News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  2 May 2018 •  No. 160

Processional.Garden Song” (“Inch by Inch”), Pete Seeger.

Invocation. “How, indeed, shall we then live / in this enduring season between / Easter, / God’s Resurrection Moment, and / Pentecost, / God’s Resurrection Movement?” —continue reading "The Little Flock of Jesus," a poem for Eastertide

Call to worship. “You can never hold back spring / You can be sure that I will never / Stop believing / The blushing rose will climb / Spring ahead or fall behind / Winter dreams the same dream / Every time / Even though you've lost your way / The world keeps dreaming of spring.” —Tom Waits, “You Can Never Hold Back Spring

Good news. In March, Portugal generated more than 100% of the country’s energy needs! Watch this brief (0:44) video. (Thanks Linda.)

More good news. The small town of San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala, has taken the extraordinary step of banning plastic bags and containers. Watch this short (3:05) video. (Thanks Linda.)

¶ “What will it look like for a Baptist-flavored Southerner to do theology ‘in context’?” Cone asked me. The phrase ‘theology in context’ was in vogue at the time. The question came out of the blue and caught me off guard. But I knew immediately what it meant: I needed to return to the South, and to my babdist subculture, from which I had fled several years prior. And for a split second I understood the Prophet Jonah’s fearful dread upon learning of his assignment to Nineveh.” —continue reading “James Cone: A brief remembrance

Hymn of praise. “In colors, / In colors the fields are dressed / In the springtime / In colors, / Colorful are the little birds / That come from far away / In colors, / Colorful is the rainbow / That we see shine / And that is why the great loves / of many colors are pleasing to me” (English translation). —Joan Baez, “De Colores”

Over the past 50 years, the Amazon rain forest in Brazil has lost nearly a fifth of acreage—an area larger than the state of Texas—cut down for farming, ranching, and logging, Yet Rodrigo Medeiros and Conservation International, in collaboration with others, plans to spread seeds from over 200 native species, including grasses and trees, across 70,000 acres. Bruce Lieberman, Yale Climate Connections 

Confession. “I’m not interested in talking about America’s history because I want to punish America. I want to liberate America. And I think it’s important for us to do this as an organization that has created an identity that is as disassociated from punishment as possible.” —Bryan Stevenson, on the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, quoted in “A Lynching Memorial Is Opening. The Country Has Never Seen Anything Like It,” New York Times

Overlooked historical marker on the separation of church and state. On 5 May 1773 Baptists in Boston agreed to refuse payment of taxes due to support the state-sponsored pilgrim-puritan church of the region. Such historical memories help us remember who we are and thus more able to account for the hope that is within us. —continue reading “Accounting for the hope that is in you,” a sermon based on Luke 24:44-53

Hymn of supplication. “And my Lord, He said unto me / Do you like my garden so pure / You may live in this garden, if you keep the waters clean / And I'll return in the cool of the day.” —“Now is the Cool of the Day” performed by Coope, Boyes & Simpson

Words of assurance.С нами Бог"” (“God Is With Us”), Divna Ljubojevic and Melodi.

Professing our faith. “Greater love hath none than this: / Than to calm the fears of a child. / Greater love hath none than this: / Than to offer all you can to what you adore, and withhold your consent from every imperial demand.” —continue reading “Greater love hath none than this,” a litany for worship inspired by John 15:13

Quotes on gardens

§ Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace. ~May Sarton

§ It is forbidden to live in a town with no greenery. ~Jerusalem Talmud, Kiddushin 4:12

§ Those who believe and humble themselves before their Lord, they will be companions of the garden. ~Qur’an, Sutra 11:23

§ The earth laughs in flowers. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

§ Earth is here so kind, that just tickle her with a hoe and she laughs with a harvest. ~Douglas William Jerrold

§ Gardening is cheaper than therapy and you get tomatoes. ~author unknown

§ To dwell is to garden~Martin Heidegger

§ I think this is what hooks one to gardening: it is the closest one can come to being present at creation. ~Phyllis Theroux

§ Gardening is the slowest of the performing arts. ~Mac Griswold

§ Anyone who thinks that gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year. For gardening begins in January with the dream. ~Josephine Nuese

            See more of a larger collection of quotes on gardens in “Life began in a garden: A collection of quotes on gardens

Short story. “Madrone's eyes were far away. Slowly she drew her attention back to the room, and shook her head.
        "I know my destiny," she said. "I had a dream."
        She turned to meet Bird's eyes, and gave him a little, hesitant smile, almost like an apology.
        "What kind of dream?" he asked, knowing before she spoke what she was going to say.
        "That kind of a dream," she said lightly. "The kind that messes up your life. It said, 'Build a refuge in the heart of the enemy.'" —"City of Refuge" by Starhawk

Hymn of intercession. “We are stardust / We are golden / And we’ve got to get ourselves / Back to the garden.” —Good Harvest performing Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” (Thanks Deborah.)

Preach it. At the annual Alliance of Baptists convocation in Dayton, Ohio, I heard one of the best sermons I’ve heard . . . ever. The preacher was Rev. Deborah DeMars Conrad, pastor of Woodside Baptist Church, Flint, Michigan. Her sermon was titled “Terra Forma,” working from the story of Naboth’s vineyard (Kings 21:1-16). Here’s the video of the entire service. The scripture reading and sermon begin at 48:17. This is a “creation care” sermon in all its fullness.
            Or you can listen to the audio-only sermon at Deb’s “Mending the World” website (31:25 minutes).

Can’t makes this sh*t up. Speaker Paul Ryan quietly fired the House of Representatives’ chaplain, Fr. Patrick J. Conroy. “Padre,” Ryan told Conroy (both of whom are Roman Catholic), “you just got to stay out of politics.” The offense was Conroy’s prayer last November, opening a House session to debate the Republican tax reform bill. Conroy prayed for lawmakers to “guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.” —for more see Elizabeth Dias and Sheryl Gay Stolberg, New York Times

More CmtS*u. "When you hear about slavery for 400 years. For 400 years?! That sounds like a choice.” —rapper Kanye West on TMZ

When only the blues will do.Improvisation in Cm,” Indiara Sfair.

Call to the table. “We are free to act boldly because we are safe. We are safe because we are at rest. We are at rest because we have been forgiven. We are forgiven because we have come to know that Jesus meets us in our weakness, not our strength.” —continue reading “Such is the journey: A call to Jesus’ memorial table

The state of our disunion. Republican buyer’s remorse. “There’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s [from the Republican tax cut] been massively poured back into the American worker.” Rep. Senator Marco Rubio, The Economist

President Trump and Republican congressional leaders promised that the new tax law would bolster businesses’ ability to raise workers’ income and create new jobs. But “the advocacy group Businesses for Responsible Tax Reform polled entrepreneurs in Maine, Arizona, Tennessee, and Nevada and found that seven in 10 had no plans to hire new employees as a result of the tax plan, while 60% said their workers would not be given raises.
        "Clearly the new law—which has come under fire for heavily favoring large corporations—is not going to do much to help small business owners grow their businesses," wrote Frank Knapp, co-chair of the group Julia Conley, CommonDreams

¶ “Here’s all the data Facebook and Google have on you.” Dylan Curran, The Guardian

How to take control of your Facebook account.

Hymn of longing.Jesus and Tomatoes Coming Soon,” Kate Campbell.

Best one-liner. "If you are speaking on behalf of social justice then by definition there's going to be controversy, because if it wasn't controversial somebody would have already fixed it." —former President Barack Obama

For the beauty of the earth. In my neck of the woods, each spring the Smoky Mountains National Park has one of the country’s greatest light shows. Lampyridae, a family of insects in the beetle order Coleoptera. They are winged beetles, commonly called fireflies or lightning bugs. CBS Sunday Morning (6:04 video)

The happy factor. In a new study, psychologists “asked nearly 400 Americans aged 18 to 78 whether they thought their lives were meaningful and/or happy. Examining their self-reported attitudes toward meaning, happiness, and many other variables—like stress levels, spending patterns, and having children—over a month-long period, the researchers found that a meaningful life and happy life overlap in certain ways, but are ultimately very different. Leading a happy life, the psychologists found, is associated with being a "taker" while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a "giver."
        “’Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided,’ the authors write.” —Emily Esfahani Smith, “There’s More to a Life Than Being Happy,” The Atlantic

Altar call. Resurrection, as Clarence Jordan says, is God's refusal to stay on the other side of the grave. “God raised Jesus, not as an invitation to us to come to heaven when we die, but as a declaration that He himself has now established permanent residence on earth. The resurrection places Jesus on this side of the grave, here and now, in the midst of this life. The Good News of the resurrection is not that we shall die and go home with him but that he is risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick, prisoner brothers and sisters with him.” (cf. Luke 24:44-53)

Benediction. “Beloveds, now we know for sure. Every day is grace and every night is gratitude. . . . May you wear down the pathway to the sanctuary of your soul. May you speak up for the silenced. May you befuddle the brutal, bewilder the bullies, be intolerant of the intolerable. Lament and laugh. And may laughter get the best of you.” —continue reading “Keep ringing the bells of holy hope,” by Nancy Hastings Sehested

Recessional. Spring Waltz,” Frédéric Chopin.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Open your mouths, oh people of praise. Unchain your lungs and unleash your lips. / Let joyful noise erupt from every muted tongue, thankful hymns from every muffled mouth. / Compose a new song for the Chorister of Heaven. A cappella or symphonic, let the sound rise like leaven. / Whether big band or bluegrass or rhythm and blues.” —continue reading “Big band or bluegrass,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 98

Lectionary for Sunday next. “One empty tomb poses no threat / to present entanglements, / any more than annual and / specially-adorned sanctuary crowds / encroach on Easter morn. / It’s Easter’s aftermath / resurrectus contagio, / contagious resurrection / that threatens entombing empires / with breached sovereignty.” —continue reading “Easter’s aftermath,” a poem inspired by Luke 24:13-35 and Matthew 25:1-13

Just for fun. 217 skydivers, jumping from 10 aircraft at 19,000 feet, create sky art and set a new record. (Thanks Sally.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “James Cone: A brief remembrance

• “Life began in a garden: A collection of quotes on gardens

• “Keep ringing the bells of holy hope,” by Nancy Hastings Sehested

• “Big band or bluegrass,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 98

• “Accounting for the hope that is in you,” a sermon based on Luke 24:44-53

• “Greater love hath none than this,” a litany for worship inspired by John 15:13

• “Easter’s aftermath,” a poem inspired by Luke 24:13-35 and Matthew 25:1-13

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