“Rise, Shine, for Thy Light is a-Comin’” William Appling Singers

Good news. “After a deadly attack last year on a mosque in Quebec, Christians and Jews formed human "rings of peace" around mosques across Canada to help Muslim worshippers feel safer on their way in. This past weekend, Muslims did the same for six synagogues in Toronto. This past weekend, Muslims did the same for six synagogues in Toronto.

        Several hundred people, arriving in busloads from different mosques, stood shoulder to shoulder around the synagogues with one very clear message.

        "We're here for you," Fatima Sajan said. Sajan was one of the organizers with the National Council of Canadian Muslims for last weekend's "Rings of Peace." A dozen organizations got together days after the October 27 attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue to plan how they could best show their support for the Jewish community.” —Christina Maxouris & Brandon Griggs, CNN (Thanks Chris. See photo above, by Imam Dr. Hamid Slimi, Sayeda Khadija Centre.)

More good news. “The Girl Scouts of Western Washington says it has returned a $100,000 donation because it came with the provision that the money couldn't be used to support transgender girls. The group sent back the money in late May after the donor had asked that the gift be returned unless the group guaranteed that it would not be used to benefit transgender girls. The local Girl Scouts council set up a crowdfunding campaign Monday asking for help to fill the gap. By midday Tuesday, more than $170,000 in donations had poured in.” Associated Press (Thanks Julie.) 

Confession. “We come to confession fretfully. For we fear that a spotlight of shame will shine on our failed dreams and frail hopes. We come to confession fearfully, for the god of Maximum Return has confused and confounded us. So we denounce this god, in the name of the God Without Price.” ­—continue reading “Come to the Waters: Litany of Confession and Pardon,” inspired by Isaiah 55



Today is the final day of the 2019 World Economic Forum held annually in Davos, Switzerland.
Here is some brief background on what you need to know and why you should care.
And why Scripture’s long tradition about the “year of jubilee”—“the year of the Lord’s favor,”
as Jesus named it in Luke 4:19—should occupy our attention.

The jubilee theme goes all the way back to the covenant making work between God and the
escaped Hebrew slaves at Mt. Sinai; what’s more, the social disruption and land regeneration it
promises is tied up with sabbath-keeping. From this beginning, the faithful practice of piety entailed
commitment to a new world order: The very integrity of God is tied up with cancelling debts,
releasing slaves, and renewing soil.

For a more detailed examination of the biblical theme of jubilee, see
Good news for yahoos: The year of the Lord’s favor,” an essay on the biblical theme of jubilee.

Testify. “For the sake of your children, of your grandchildren, for the sake of life and this beautiful living planet, I ask you to stand on the right side of history. . . .” 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thurnberg (1:44 video) appealing to World Economic Forum participants

¶ “The World Economic Forum (WEF), based in Cologny-Geneva, Switzerland, was founded in 1971 as a not-for-profit organization. The Forum's mission is cited as "committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas. The WEF is best known for its annual meeting at the end of January in Davos, in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland.”

        This year’s theme is “Globalisation 4.0: Shaping a New Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” The meeting brought together 3,000 “top business leaders, international political leaders, economists, celebrities and journalists for up to four days to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world.” —Wikipedia

Right: Armed security personnel stand guard on the rooftop of a hotel in Davos, Switzerland. Fabrice Coffrini-AFP-Getty Images

¶ “The Air Charter Service expects that roughly 1,500 private jets will shuttle attendees to and from the [WEF] conference this week.” Business Insider

¶ Here’s a short (9:35) podcast, “Does Davos still matter?” from Axios.

Highly recommended long read. “The new elite’s phoney crusade to save the world—without changing anything.” Anand Giridharadas, Guardian.

The Transnational Institute, a Dutch non-profit think tank, has gone further, attacking “the Davos class” and suggesting the WEF’s purpose is “to function as a socialising institution for the emerging global elite, globaliation’s 'Mafiocracy' of bankers, industrialists, oligarchs, technocrats and politicians. They promote common ideas, and serve common interests: their own”.

Prophesy. “The failure to tackle climate change and extreme weather events are the most threatening global risks this year, according to the World Economic Forum. Inability to mitigate or adapt to climate change leapfrogged several places on the list as the second-most likely risk facing the world in 2019 after extreme weather events, the WEF said in a report published Wednesday. What’s more, worsening international relations mean the capacity to deal with those major problems has plummeted.” Jill Ward, Bloomberg

Furthermore, the above assessment comes just days after a Pentagon report warning “that rising seas and more frequent wild fires threaten U.S. security.” It is the “most comprehensive study done to assess the link between climate change, war and migration has confirmed that the warming planet is fueling conflicts that lead to more refugees." —Jonathan Tirone, “Pentagon Fears Confirmed: Climate Change Leads to More Wars and Refugees,” Bloomberg

For more details click on the World Economic Forum’s site.

Remembering history. The Liberty Bell, a symbol of the US Revolutionary War’s success ending British rule, is inscribed with “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof” is a direct quote from Leviticus 25:10, part of a section mandating “Jubilee” provisions which required every 50 years that ancient Israel to free its slaves, forgive all debt and return land to original owners, and allow land to lie fallow.

Hymn of supplication. “Ah, the fields are crying out—it's Jubilee / We sold ourselves for love but now we're free / I'm so sorry for that ghost I made you be / Only one of us was real and that was me. . . . / And I wish there was a treaty we could sign / I do not care who takes this bloody hill / I'm angry and I'm tired all the time / I wish there was a treaty, I wish there was a treaty / Between your love and mine.” —Leonard Cohen, “Treaty

Words of assurance. Mzansi Youth Choir of South Africa (singing in Xhosa) Ndikhokhele” (Lead me). (Lead oh Father / Lead me my savior / in all the sorrows of this world Father . . . / for you still protect me.)

Professing our faith. “The build-up of personal and collective debt . . . should have sent warning signals to anyone familiar with the biblical institutions of the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, created specifically because of the danger of people being trapped by debt.” —Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Like me, you probably would have heard little if anything about the Indigenous People March in Washington, DC, if it hadn’t been for that viral video featuring a Kentucky high school student. This article, “The Indigenous Peoples March was about a lot more than the kids in MAGA hats” by Tekendra Parmar, fills in the gaps.

Hymn 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

By the numbers. Last year, the number was 43; the year before, 61. Now it’s 26—it being the number of billionaires whose combined wealth equals that of 50% of the globe’s population. All told, the world’s 2,200 billionaires’ wealth increased by 12% in 2018; that of the world’s poorest 50%, declined by 11%. —2019 report on inequality issued annually by Oxfam just prior to the World Economic Forum, Larry Elliott, Guardian

Preach it. “When words are changed into deeds of liberation—that's preaching. And anything else is just talking.” Rev. William Barber’s Martin Luther King Jr. birthday sermon is worth your time (27:44)

Can’t makes this sh*t up. “A union that represents Border Patrol agents recently deleted a webpage that said building walls and fences along the border to stop illegal immigration would be ‘wasting taxpayer money.’ The deleted webpage, posted in 2012, argued that border barriers don’t tackle the root causes of migration—and could potentially encourage more migrants to enter the U.S. fraudulently or overstay visas.”Ted Hesson, Politico

Call to the table. “And I can tell by the way you're searching / For something you can't even name / That you haven't been able to come to the table / Simply glad that you came / And when you feel like this try to imagine / That we're all like frail boats on the sea / Just scanning the night for that great guiding light / Announcing the Jubilee.” —Mary Chapin Carpenter, “Jubilee

The state of our disunion. “When the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery surveyed its members in 2017, 55% of surgeons said patients’ motivation was to look better in selfies, up from just 13% in 2016.” —Elle Hunt, “Faking it: how selfie dysmorphia is driving people to seek surgery,” Guardian

Left: Art by Bro. Mickey McGrath

Best one-liner. “Just a reminder that lightning and lettuce killed more people in 2018 than illegal immigrants.” —from the internet

For the beauty of the earth. The World Below,” time-lapse video from the International Space Station, edited by Bruce W. Berry Jr. (6:03. Thanks Abigail.)

Helpful tools: You’ve got to be taught. “The Ultimate List of the Best Children’s Books About Kindness,” (and other comments on practical parenting strategies), by Kelly, Happy You, Happy Family. (Thanks Anne.)

Altar call. “If you sacrifice for your children, or someone else’s children; or even if you risk your neck for the Beloved Community: Don’t get all high and mighty and come-uppity! The last thing you want is to get to heaven and discover there’s no VIP lounge.” —continue reading “What of it?” a litany for worship inspired by 1 Corinthians 12

Benediction. “Throw off the covers of earth’s darkened slumber! Unplug your ears, you creatures of flesh! From deepest sigh of tear-stained eye, set your sight on Heaven’s resolve. For the sky’s bright luster, alive with motion, shows the wonder of Blessed intention.” —continue reading “Blessed intention,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 19

Recessional.L-O-V-E,” Joan Chamorro Quintet with Andrea Motis.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Did you see the lectionary readings for this week?” Nancy asked over dinner. I hadn’t.
      “This is one of those times the selections fail to tell the whole story. The Gospel reading is the famous Luke 4 text where Jesus preached his first sermon. But it only covers the first part of the story (vv. 14-21) but not the rest (vv. 22-30).
      “It separates the part where we learn when, and for whom, the News is good. It leaves out the part where we learn when, and for whom, the News is bad.”

Lectionary for Sunday next. “Sister Anna. Last-named prophet in Holy Writ, more likely listed among household property and livestock. When did your Temple-dwelling vocation begin? What sustained your twenty-four-seven vigil for all those years? Anna, school us in the habits of vigilant perseverance.” —continue reading “Sister Anna,” a litany for worship inspired by the Prophetess Anna (Luke 2:22-40)

Just for fun. “Amazing Jesus,” Mr. Bean (Rowan Atkinson) retells several Jesus stories. (3:41 video. Thanks Loren.)

#  #  #

Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Good news for yahoos: The year of the Lord’s favor,” an essay on the biblical theme of jubilee

• “Sister Anna,” a litany for worship inspired by the Prophetess Anna (Luke 2:22-40)

• “What of it?a litany for worship inspired by 1 Corinthians 12

• "Blessed intention," a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 19

©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