News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  31 March 2018 •  No. 157

Processional.The Angel Cried, Christ Has Risen,” Russian Orthodox Chant for Easter.

Above: Memphis, Tennessee sanitation workers on strike, 1968.

Invocation. “Shake out your qualms. / Shake up your dreams. / Deepen your roots. / Extend your branches. / Trust deep water / and head for the open, / even if your vision / shipwrecks you. / Quit your addiction / to sneer and complain. / Open a lookout. / Dance on a brink. / Run with your wildfire. / You are closer to glory / leaping an abyss / than upholstering a rut.” —excerpt from James Broughton’s “Easter Exultet”

Call to worship. “We could be free / If we only knew we were slaves to the pains of each other / One thing I believe I can learn / To see my enemy as my brother / Then we could be free, truly / Then love could wash away all the sorrows / I'm not afraid to bleed / If it means, we'll make a better today not tomorrow.” —rapper Vic Mensa, “We Could Be Free

Why Easter is called Easter, and other little-known facts about the holiday

Hymn of praise.Good News From the Graveyard,” Southern Raised.

Confession. Nine-year-old Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King Jr.’s granddaughter, leading the crowd in a chant, “spread the word” at the “March For Our Lives” rally. (1:57 video)

Key to Easter chic is palette. “Fuzzy chicks and cut bunnies are part of the pastel pantheon of Easter décor, and their charm helps define the look of the season. . . . The key to a modern Easter look is simple, according to Kevin Sharkey, executive creative director for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia: 'It’s about a controlled color palette.'
            “At, find instructions for turning eggshells into tiny votive holders, nestled in silver egg cups—an elegant Easter dinner idea. Spring hues and simple style elements will take your Easter décor from sweet to sublime.” Kim Cook, Associated Press

¶ “I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African America girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper.” —11-year-old Naomi Wadler (pictured at right), speaking (4:03 video) at the March For Our Lives rally, 24 March, Washington, DC 

Words of assurance. “The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. Then I called on the name of the Lord, ‘Save my life!’ Return, O my soul, to your rest.—“Psalm 16,” Father Serafim, Assyrian Eastern Orthodox chant.

Professing our faith. The “March For Our Lives” commentary (7:01) by Emma González, the stunningly articulate Douglas High School shooting survivor, may go down in our nation’s history as among the greatest examples of public rhetoric. (When she stops and stands motionless and silent, stay with it—what the silence means will be revealed.)

¶ “I am not ashamed to admit it. They made me do it. Cry. More than once. ‘They’ being the uncommonly common students who led the March For Our Lives rally—three-quarters of a million strong—in Washington, DC. The day may well be accounted as among the most significant in our nation’s history.” —continue reading “Whisper words of wisdom, let it be Commentary on the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, DC

Hymn of resolution. “Come senators, congressmen / Please heed the call / Don't stand in the doorway / Don't block up the hall / For he that gets hurt / Will be he who has stalled / There's a battle outside ragin' / It'll soon shake your windows / And rattle your walls / For the times they are a-changin'.” —Jennifer Hudson, “For the Times They Are A-Changin,” at the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, DC

¶ “Six victors for the gun control movement since the Parkland massacre.” Amanda Holpuch, The Guardian

Another significant student-organized march. Starkville, Mississippi, is not among the list of cities that spring immediately to mind for having LGBTQ Pride parades. But that changed last Saturday, when some 3,000 marched through downtown for what Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill called “the biggest parade we’ve ever had in Starkville, absolute biggest.” City permit for the march was originally denied by the town’s aldermen but later reversed. March organizer Bailey McDaniel, along with her partner, Emily Turner (see photo at left), “I’m thankful for Starkville Police, they were amazing,” McDaniel said. “We took a huge group photo after. Chief (Frank Nichols) was on our side.” Ryan Phillips, Starkville Daily News

Short story. “As the E.B. White watched his wife Katherine planning the planting of bulbs in her garden in the last autumn of her life, he wrote,
         "‘There was some thing comical yet touching in her bedraggled appearance . . . the small hunched-over figure, her studied absorption in the implausible notion that there would be yet another spring, oblivious to the ending of her own days, which she knew perfectly well was near at hand, sitting there with her detailed chart under those dark skies in dying October, calmly plotting the resurrection.’
            "Katherine was a member of the resurrection conspiracy, the company of those who plant seeds of hope under dark skies of grief or oppression, going about their living and dying until, no one knows how, when or where, the tender Easter shoots appear, and a piece of creation is healed." —Robert Raines

Hymn of intercession. “What language shall I borrow  / to thank thee, dearest friend,  / for this thy dying sorrow,  / thy pity without end?  / O make me thine forever;  / and should I fainting be,  / Lord, let me never, never  / outlive my love for thee.” —Darrell Adams, in a gorgeous rendition of  “O Sacred Head Now Wounded

¶ “I have the clear sense that, despite your tender age, you intuitively understand the curious relation between suffering and joy, between despair and hopefulness. My reason for writing this letter to you is so that you may more fully comprehend this confusing, seemingly contradictory reality. For though we celebrate Easter's resurrection announcement, the stench of death is still in the air.” —continue reading “Open Letter to My Daughter: Easter morning, with the stench of death still in the air” written in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War

¶ “We’re going to be the generation that takes down the gun lobby.” So said Marisa Pyle, 20, to a group of several hundred people gathered in the North Georgia mountain town of Dahlonega, in one of over 800 parallel March For Our Lives rallies around the nation (and in several other countries).

Preach it. “Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body, and discovered God. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see. O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?
         “Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!” —excerpt from The Easter Sermon of John Chrysostom, pastor of Constantinople (c. 400 CE)

"Last Friday several of the youth in our congregation joined several others from another congregation in our city, making the long drive to Washington, DC, to take part in Saturday’s “March For Our Lives” rally against gun violence.
        "My wife Nancy, Circle of Mercy’s co-pastor, met them at the rendezvous point to offer a blessing on their journey. She said two things." —continue reading “Blessed are you if you do them: Maundy Thursday’s mandate” 

Can’t makes this sh*t up. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (which coordinates response to natural disasters) recently issued a new “strategic plan” for the coming four years, failed to mention climate change, global warming, sea-level rises, extreme weather, or any other terminology associated with scientific predictions of rising temperatures and their effects. —see Jessica Corbett, CommonDreams

Left: “Resurrection,” ©Julie Lonneman

Call to the table. “Bind up these broken bones / Mercy bend and bring me back to life / But not before You show me how to die / No, not before You show me how to die.” —Audrey Assad, “Show Me

¶ “To preach to the powerful without denouncing oppression is to promise Easter without Calvary, forgiveness without conversion, and healing without cleansing the wound." —excerpt from “What We Have Seen and Heard: A Pastoral Letter on Evangelization From the Black Bishops of the United States,” 1984

The state of our disunion. Remember the stories of Wells Fargo bank last year, when harried employees, desperate to make productivity quotas, open fraudulent accounts in customers’ names; and then charged customers for auto insurance which they didn’t request or need? Well, the company then gave Tim Sloan, their CEO, a 35% pay raise. —see Julia Conley, CommonDreams

Best one-liner. “Argue like you’re right; listen as if you’re wrong.” —author unknown (Thanks Amelia)

This coming week, Wednesday 4 April, is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while he was in Memphis, Tennessee, supporting the sanitation workers’ strike. Below are a few resources to prepare for this historic occasion:

        • “I Have Been to the Mountaintop,” —address (43:14 audio) at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tenn., the night of 3 April 1968, the night before his assassination.

        • Excerpts (22:14) of the "I Have Been to the Mountaintop" speech along with photos, video clips and commentary from some of his colleagues.

Left: Portrait of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Bruni Sablan.

        • Brief excerpt of the speech’s key lines. (2:37 video)

        • Images from the 1968 Memphis sanitation worker strike. (3:30 video)

        • “Memphis sanitation workers remember the 1968 strike, 40 years later.” —Commercial Appeal (3:59 video) 

For the beauty of the earth. Having been reared (mostly) in West Texas, this video (4:43) of the region, using stunning photos by Wyman Meinzer, music by Doug Smith, takes me back.

Altar call. “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

Benediction. “May Easter’s affection / spawn many children / who know / despite the trouble / the toil / the rubble strewn soil / the way of the cross leads home.” —“Easter’s affection

Recessional. Someday our Easter recessional will be this: “Boogie Contest at Rock That Swing 2016

Lectionary for this Sunday. “With glad songs of vict’ry, from the formerly vanquished, / let the festal procession loot the treasury of fear.” —continue reading “Mutinous lips,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 118

Lectionary for Sunday next. “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. / In the Name of the One Who established the earth’s bounty and purse as available to all.” —continue reading “The God Without Price,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 55 and Acts 4:32-35

Right: photo by Wes Granberg-Michaelson.

Just for fun. Watch this Italian grandmother learning how to use a Google Home device! (2:23 video. Thanks Linda.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Mutinous lips,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 118

• “Whisper words of wisdom, let it be," commentary on the March For Our Lives rally in Washington, DC

• “Who gonna’ roll that stone?an Easter sermon, Marion Correctional Institution, based on John 20:1-18

• “Easter’s aftermath,” a poem for Eastertide

• “The God Without Price,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 55 and Acts 4:32-35

Other features

• “Open Letter to My Daughter: Easter morning, with the stench of death still in the airwritten in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War

• “Blessed are you if you do them: Maundy Thursday’s mandate,” an essay on why understanding Maundy Thursday's significance is key to understanding not only Good Friday but also Easter

Above: Sculpted relief by Margaret Beaudette of Mary Magdalene proclaiming "The First Easter Homily"

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