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Signs of the Times  •  26 September 2018 •  No. 172

Processional.Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor,” musical setting by Irving Berlin of Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty, performed by the Portland Choir & Orchestra.

Above: The Monarch butterfly, which each year migrates freely over the borders between Mexico, the US, and Canada, has become the symbol of immigrant rights groups. Photo by Michael Sewell Visual Pursuit via Getty Images.

Invocation. “O Troubler of every tyranny, inspire again the bountiful harvest beyond the speculator’s reach and the broker’s control. May the quarrel of your love reverse the rule of theft and restore an economy of grace. Holy the Name, whose blessing is bestowed on every hungry heart—and who prospers the work of every generous hand.” —continue reading “Prosper the work of every generous hand

Call to worship.Pray Without Ceasing,” composed and performed by Currie Burris, hammered dulcimer.

¶ “Brilliant orange-and-black monarchs are among the most easily recognizable of the butterfly species that call the Americas home. Their migration takes them as far north as Canada and, during the winter months, as far south as Mexico City. A single monarch can travel hundreds to thousands of miles.

        “The monarch migration is one of the greatest natural phenomena in the insect world. Monarchs are truly spectacular migrants because the butterflies know the correct direction to migrate, even though they have never made the journey before. They follow an internal ‘compass’ that points them in the right direction each spring and fall.” —for more see “Monarch Butterfly,” National Wildlife Federation

Hymn of praise.How Great Thou Art,” classic, a cappella rendition by Jenny Wootten Mann, Ider, Alabama, in an empty grain silo.

Earlier this month you heard that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) transferred $200 million from the budgets of other DHS office, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Coast Guard, to help pay the skyrocketing costs of detaining immigrant children.

        Now we’re learning that up to $266 million will also be taken for this purpose from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), including Head Start, support for uninsured HIV/AIDS patients, women’s shelters, cancer research, and mental health facilities.

        “This is not a story about a historically large surge in arrivals” [of immigrant children], said Mark Greenberg, a former HHS official. “This story is about a significant slowdown in children being released from care” into the homes of relatives, out of fear that they too will be detained. —, Common Dreams

¶ Because of the efforts of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and several other women, the City of Atlanta recently announced “it would no longer hold detainees on behalf of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The change, championed by immigration advocates as a ‘victory,’ came down the same day the Trump administration announced plans to allow the government to detain migrant children indefinitely, a reversal from current rules that stipulate minors can only be detained up to 20 days.” Pictured at left include Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (at podium) along with Michelle Maziar and Luisa Cardona of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs,  Georgia Rep. Bee Nguyen, and Shana Tabak, executive director of the Tahirih Justice Center. Kimberly Lawson, Broadly

¶ All total, seven states and over 200 cities and counties have approved some level of restriction in cooperating with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities. The cost for those who refuse ICE detention requests can run into the millions of dollars annually, since the federal government pays a daily rate for each detainee. Center for Immigration Studies

Confession. Both of these things are true. On the one hand. “I praise you [O God], because I am awesomely and wonderfully made.” (Psalm 139:14) “You have made [humans] a little lower than angels, and crowned them with glory and honor.” (Psalm 8:5) On the other. “The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse—who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

The Trump Administration recently announced plans “to remove court-imposed time limits on the detention of migrant children, proposing to end 20 years of judicial oversight and allow families to be held indefinitely in secure facilities as their cases wend through the immigration courts.” —Caitlin Dickerson, New York Times

Words of assurance. “Oh you children ripped and torn / Battered, bruised and worn / Kyrie eleison / All who look hate in the face / Locked in hate’s embrace / Kyrie eleison / There is mercy enough, there is grace enough / There is love enough for all of us.” —The Many, “Lovely Needy People"

¶ “In immigration news, a review by the state of Virginia has confirmed immigrant teenagers were strapped to chairs and had mesh bags placed over their heads while being held at the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center. But the state concluded this harsh treatment did not meet the state’s legal threshold of abuse or neglect. The state review came after the Associated Press revealed in June that children as young as 14 said they were beaten while handcuffed and locked up for long periods in solitary confinement, left nude and shivering in concrete cells.” Democracy Now (Thanks Janet.)

Professing our faith. “Nurturing the faith of our young is the most important thing we do. Surely this involves insisting that freedom is more than the choice between an iPhone and a Samsung Galaxy.

       “Our failure is not that we ask too much, but that we ask too little. Last Sunday night, after braving the chilly water, the first thing our youth did was to emerge to serve communion to the gathered witnesses.” —continue reading “Getting soaked: A meditation on the recovery of baptismal integrity”

¶ Simple thing you can do. Over the past two decades the monarch butterfly has come dangerously close to extinction. But you can help save the species by sponsoring an acre of milkweed habitat today.

Hymn of intercession. “ICE is loose over those streets. [*ICE = Immigrations and Customs Enforcement; ice = hielo] / We never know when we will be hit. / They cry, the children cry at the doorway, / They cry when they see that their mother will not come back.” —“Ice El Hielo,” La Santa Cecilia

Offertory.The Butterfly," Irish folk song performed on tin whistle.

Preach it. " . . . the Bible tells us that those who fought for justice—those who spoke truth to power, those who refused to accept that injustice and inequality had to exist and that there was no better way—always found themselves hated, hounded, and heaped upon with false accusations simply because they believed in the necessity of speaking and working for the cause of righteousness and building a more just community. This lack of majority support is why the just must live by faith and must know exactly who we are.” —Reverend William J. Barber, II, Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation

Two instances of great pastoral advice.

        “I was using my Instant Message service and voice recognition software last week to pray with someone. At the end of my prayer I said, ‘Amen.’ The software typed ‘I'm in.’ (Must be my Kansas accent.) First I laughed. Then I thought that is a pretty good substitution. Many people (including sometimes me) treat "Amen" as if it just means ‘The End.’ I wonder how my praying would change if I regularly included ‘I'm in’ as a declaration of my participation in the actions and presence I seek from God.” —Rev. Alan Selig, Facebook

        “The artist Laurie Anderson paid tribute to her late husband, Lou Reed, by outlining the shared rules for living that they had discerned together.
        •“Don’t be afraid of anybody.”
        •“Get a really good bullshit detector.”
        •“Be really, really tender.” —Gareth Higgins, “A Manifesto for The Porch

When only the blues will do.Killing the Blues,” Malcolm Holcombe.

Can’t makes this sh*t up. Major oil companies along the Texas Gulf Coast are lobbying Congress to spend $12 billion to protect their facilities from the rising sea, and intensified storms, caused by climate change! —see “Big oil asks government to protect its Texas facilities from climate change,” Associated Press

¶Short story. Some of you may recall hearing the story of Manuel Jesus Cordova. He was in the news a couple years ago.  While sneaking across the border from Mexico, Cordova happened to find a 9-year-old boy, Christopher Buchleitner of Rimrock, Az,, alone and injured in the desert. As it happens, Christopher and his mom had been in a single-car accident when their van went over a cliff on a remote road in southern Arizona. His mother had been killed, and Christopher went looking for help. Cordova gave the boy his sweater and some chocolate and built a fire to warm the boy. It was that fire that drew the attention of the border patrol. Authorities say Christopher would likely have died had Cordova not stopped to protect him.

        “Cordova was honored for the rescue by U.S. and Mexican officials at a border crossing station. Then he was arrested by federal agents and returned to Mexico. . . .

        “Beatriz Lopez, the Mexican consul general for Nogales, had this stunningly prophetic insight in her comments to the press about this incident: ‘The desert has a way of rearranging priorities.’” —continue reading “Out of the house of slavery,” a Bible study on immigration

Call to the table. “My peace my peace is all I’ve got that I can give to you / My peace is all I ever had that’s all I ever knew / I give my peace to green and black and red and white and blue / My peace my peace is all I’ve got that I can give to you.” —Arlo Guthrie, “My Peace

The state of our disunion. “[A]s terrifying as it is, we know it’s not [Hurricane] Florence that wreaks havoc on North Carolina. It’s everything that comes after the storm, and everything that came before. . . . We already know where the flood waters will go. They will follow a slow, predictable path. We know who lives in low lying areas, we know what neighborhoods are on the south side of the tracks. . . . Floodplains read like maps of the economy and race. . . . Poverty has always been a flood and not a hurricane. It’s always been a slow, rolling disaster, with muddy gray water under an incongruent bright blue sky. It’s always been a slow build of mold between generations, of people making do with babies in faded red milk crates floated on mattresses down city streets. Look away.” Gwen Frisbie-Fulton, Medium (Thanks Greg.)

Best one-liner. “Socialism is a terrible thing till you’re a Republican standing on your roof in North Carolina.” —from the internet

For the beauty of the earth. Watch this brief (0:19) video of a field of Monarch butterflies in their wintering grounds in the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt pine-oak forests ecoregion on the border of Michoacán and State of Mexico. (Thanks Marti.)

Altar call. “Come sisters, brothers gather near / We’ve come to share our worries / We fear what some folks have been saying about Latin Americans / the truth’s been misconstrued / There’s all kinds of talk ‘bout building a wall / down along the Southern border. / ‘bout building a wall between me and you / Lord, and if such nonsense should come true / then, we’ll have to knock it down.” —Che Apalache, “The Wall

Benediction. “The power to vanquish dragons is given only to those who know that relinquishment is the means of true possession; only to those who know that silence gives birth to authentic speak; only to those who recognize life emerging from the ash heap.

        “Hope is only provided to people with their backs against the wall, to those at the end of their rope, to the outnumbered, the outgunned, to those about-to-be-overwhelmed. Bold confession is not an escape clause to life’s apparent death knell. Rather, it is an invitation to grasp that which is available only to those with empty hands.” —continue reading “Bold confession amid bitter complaint

Recessional.Todos Somos Ilegales" ("We Are All Illegals"), Residente, Tom Morello & Chad Smith.

Lectionary for this Sunday.Old Wounds, New Vision,” a sermon anchored in Job 1:1, 2:1-10.

Lectionary for Sunday next.

        “Bold confession amid bitter complaint,” a sermon anchored in Job 23:1-17, Psalm 22:1-15, Hebrews 4:12-16 & Mark 10:17-31
        “Prosper the work of every generous hand,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 90.

Just for fun. Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnaz, “I Love Lucy” comedians from an age ago, illustrate why people learning to speak English get frustrated with irregular pronunciation patterns. (2:14 video. Thanks Dee Ann.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

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

• “Bold confession amid bitter complaint,” a sermon anchored in Job 23:1-17, Psalm 22:1-15, Hebrews 4:12-16 & Mark 10:17-31

• “Prosper the work of every generous hand,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 90

• “Old Wounds, New Vision,” a sermon anchored in Job 1:1, 2:1-10

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