Signs of the Times • 23 May 2017 • No. 120
¶ Processional. “Cure Thy children’s warring madness, / Bend our pride to Thy control. / Shame our wanton selfish gladness, / Rich in things and poor in soul. / Grant us wisdom, grant us courage, / Lest we miss Thy kingdom’s goal.” —Furman Singers, "God of Grace and God of Glory," Paul T. Langston arrangement
Above: Northern Lights from Fairbanks AK-photo by Adam Dille.
¶ Invocation. “Peace, Salaam, Shalom,” by Emma’s Revolution with the Community of Christ.
¶ Call to worship. “People of Mercy, put your hands together for the One we adore, lift your cheers to the Tender of orphans and widows, to the Protector of migrant farmer and those crushed with medical debt. Release your grip on the gods of armed might, on strategies of shock and awe. Confound the tortured schemes of the White House, jolt the laggard vision of the church house, and raise the burdened hopes of the poor house.” —“Offer your applause,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 68
¶ She would want us to steal this idea. “When Jeanne Esther Barbour, died on March 8, she passed on a bit of her philosophy of life with the world in her obituary: ‘In lieu of flowers, please be kind to someone. Call a friend or relative you haven’t reached out to recently. Visit a shut-in or nursing home resident. Forgive someone. All acts of kindness are appreciated.’” —Zelda Caldwell, “The 4 lines from an obituary that inspired so many,” Aletia
¶ Be careful with your assumptions about little old ladies in lilac hats. Dorothy Irene Height (March 24, 1912 – April 20, 2010, pictured at right) was this year’s featured profile on the US Postal Service’s Black Heritage stamp. “An American administrator and educator, was a civil rights and women's rights activist specifically focused on the issues of African-American women, including unemployment, illiteracy, and voter awareness. She was the president of the National Council of Negro Women for forty years and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1994 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. Civil rights leader James Farmer described Height as one of the "Big Six" of the Civil Rights Movement, but noted that her role was frequently ignored by the press due to sexism.” —Wikipedia
¶ Hymn of praise. “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
¶ Confession. “The United Airlines debacle isn't about customer service. It's about the morality of capitalism.” —James Martin, SJ, America magazine, documents how the transcendent rule of capital overrides moral claims
¶ Wondering how much the US spends on war? Take a look at these calculators provided by National Priorities.
¶ Numbing numbers from Brown University’s Watson Institute
• In this century alone US wars have resulted in the deaths of 370,000, more than half of them civilians.
• The costs of our wars—to-date as well as projected future costs, particularly medical expense of treating wounded troops—now stands at $4,790,000,000,000. —for more info, see William Hartung, “The American Way of War Is a Budget-Breaker,” Common Dream
¶ Hard to imagine how much a trillion is? Here’s a way to break it down: Say you were to count out $1 bills—nonstop, one per second, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks per year—it would take 32 years to reach a trillion. Better?
¶ Hymn of lamentation. “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen,” Louis Armstrong.
¶ “The U.S. government is paying the salaries of ‘tens of thousands’ of non-existent Afghan soldiers, police, teachers and civil servants, a top Pentagon official said [11 January] reporting on the scale and variety of misspent US money. John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, said the salaries of ‘ghost soldiers’ is just one of many ways Americans' money is wasted in Afghanistan. . . . ‘Including US war funding unrelated to reconstruction, US appropriations for Afghanistan now totals more than three quarters of a trillion dollars—not including the $43.7 billion requested for fiscal year 2017.’” —Perry Chiaramonte, Fox News
¶ More Afghanistan news. Now the Pentagon is requesting 3,000-5,000 additional US troops to “move beyond the stalemate” in Afghanistan, nearly 16 years after the country’s initial “liberation” in 2001. Among the human costs to date: 2,400 US troop fatalities (another 1,100 coalition troop fatalities), nearly 18,000 wounded. —for more, see Tom Englehardt, Tom’s Dispatch
¶ “Cicero, two thousand years ago, warned that ‘In times of war, the law falls silent’ (Inter arma enim silent leges). John Jay, in Federalist No. 4, warned that as a result of that truth, ‘nations in general will make war whenever they have a prospect of getting anything by it . . . for the purposes and objects merely personal, such as thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts, ambition, or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans.’” —Glenn Greenwald, “The ‘war on terror’—by design—can never end,” The Guardian
¶ Words of assurance. “Cast All Your Cares Upon the Lord,” Adrian Mitchel Music. (The text references 1 Peter 5: 7.)
¶ St. Dymphna, 7th century, patron saint of those living with mental or neurological disorders, depression, runaways, and victims of incest. Having fled her father’s wrath Ireland, she settled in the Flemish village of Geel and established a hospice for those of unsound mind. After centuries of veneration, she was canonized in 1247, and a church was constructed in her honor in the mid-14th century.
Left: St. Dymphna of Belgium. Icon by Kathrin Burleson.
Stories of healing of the mentally ill began to circulate, so that sufferers and family members began making a pilgrimage to Geel. Over time, the town’s citizens began taking the afflicted into their homes as guests, a tradition that continues to this day. (See more background to this story below.)
¶ Short story. “Half an hour on the slow train from Antwerp, surrounded by flat, sparsely populated farmlands, Geel (pronounced, roughly, ‘Hyale’) strikes the visitor as a quiet, tidy but otherwise unremarkable Belgian market town. Yet its story is unique. For more than 700 years its inhabitants have taken the mentally ill and disabled into their homes as guests or ‘boarders’. At times, these guests have numbered in the thousands, and arrived from all over Europe. There are several hundred in residence today, sharing their lives with their host families for years, decades or even a lifetime.” —Mike Jay, Aeon
• For more about St. Dymphna, see Ray Cavanaugh, National Catholic Reporter.
• Listen to NPR’s “Invisibilia” podcast (with Lulu Miller & Alix Spiegel) about Geel. (In the upper right corner on this site, fast forward to 12:47 to hear this particular story.)
¶ Preach it. “I have seen your religion, and I hate it. / I have heard your doctrine, and I loathe it. / Take away your empty praise songs, / your vacuous worshiptainment. / Your mouth is full of religious words, / but your proverbs are salted manure. —see more of Dave Barnhart’s “The Exodus” (Thanks Alan.)
¶ This is how John’s “Revelation” must have been experienced by his initial audience. “We believed your words, but now we see / You just don't mean, a thing to me / Your power reign was sick and wrong / Your time is gone, your time is gone / And we don't need ruin and lies / Your touch is death, your heart despised / Your time of reign and dark began / Your time to change is at an end.” —Moby & The Void Pacific Choir, “Erupt + Matter”
¶ Can’t makes this sh*t up. The US State Department recently posted promotion for President Tump’s Mar-a-Lago luxury resort (whose private membership rate doubled to $200,000 after the election), though the agency’s “Share America” website, an in-house tourism promotion operation circulating via US embassies and consulates in 140 countries. When uncovered, the agency removed the ad, saying “we regret any misperception” [i.e. "we regret your picky-picky-pickiness"]. —see Ross Barkan, The Guardian
¶ Call to the table. “When he left, Jesus said something like this to his friends, ‘I didn’t say it would be easy. I said it would be worth it.’” —“Summon your nerve: A call to the table on Pentecost Sunday”
¶ The state of our disunion. “I can’t get the image of that 8-year-old [killed in the 22 May 2017 terrorist attack in Manchester, UK] out of my head,” said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan [CNN, 23 May 2017].
True enough. “Heinous” is the one adjective that comes to mind short of vulgarity to describe this crime.
So where in our mind do we have the space for the estimated 178 children killed in US drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen, alone, just in the years between 2007 and 2010? It is disingenuous to say you didn’t mean to, when you knew this was the likely result. —"Child Casualties As a Result of US Drone Strikes" (1:30 video) @WarCosts
¶ “As Vicki Divoll, a former CIA lawyer who now teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy, observed, ‘People are a lot more comfortable with a Predator strike that kills many people than with a throat-slitting that kills one.’” —quoted in Jonathan Tran, “The Audacity of Hope and the Violence of Peace: Obama, War, and Christianity”
¶ Best one-liner. “If you profess to be a Christian and have cheered either the most recent missile attacks [in Syria] or the mega bomb [in Afghanistan], please do not read the Gospels, you will NOT like the main character.” —author unknown, from the internet
¶ For the beauty of the earth. Otters juggling rocks. Who knew? (Thanks David.)
¶ Altar call. “The believing community needs to ponder the conflicting memorials which roll around nearly as often as the church celebrates The Lord’s Table, many of which bear the carved inscription featuring King James’ rendition: ‘This do in remembrance of me.’ Whose remembrance takes center stage?” —“Conflicting memorials: The Lord’s Table of remembrance vs. the nation’s vow of preeminence”
¶ Benediction. The really amazing thing about grace is not its sweetness, although this emotion has often been reported as a result of the sense of emotional cleansing. But the emotion is incidental and transient. Much more importantly, grace is the power of disarmed hearts and hands to confront and unravel the rule of hatred and hostility. The profession of Jesus-oriented faith is hinged on the conviction that the future belongs to this sort of insurgency against the present reign of rancor. If next Sunday’s benediction doesn’t at least imply this mandate, ask why. —kls
¶ Recessional. “Preobrazhenie” (Transfiguration), Isihia.
¶ Lectionary for this Sunday. “Rain will absorb every drought and mercy be restored to the marketplace. Lush meadows will break through the developer’s asphalt. Affordable homes will open for all whose hopes have been foreclosed. Those who buy and sell the futures of crops and petroleum, who barter menial wages for market share, will confront the One who crushes the delight for war and leads the prisoner to prosperity.” —“Offer your applause,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 68
¶ Lectionary for Sunday next. “To be sure, the psalmist’s imprecatory rage is processed in lament before God—and is no sanction for lethal vengeance, however just our intent. But as long as the assaults now raining in the streets of the meek never raise an ache in our bodies nor a bruise on our hearts, we will never know the urgency of the Advocate’s liberating word. Intercession implies a certain interposition.” —“Why Psalm 104:35 needs to be included in the reading for Pentecost Sunday (Year A),” brief commentary
¶ Just for fun. “Liberal Rednick – Mama Missiles and Baby,” Trae Crowder. (Thanks Andy.)
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Featured this week on prayer&politiks
• “Conflicting memorials: The Lord’s Table of remembrance vs. the nation’s vow of preeminence,” an essay for Memorial Day
• "Memorial Day preparation," a collection of resources for preparation
Pentecost Sunday preparation resources
• “Pentecostal Passion,” a poem
• “Summon your nerve,” a call to the table on Pentecost Sunday
• “All together,” a litany for Pentecost
• “The promise of Pentecost,” a sermon
• “Adelante—Keep Moving Forward,” a litany for worship
• “Worthy,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 29 and the Pentecost story in Acts 2
• “Pentecost,” a litany for worship
• “Kindle slavery’s funeral pyre,” a litany for worship inspired by Exodus 13:17-22 & the story of Pentecost in Acts 2
• “Why Psalm 104:35 needs to be included in the reading for Pentecost Sunday (Year A),” brief commentary
• “Day of Pentecost choral reading,” a script for nine voices, inspired by Acts 2:1-13
Left: He Qi, "Holy Spirit Coming"
©Ken Sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org. Language not otherwise indicated above is that of the editor, as are those portions cited as “kls.” Don’t let the “copyright” notice keep you from circulating material you find here (and elsewhere in this site). Reprint permission is hereby granted in advance for noncommercial purposes.
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