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Signs of the Times  •  28 August 2018 •  No. 170

Above: Photo from Colombia’s newly established Serrania del Chiribiqu National Rainforest. Thanks to the efforts of 25 young people, ranging in age from 7-25, the area has been declared the world’s largest tropical rainforest national park following decades of efforts by environmental experts and conservationists. More than that—and this is historic—the forest has been given the same legal rights as a human being. Photo by Cesar David Martinez. —for more see Anastasia Moloney, “The Colombian Amazon has the same legal rights as you,” World Economic Forum

Processional. “Now as I look around, it's mighty plain to see, / This world is such a great and a funny place to be. / Oh, the gamblin' man is rich, an' the workin' man is poor, / And I ain't got no home in this world anymore.” —Woodie Guthrie. “I Ain’t Got No Home In This World Anymore” [Keep in mind that investment houses on Wall Street, no less than casinos, are gambling dens.]

        Guthrie wrote this song as a parody of the popular hymn, “This World Is Not My Home” (akaCan’t Feel At Home”),  popularized at the time by the Carter Family.

        However, in the Newer Testament’s repeated admonitions to “love not” and “be not conformed” to “the world,” it’s not speaking about the earth. “The world” is the complex web of oppressive power arrangements which distort and disfigure God’s intention in Creation. Those excluded from the table of bounty—in its fullest sense, and by the innumerable ways injustice, indignity, and violence happens—have "no home" in this "world."

Good news. Recently, after Saskatchewan farmer Brian Williams died just before harvest, more than 100 volunteers showed up at his farm to reap his crop. (See photo above by Jeff Brown.) Watch this brief (0:33) video.  For the full story, see David Shield, CBC.

Invocation. “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of anger will fail. Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the hungry. Do not rob the poor or crush the afflicted, for the LORD pleads their cause and despoils the life those who despoil them.” —Proverbs 22:8-9, 22-23

Call to worship. “Creator God, we give thanks this day for work: for work that sustains; for work that fulfills; for work which, however tiring, also satisfies and resonates with Your labor in creation. As part of our thanks we also intercede for those who have no work, who have too much or too little work; who work at jobs that demean or destroy, work which profits the few at the expense of the many.” —continue reading “Labor Day,” a litany for worship, for work that fulfills

¶ “This weekend we mark another Labor Day holiday, both here and in Canada (excepting Quebec). At least 80 other countries celebrate the first of May as a workers’ holiday. Jamaica has the most interesting Labour Day tradition. For most of its colonial history the country observed “Empire Day” on 24 May in honor of British Queen Victoria’s birthday and her emancipation of slaves in 1938. But in 1961 Empire Day was supplanted by Labour Day, on 23 May, to commemorate the 1938 labor rebellion which led to independence. And the day’s focus is not on picnics, retail sales and car racing but on community service projects.

Left: Art by Ricardo Levins Morales, ©RLM Art Studio

        “As with so many of our holidays, we have mostly forgotten the severe conflict which provides the historical context. In the latter decades of the 19th century industrialization was hitting its stride in the developing world. The technology of commerce was producing massive amounts of profit and a widening gaps between rich and poor.” —continue reading “Labor in the Shadow of Sabbath,” a sermon for Labor Day

Confession. “Is there no song to be sung, no bell to be rung, no laughter from the fields at play with their yield? Would that my mouth be formed and my lips unleashed to speak a word, a true and hearty word, to all grown deaf with grief.” —continue reading “Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9a

The History Channel has a good brief video and article with Labor Day history.

Hymn of praise. “My Lord done just what he said. / Yes He did, Oh Lord, yes He did. / He healed the sick and He raised the dead. / Yes He did, Oh Lord, yes He did.” —The Nathaniel Dett Chorale, “I Can Tell the World

Forgotten Labor Day history. “The U.S. Department of Labor’s page on the history of Labor Day notes the holiday “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” It doesn’t mention the Pullman strike of 1894, which President Grover Cleveland suppressed with federal troops, leading to dozens of deaths. —for more see Arthur Delaney, “The Bloody Origin of Labor Day,” huffpost

Right: On 1 May 1886, some 300,000 workers across the US went on strike, singing a popular slogan, “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, Eight hours for what we will!”

Hymn of intercession. Hymn of intercession. Joan Baez singing “Joe Hill”  And here’s Paul Robeson’s rendition.

        Joe Hill, a Swedish immigrant, was a songwriter, cartoonist and mining labor organizer in the US. He was convicted (on shady evidence) of killing a Salt Lake City grocery store owner and executed by firing squad in 1915. Hill is credited with coining the phrase “pie in the sky,” used in his most famous song, “The Preacher and the Slave,” which was a parody of the hymn “In the Sweet By-and-By.” Here’s a Utah Phillips rendition of “The Preacher and the Slave”.

Hymn of delectability. In celebration of a new season of the edible, often red, berry of the nightshade Solanum lycopersicum, commonly known as a tomato plant, listen to Kate Campbell’s “Jesus and Tomatoes Coming Soon.”

¶ “Ever wonder why homegrown tomatoes taste so much better than ones you buy in a store? Renowned seed saver and farmer John Coykendall hits it out of the park with this explanation.” PBS Food (9:18 video. Thanks Leah.)

Words of assurance. This short (3:39 video) commentary about the common good by Robert Reich is revelatory. (Thanks Jimmy.)

Word. "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may be able to give to those in need." —Ephesians 4:28

Belated celebration of the Feast of Jonathan Daniels, 14 August. Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian, was in Lowndes County, Alabama in 1965 working on voter registration. He and others were arrested on 14 August. After being released on 20 August, he was instantly killed by a shotgun blast while protecting 17-year-old Ruby Sales, a co-worker, who later became a prominent civil and human rights activist, founding The SpiritHouse Project, a non-profit inner-city mission in Washington, DC dedicated to Daniels’ memory. In 1994 the Episcopal Church added Daniels to its Lesser Feasts and Fasts calendar of commemoration. —for more see Mary Frances Schjonberg, Episcopal News Service

Left: Icon of Jonathan Myrick Daniels by Mark Friesland

Professing our faith. “I lost fear in the black belt [of Alabama, a region originally named for its dark topsoil] when I began to know in my bones and sinews that I had been truly baptized into the Lord's death and Resurrection, that in the only sense that really matters I am already dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God. I began to lose self-righteousness when I discovered the extent to which my behavior was motivated by worldly desires and by the self-seeking messianism of Yankee deliverance!

        "The point is simply, of course, that one's motives are usually mixed, and one had better know it. As Judy and I said the daily offices day by day, we became more and more aware of the living reality of the invisible "communion of saints"—of the beloved community in Cambridge who were saying the offices too, of the ones gathered around a near-distant throne in heaven—who blend with theirs our faltering songs of prayer and praise.

Right: Ruby Sales' mug shot at the Montgomery Police Department after her arrest.

        "With them, with black men and white men, with all of life, in Him Whose Name is above all the names that the races and nations shout, whose Name is Itself the Song Which fulfills and ‘ends’ all songs, we are indelibly, unspeakably ONE." —Jonathan Daniels. You can read Daniels' entire meditation at Luis Enrique Hernández Rivas' Facebook page.

Hymn of supplication. “Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to Thy bosom fly, While the nearer waters roll, While the tempest still is high: Hide me, O my Saviour, hide, Till the storm of life is past.” —Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band “Jesus, Lover of My Soul

Can’t makes this sh*t up. On Tuesday, 5 June, US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said her newly-established federal school safety commission will not be examining the role of guns in our nation’s spate of school shootings. —Haley Britzky, Axios

        And now DeVos is considering using federal grants to purchase guns for teachers. (While 94% of teachers use personal funds for school supplies.) Erica L. Green, New York Times

Preach it. “Our merchants and masters complain much of the bad effects of high wages in raising the price and lessening the sale of goods. They say nothing concerning the bad effects of high profits. They are silent with regard to the pernicious effects of their own gains. They complain only of those of other people.” ―Adam Smith, 18th century Scottish economist and philosopher whose book, "The Wealth of Nations," is considered the “bible of capitalism”

Call to the table. “Sweetheart, you look a little tired / When did you last eat? / Come in and make yourself right at home / Stay as long as you need / Tell me, is something wrong? / If something's wrong you can count on me / You know I'll take my heart clean apart / If it helps yours beat.” —Sleeping At Last, "Atlas: Year Two" (Thanks Mike.)

The state of our disunion. A number of companies are experimenting with food and beverage delivery by drone. IBM just scored a patent on a delivery service, where the drone actually anticipates your coffee needs by tracking your sleep quality via a Fitbit or similar device that records your biometrics, blood pressure, pupil dilation, facial expressions and wake-up time. —Ziati Meyer, USA Today
        Meanwhile, 21% of children in the US live in families whose income is below the federal poverty threshold.

For the beauty of the earth. A time-lapse video (0:28) of the Milky Way galaxy rotating over an ancient baobab tree. This sequence was shot over a period of almost 8 hours last month at "The Island of Lost Baobabs" in Botswana's Makgadikgadi Pans. —Burrard-Lucas Photography (Thanks Donna.)

Altar call.Which Side Are You On,” Pete Seeger.

¶ “I have disagreed with Sen. John McCain on a whole range of issues over many years. We see the world in profoundly different ways. However, he is numbered in a rare breed of politicians of his generation who has displayed more character and integrity, the willingness to be guided, more often than not, by moral principle rather than profit or political expediency.” —continue reading “Senator McCain: Long live the mavericks

Benediction. “I want to be with people who submerge / in the task, who go into the fields to harvest / and work in a row and pass the bags along, / who stand in the line and haul in their places, / who are not parlor generals and field deserters / but move in a common rhythm / when the food must come in or the fire be put out.” —Marge Piercy

Recessional.When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” Ethan McGrath’s composition of Walt Whitman’s poem, performed by Taipei Chamber Singers.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Oh, for a Word to be heard from above / Oh, for a pardon for hardened contempt / School us in mercy, tutor in grace.” —“Oh, for a Word,” a litany for worship inspired by Mark 7:31-37

Lectionary for Sunday next.

        • “Blessed intention,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 19.

        • “Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9a.

Just for fun. “If you were a sibling of Jesus,” comedian Michael Jr. (3:54 video)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Labor Day,” a litany for worship, for work that fulfills

• “Labor in the Shadow of Sabbath,” a Labor Day sermon

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

• “I’m not saying it will be easy,” a call to worship inspired by Mark 8:27-38
Other features

• “Senator McCain: Long live the mavericks,” brief commentary on his passing

• “Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9a

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