News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  9 January 2019 •  No. 182

Processional.Woke Up This Morning,” Resistance Revival Chorus (rehearsal). (Thanks Amanda.)

Invocation.Shall We Gather At the River,” Anonymous 4.

Call to worship (for “Baptism of the Lord” Sunday). “We thank you for the promise that one day justice will flow like the waters, righteousness like / an everflowing stream. We thank you for creating us / in the watery womb of our mothers and for recreating us in the watery womb of baptism.” —continue reading “Water of Life: A baptismal prayer”

Hymn of praise. “The summer breeze, made ripples on the pond / Rattled through the rings and the willow trees beyond / Daddy in his good hat, mama in her Sunday dress / Watched in pride, as I stood there in the water up to my chest / And the preacher spoke about the cleansing blood / I sank my toes into that East Texas mud.” —Randy Travis, “Baptism

Take it on the word of the Gipper, a 30 second clip from a President Ronald Reagan speech on how immigrants have always made America great. (Thanks Charlie.)

Prior to Trump’s Tuesday night speech about the need for the wall his White House lawyers likely told him he couldn’t declare a national emergency to get the wall built by going around congress. So his remarks transformed into a thinly disguised fundraiser for his reelection campaign: “We need to raise $500,000 in ONE DAY.” The deadline was 9 p.m.; but then extended that deadline with an email message to donors saying “there’s still time to give.” Emily Goodwin, Daily Mail

Particularity: transforming resistance in out of the way places. “Around the Texas border town of Mission, Father Roy Snipes is known for his love of Lone Star beer, a propensity to swear freely and the menagerie of rescue dogs he’s rarely seen without. At 73, Father Roy, as he’s universally known, stays busy. He says around five masses a week at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in downtown Mission, and fields endless requests to preside over weddings and funerals. Lately, he’s taken on a side gig: a face of the resistance to Trump’s ‘big, beautiful’ border wall.

        “‘It’ll be ugly as hell,” said Snipes. ‘And besides that, it’s a sick symbol, a countervalue. We don’t believe in hiding behind Neanderthal walls.’” Gus Bova, Texas Observer (Thanks Abigail.)

Confession. “Oh, I wanna come near and give ya / Every part of me / But there is blood on my hands / And my lips aren’t clean / Take me to your river / I wanna go / Go on, / Take me to your river / I wanna know.” —Leon Bridges, “River

¶ “Despite widespread angst about growing illegal immigration, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States actually has decreased over the past decade. In 2007, there were 12.2 million immigrants here without legal status. By 2016, that had fallen to 10.7 million, a decline of about 14 percent . Of those 10.7 million, two-thirds of the adults have lived here more than 10 years, meaning they aren’t new arrivals but long-term residents. As is often the case, public fears and political propaganda don’t square with the facts. Undocumented immigrants make up about 3 percent of the U.S. population.” Paul Prather,

¶ “Every congressperson along southern border opposes border wall funding.” Kate Smith, CBS News

¶ “FACT CHECK: Trump, Illegal Immigration And Crime.” Scott Horsley, NPR

Words of assurance. “Troubles and trials / Often betray us / Tempting the wearing / Body to stray / But we shall all meet / 'Side the still waters / With the Good Shepherd / Leading the way.” —Emmylou Harris & Ricky Skaggs, “Green Pastures

Professing our faith. “In its variant practices with regards to baptism—and in its best moments—the church has always attempted to say two important things about God’s redemptive work in the world.

      “First, that the initiative of grace is God’s, not our own. . . .

      “Second, for a relationship to thrive it must be mutual.” —continue reading “Baptism: ‘Infant’ or ‘believer’s” style?

Good news. Much of the area along the Jordan River where Christians believe Jesus Christ was baptized in the Jordan River is fenced off because of thousands of unexploded mines. But “the HALO Trust, the world's largest humanitarian landmine removal organization, has now received permission to begin removal of the mines.” (See photo at right by Oren Liebermann/CNN) —Oren Liebermann, “Decades after war, churches near Jesus’ baptism site to be cleared of mines," CNN

¶ “The site of Jesus' baptism [in the Jordan River] is dangerously contaminated, according to an advisory that urges tourists to stay out of the river's waters.”

Hymn of resolution. “Troublesome waters, much blacker than night, / Are hiding from view, the harbour's bright light. / Tossed on the turmoil of life's troubled sea, / I cried to my Saviour: ‘Have mercy on me.’ /  Then gently I'm feeling the touch of his hand, / Guiding my boat in safely to land. / Leading the way to heaven's bright shore, / Where troublesome waters I'm fearing no more.” —Iris Dement, “Troublesome Waters

Call to prayer. “If you aren't in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” ―T.S. Eliot

Behind the news. In case you needed any more evidence that the US manipulated the charge of “terrorism” for partisan purposes, consider these three recent examples.

        1. Recently White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the outrageous claim that some 4,000 known terrorists come into our country illegally, and we know that our most vulnerable point of entry is at our southern border.” But then, Fox News correspondent Chris Wallace openly challenged Trump’s chief fact-bender, saying “The state department says there hasn’t been any terrorists found coming across the southern border from Mexico.” —see Haley Miller, HuffPost

        2. When Trump tweeted, without warning or consultation, his intent to withdraw US troops from Syria—a statement then walked back—part of the story line involves the fate of the “People’s Protection Units” (YPG), a mostly-Kurdish group renowned for its military prowess. The YPG has proven to be the US’ most reliable partner in Syria fighting ISIS and Syrian military forces.

        Turkey wants to crush the YPG, which is the Syrian military branch of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a violent campaign for independence within Turkey. Both Turkey and the US list the PKK on their respective list of terrorist organizations.

        3. Syria, now a headline adversary of the US, was one of more than 50 countries which hosted one or more “black site” prisons run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) after 9/11, to torture suspected terrorists. (Our current CIA director, Gina Haspel, ran one of those prisons in Thailand.) —Spencer Ackerman, Wired

        I’m reminded of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s 1939 comment about the brutal Nicaraguan dictator, Anastasio Somoza, “Somoza may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch.” —kls

Hymn of intercession.Take Me to the Water (to be baptized),” Marion Williams and Alex Bradford.

Word. “Christianity is about water: ‘Everyone who thirsteth, come ye to the waters.’ It is about baptism, for God’s sake. It’s about full immersion, about falling into something elemental and wet. Most of what we do in worldly life is geared toward our staying dry, looking good, not going under. But in baptism, in lakes and rain and tanks and fonts, you agree to do something that’s a little sloppy because at the same time it’s also holy, and absurd. It’s about surrender, giving in to all those things we can’t control; it’s a willingness to let go of the balance and decorum and get drenched.” —Anne Lamott

Preach it. “‘I’m not going away’ is one of the most important things we can ever hear, whether we hear it from someone at our bedside in illness or over a shared drink at a time of depression or stress—or at a moment when we wonder what’s happening to our neighborhood and our society. This is the heart of what Christmas says about God. And it’s the real justification for any local church . . . being there. When people are pushed by all sorts of destructive forces into seeing themselves as hopeless, as rubbish, so that what they do doesn’t matter anymore, it’s this that will make the change that matters." —Bishop Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury (Thanks Karen.)

Can’t makes this sh*t up. Among the victims of President Trump’s border wall hallucination would be the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, where on any given day you can observe some 60 species of butterflies, the most diverse in the country.

      Recently “the US Supreme Court issued a ruling allowing the Trump administration to waive 28 federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act, and begin construction on 33 new miles of border wall in the heart of the valley—and right through the butterfly center.” Samuel Gilbert, Guardian

Right: Art ©John August Swanson, detail from “The River”

Call to the table.Wade in the Water,” Blind Boys of Alabama.

The state of our disunion. “Citing low pay, widespread disrespect and potential opportunities in other fields, frustrated public-school teachers walked away from their classrooms in record numbers during 2018, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.” Sam Fulwood III, ThinkProgress

Best one-liner. “You know it’s a real salvation when Baptists use cold water.”  ―Jared Brock, “A Year of Living Prayerfully: How a Curious Traveler Met the Pope, Walked on Coals, Danced with Rabbis, and Revived His Prayer Life”

Highly recommended podcast. “Since 9/11 it occurs to me that the pinnacle of that hierarchy of travel [referencing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in human development] is traveling in a way that gets us out of our comfort zone. Traveling in a way that gives us an empathy for the other 96% of humanity [the population of the US is approximately 4%] and lets us come home with an inclination to build bridges rather than building walls. I think that’s what’s called “Travel as a Political Act”. . . . Have you noticed how riddled with fear our country is lately? We’ve never been more afraid.” Rick Steves, “Travel as a Political Act” (73 minutes)

For the beauty of the earth. Extraordinarily beautiful birds from Daily Viral Stories. (0:52 video. Thanks Roger.)

Altar call. A young child, living with blindness and autism, is out for a stroll on a sunny day. She is drawn to the sound of a busker’s music. This is how we, in our locked-up selves, come to the table and are ushered into the serenity of the Spirit’s serenade.

Needed retrospective.99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn’t Hear About in 2018.” (Thanks Jayme.) —

Benediction. “When the convert emerges from the water, the world seems changed. The world has not changed, it is always wonderful and horrible, iniquitous and filled with beauty. But now, after baptism, the eyes that see the world have changed.” ―Liturgy Training Publications, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago

Recessional.Down By the Riverside,” Playing for Change.

Lectionary for this Sunday.

        “My soul thirsts for You,” selected texts about water for use as a litany for worship

        “Water texts.” In Scripture, water can symbolize either deliverance or death: a collection of texts.

Lectionary for Sunday next. “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate.” —Isaiah 62:4

Just for fun. Cat discovers itself in mirror. (But, if you think about it, also a parable about much that passes for modern spirituality. 1:36 video. Thanks Charles.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Water of Life: A baptismal prayer

• “Getting soaked: A meditation on the recovery of baptismal integrity

• “Wade in the water: Baptism as political mandate (in this and every '9/11' moment in history)”

• “Baptism: ‘Infant’ or ‘believer’s” style?an essay

Other features

Special issue of “Signs of the Times” on baptism.

• “My soul thirsts for You,” selected texts about water for use as a litany for worship

• “Water texts.” In Scripture, water can symbolize either deliverance or death: a collection of texts.

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