News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  22 March 2018 •  No. 156

Processional.All Glory, Laud and Honor,” Palm Sunday procession, Church of St. Mary the Virgin, New York City.

Above: Rainbow Mountain (aka “Vinicunca”), Peru. “The reason we see the rainbow coloration in the stratigraphic layers of the Ausangate Mountains is largely due to weathering and mineralogy. Red coloration of sedimentary layers often indicates iron oxide rust as a trace mineral.” —for more see Geologist Trevor Nace, Forbes

Invocation. “Is there no song to be sung, no bell to be rung, no laughter from the fields at play with their yield? Morning by morning my Sovereign awaits my wakeful embrace of the dawn. My ears rise, eager, despite my heart’s meager consent to the summons of grace.” —continue reading “ Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9a

Call to worship. Celebrating the spring equinox: Listen to English actress Noma Dumezweni's beautiful reading of Wordsworth's “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud.” (1:24 video. Thanks Rose.)

Join our youth in Saturday’s “March for Our Lives,” in Washington, DC, or in your own town. On 24 March, young people (and supportive families) will undertake a “March for Our Lives” in the US and worldwide, calling for an end to gun violence. There are already 763 events on the schedule. Go here for a searchable database to see if one is planned where (or near) you live.  Also, see the New York Times pictorial summary from 14 March’s “School Walkout: Photos From Across the Nation.”

Introduction to this issue.

        I can testify that in compiling “Signs of the Times” I spend proportionately far more effort locating “good news” stories than bad. Generally speaking, when it comes to traffic lights, our complaints over red ones far exceeds our rejoicing at green ones. In our letters to the editor, you and I and everybody I know are more likely to take the trouble of registering a complaint than expressing gratitude.

        In recognition of these realities, this issue of “Signs of the Times” focuses on some of the good news surrounding climate change responses—without any hint that there’s plenty of despairing news available. —read the entire piece, “Why good news is harder to find than bad news

Hymn of praise.They That Wait (Upon the Lord),” UC Berkeley Chorus & Contare Con Vivo.

There are now 3 rivers—one in New Zealand and two in India—that legally have the same rights as humans. Adam Taylor, Washington Post

¶ “Sweden is so good at recycling that, for several years, it has imported rubbish from other countries to keep its recycling plants going. Less than 1 per cent of Swedish household waste was sent to landfill last year or any year since 2011.” Hazel Sheffield, Independent (Thanks Scott.)

Audacious nuns. This was the scene as the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a Catholic order of nuns, dedicated their new open-air chapel. (See photo at left.) But this open-air chapel isn't just for prayers. It's a protest. It's built directly in the path of an incoming natural gas pipeline. —for more see James Gaines, Upworthy. Photo above: Sister Janet McCann at the chapel's dedication. Photo from David Jones/Lancaster Against Pipelines.

Confession. “When you don’t want to see, you don’t see.” —Pope Francis, after seeing the destruction caused by Hurricane Irma in areas of the Caribbean

¶ “We all know the bad news when it comes to climate change. What most people don’t know is that there is also a lot of good news. In this video (3:16) we explore some of that good news, like the fact that real solutions exist and that we’re already seeing the benefits of them.The Climate Reality Project

Hymn of supplication. “Holy Spirit, welcome / You are welcome here / Guide us, Holy Spirit / Speak to us again.” —English translation of lyrics to “Wairua Tapu,” traditional song of the Maori people of New Zealand, performed by Gondwana Cantique

¶ In recent weeks several major institutions have announcing or seriously considering withdrawal from investing in fossil fuel companies.

        • “As world leaders convene at the One Planet Summit on the second anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, environmental advocates are cautiously celebrating the ‘historic announcement’ by the World Bank that it will stop funding oil and gas exploration and production projects after 2019. . . .

Right: “Gaia,” Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber

        • “Alongside the World Bank's announcement, the French company Axa—one of the world's largest insurers—announced Tuesday that it plans to dump investments and stop providing insurance to U.S. oil pipelines as well as quadruple its investments in environmentally-friendly projects by 2020.” Jessica Corbett, CommonDreams

        • “Warning that climate change amounts to the mother of all risks,’ three of the world's biggest insurance companies are demanding that G20 countries stop bankrolling the fossil fuels industry.” Lauren McCauley, CommonDreams

        • “The Norwegian central bank, which runs the country’s sovereign wealth fund – the world’s biggest – has told its government it should dump its shares in oil and gas companies, in a move that could have significant consequences for the sector.” Adam Vaughan, The Guardian

¶ “Solar power is now the cheapest form of energy in 58 countries, including in China, India, and Brazil. Solar power is predicted to be the lowest-cost energy option in almost all parts of the world in less than a decade.” —Otta Scharmer, “Trump, Dark Money, and Shifting Consciousness

¶ “Climate activists claimed ‘an undeniable victory’ after New York City and New York State officials called for city and state pension funds to halt investments in fossil fuels. ‘The dam has broken,’ said co-founder Bill McKibben. ‘It's a crucial sign of how fast the financial pendulum is swinging away from fossil fuels.’” Andrea Germanos, CommonDreams

Hymn of intercession. “We bow down before your cross.” —The Orthodox Singers, “Basso Profondo

¶ “A transition to 100% renewable energy by 2050—or even sooner—is not only possible, but would also cost less and create millions of new jobs, according to new research presented in Bonn, Germany on Thursday.” Julia Conley, CommonDreams

Signs of things to come. “Kentucky coal company announces plans to build the state’s largest solar farm.” Natasha Geiling, ThinkProgress

Important news you likely didn’t hear. “For the first time, Exxon shareholders [in their June 2017 meeting]—by an impressive 62% majority—voted for a resolution that requires the company to publish an annual report detailing the risks of climate policies and technological advances to its oil and gas holdings.” Kelly Mitchell, CommonDreams

¶ “Dozens of our country’s cities have already united to implement measures that combat climate change, so the President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement is not representative of our nation’s leaders and their communities,” said Columbia (SC) Mayor Steve Benjamin, Second Vice President of the US Conference of Mayors which represents 1,408 cities with populations of 30,000 residents or more. Mark Karlin, buzzflash

The General Electric Energy Financial Services “announced late [in June 2017] its cumulative investments in renewable power sources such as wind, solar and hydroelectric had surpassed $15 billion. Representing its fastest-growing business segment, the scope of investment shows the increasing economic viability of fossil fuel alternatives.” Paul Schott, Stamford Advocate

¶ “According to a new study from the liberal group Media Matters for America, the Sunday political shows and nightly newscasts on ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox’s broadcast network devoted a total of 260 minutes to climate change in 2017. That’s a huge increase over 2016 and by far the most climate coverage since the group started tracking that data in 2009.” Rebecca Leber, Mother Jones

There “are already more American jobs in the solar industry than in coal mining." US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. The fact-checking agency Politifact considers this as “true.”

Words of assurance. “You who endure contentious tongues, threatened by gangsters and banksters of every sort, / Come to the Sheltering Presence of the One who knows, / The One who tapes your photo to Heaven’s refrigerator door.” —continue reading “By Thy might,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 31

Hymn of resolution. “Then why, O blessèd Jesus Christ / Should I not love Thee well? / Not for the hope of winning Heaven, / Nor of escaping hell. / Not with the hope of gaining aught, / Nor seeking a reward, / But as Thyself hast lovèd me, / O everlasting Lord!” —Darrell Adams, “My God, I Love Thee,” words attributed to Fancis Xavier

¶ “Directly contradicting much of the Trump administration’s position on climate change, 13 federal agencies unveiled an exhaustive scientific report on Friday that says humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization.” Lisa Friedman & Glenn Thrush, New York Times

Preach it (World Water Day is 22 March). “End-game ecological trends press Christians to re-read our tradition from the perspective of the groaning creation, as did Paul in Romans 8:21–22—including and especially our theology and practices of mission. Water is a strategic place to start. It is the resource we North Americans arguably most take for granted—a privileged and unsustainable conceit that must change.” —read more of Ched Myers’ “Reinhabiting the River of Life (Rev 22:1–2): Rehydration, Redemption, and Watershed Discipleship

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 rise, extreme weather, or any other terminology associated with scientific predictions of rising temperatures and their effects. —see Jessica Corbett, CommonDreams

Left: Hugh Thompson (at left) greeted by a Vietnamese women whose life he saved when he intervened to stop the US massacre of civilians in My Lai, 16 March 1968, on Thompson's trip back to My Lai in 1998.

Call to the table (on the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre). “Thompson could’ve stayed hovering above it all. Instead he entered the suffering. The story at this table is remembering that Jesus could’ve stayed hovering above the suffering. He entered it. At this table he invites us to do the same.” —Continue reading Nancy Hastings Sehested’s “Call to the Table” remembering Hugh Thompson an Army helicopter pilot during the Vietnam war who intervened to stop the My Lai massacre

The state of our disunion. President Trump has been a big booster of coal mining. Ironically, his Administration’s regulatory actions have actually led to a spike in coal miner deaths, given that safety inspectors no longer have the authority to issue a violation charge against coal companies. —for more info see “Coal mine deaths surge, putting feds and miners at odds,” CBS News

Altar call. “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” —Dr. Seuss

For the beauty of the earth. For the first time in 30 years, the International Cloud Atlas, first published in 1896, has added 12 new cloud types, including “Asperitas" cloud, pictured at right. (Thanks James.) —Tim De Chant, Nova Next

Benediction. “Proclaim with confidence the Beloved’s promise to those who live in the ashes: Thus says the Host of Heaven: 'I will restore to you the years which the locusts have eaten.'” —Joel 2:25

Recessional. “We are of the Spirit, truly of the Spirit / only can the Spirit turn the world around.” —"Turn the World Around," by Harry Belafonte, performed by Berklee College of Music students and faculty

Lectionary for this Sunday. “From the depths of distress, every sail sagged and limp, / my mutinous lips offer insurrecting sighs. / With heart-aching hope doth my voice still rejoice.  / Incline us, consign us, to steadfast Embrace.” —continue reading “Mutinous lips,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 118

Lectionary for Sunday next.Choral reading of John 20:1-18,” a script for 8 voices.

Marking Romero’s martyrdom. This is what true saints do: inspiring saintliness to those around them rather than clutching the status for themselves. (See the illustration at left.) Salvadoran Archbishop Óscar Arnulfo Romero, who was gunned down by a right-wing death squad while saying Mass on 24 March 1980, one day after his radio broadcast sermon calling for soldiers to lay down their guns and end the repressive government’s rule. will be canonized as a Roman Catholic saint. The Plough Publishing House published The Violence of Love, a marvelous collection of Romero quotes. They also offer a free ebook download and audio book.

Just for fun. Just when you’re ready for a challenging adventure—dressed for the occasion, courage collected, risk factor calculated, equipment in hand, your eyes on the prize, adrenaline flowing, bystanders ready to capture the moment on film, narrative outline of the experience later to be recorded in your journal already formed in your mind—this happens. (0:07 video. Thanks Brynn!)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Resurrection’s approach,” a poem for Holy Week

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

• “Pulling back the veil: The call to penitential living (in light of the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre),” a sermon

• “Call to the table (on the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre),” a communion meditation by Nancy Hastings Sehested
Other features

• “Choral reading of John 20:1-18,” a script for 8 voices

• “Why good news is harder to find than bad news,” a brief essay

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