News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  17 May 2017  •  No. 119

[Arkansas state judge and Baptist pastor Wendell Griffen, participates in an anti-death action in outside the Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’ mansion in Little Rock on Good Friday.

Processional.Traditional Gospel Medley,” Stellenbosch University Choir.

Above: The Milky Way as seen from Antelope Canyon, Arizona.

Invocation. When author Madeleine L’Engle was asked, “Do you believe in God without any doubts?” she replied, “I believe in God with all my doubts.”

Call to worship. “Where there is no joy there can be no courage; and without courage all other virtues are useless.” —Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Yowzers. “As a nearly ten-days-long global mobilization calling for divestment from fossil fuels comes to an end, climate campaigners are celebrating a major victory stateside: U.S. Bank has announced that it will no longer finance fossil fuel pipeline construction.” Nika Knight, Common Dreams

¶ “On April 14, [Arkansas] state Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order that temporarily halted six of the executions over concerns the state used false pretenses to obtain a key drug slated to be used in the executions. Following his ruling, Judge Griffen took part in an anti-death penalty protest outside the Governor’s Mansion organized by his church to mark Good Friday. In addition to being a judge, Griffen is an ordained Baptist minister. Calls for Wendell Griffen’s impeachment began soon after photographs from the vigil appeared in the press showing him lying down on a cot (see above photo) with his hands bound together as though he were a condemned man on a gurney.” Amy Goodman and Juan González interview on "Democracy Now." Watch, listen or read the transcript.

Hymn of praise. “I got the King of kings and the Lords of hosts / I got angel armies and a Holy Ghost / I got spirits here that are tied by fire / I got a valley of bones that came alive / I got a cross, a hill, and an empty grave / I got a trumpet sound and one sweet name / Shake the gate of hell, the sinners and dogs / I got my Jesus and the devil gotta run.” —Crowder, “Run Devil Run

If you’re among the many who’ve read J.D. Vance’s top-selling memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, you need to read this critical response to the book by Ivy Brashear, “Response to Hillbilly Elegy.” “Elegy has no class, no heart, and no warmth. It's a poorly written appropriation of Appalachian stereotypes that presents us as a people who aren't worthy of anything but derision and pity, and who cannot be helped because we refuse to help ourselves.”

Confession. “More than any other, this is the injunction under which I live, sometimes joyfully, sometimes in complaint: drawn back, through and from beatific gaze, toward Jerusalem’s deceit; back toward skinned children; back toward the site of Heaven’s assault on Earth’s duress.” —continue reading “In praise of the undazed life

Hymn of assurance. “It's been a long dark night / And I've been a waitin' for the morning / It's been a long hard fight / But I see a brand new day a dawning / I've been looking for the sunshine / 'Cause I ain't seen it in so long / But everything's gonna work out just fine / Everything's gonna be all right / That's been all wrong.” —Dolly Parton, “Light of a Clear Blue Morning

Historic service. As far as anyone knows, it’s likely that a 5 May worship service in Cuba was the first—anywhere, anytime—to be presided over by three transgender pastors coming from three different countries and denominational bodies.
        Pictured at right: Revs. Allyson Dylan Robinson (on the left), affiliated with the Alliance of Baptist in the US; Cindy Bourgeois, United Church of Canada; Alexya Salvador, Metropolitan Community Church in Brazil; and Ellaine Saralegui, pastor of Fundadora Iglesia Comunidad Metropolitana, Matanzas, Cuba. (Photo: Reuters/Alexandre Meneghini)
        The service culminated a three-day conference on gender, theology, and sexuality organized by the International Metropolitan Community Church and hosted by Fundadora Iglesia Comunidad Metropolitana, an LGBTQ-friendly congregation in Matanzas.
        Here are two brief videos from the service (1:49) and (3:53).

More news from Cuba. The Martin Luther King Center in Havana, Cuba, recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. For background, see “Baptists and Popular Education in Cuba: An interview with Joel Suárez, general coordinator of the center and son of the Center’s founder.” —Sarah van Gelder & Justine Simon, Yes!
        Rev. Raúl Suárez, founder of the King Center and retired pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church (whose building is next door to the Center), was recently interviewed on Cuban television. Here’s a video (5:08, in Spanish).

At about the same time, legendary civil rights leader and former American Baptist Seminary president Dr. Bernard Lafayette (pictured at right, center) co-led a delegation of African Americans, along with Martin Luther King Jr. Center (next door to the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta) nonviolence trainer Charles Alphin, to visit the King Center in Havana (which is next door to the Ebenezer Baptist Church). The group included Charles Steele, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, among others.
        Pictured at left: In conversation with Rev. Raúl Suárez, Dr. Bernard Lafayette (center) found out that both had taken part in the peace negotiations which ended the long-standing civil war in Colombia, a process hosted by the Cuban government. Dr. Lafayette was kidnapped on one of his trips to Colombia. Stan Dotson (right of Lafayette), from Asheville, NC, was the group’s tour guide and translator.

Hymn of intercession. “sometimes you just dont feel like tryin / too any politicians lyin / too many hungry babies cryin / too may random bullits flyin / too much time spent in struggle / too many little kids in trouble / too may cities gone to rubble / too many people talkin double.” —David Mallett, “Celebration

Wise counsel. "Why do we scare each other? . . . Not long after the November election in the US, I attended a national gathering of young leaders from recent insurgent movements like Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers and campus fossil fuel divestment. I noticed that these strong young activists spent a lot of their informal time during breaks and meals scaring each other with gossip about Trump and “the latest” indications of impending fascism.
        I pointed out what I had witnessed. “The job of authoritarians is to keep people in submission by scaring them. . . . The next day many thanked me for naming a dynamic that dominates some activist subcultures and disempowers us. Everyone knows our situation is dangerous.” If you join a mountain climbing party, “does the guide spend their time telling the climbers all the places along the way where people got hurt or lost their lives? Of course not. Effective guides focus on the task at hand, encourage the climbers to believe they can do well, and help them to visualize reaching the summit.” —George Lakey, “Finding courage in anxious times,” Waging Nonviolence

Short story. “I was driving my three-year-old grandson from preschool when he asked me from the back seat, What that sound, Ja-Ja?
      I thought for a moment. The radio was off. There were no sirens or honks. I was puzzled.
      “What sound?” I asked. “That big sound inside you,” he said.
      Then it dawned on me what he’d heard. “Oh, that was a sigh.” Of course he asked me to explain it. . . .” —continue reading Nancy Hastings Sehested’s “That big sound inside you: Prison life and the language of sighs

Preach it. 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)

Can’t makes this sh*t up. On 28 February President Trump invited dozens of presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) to witness his signing of an executive order declaring his commitment to those schools and saying they will be “an absolute priority for this White House.” But then his $1.1 trillion omnibus spending bill approved earlier this month by Congress excluded a 25-year-old federal program that helps HBCUs with building construction. —see Eddie S. Glaude Jr., “The Great American whitelash claims new victims every day,” The Guardian

Call to the table. Once “the power of Easter has burst upon us . .  now we no longer strive to be good because we have to, because it is a duty, but because our joy is to please him who has given all his love to us! Now our life is full of meaning!” —Thomas Merton

The state of our disunion. New private airport terminal for the mega-rich. The Los Angeles international airport recently opened its “Private Suite” terminal for those who, undaunted by price, can avoid traffic jams around terminals, crowded check-in counters, barking TSA agents in security check points, and loud passenger lounges. (At the Private Suite check-in desk you get to watch live video feed of the overcrowded, not-so-private terminals. Suckers!) Numerous amenities are available, including organic snacks and platters of chocolates, toys for kids, even prayer rugs for Muslims, plus a BMW taxi directly to your waiting plane. —see Rory Carroll, The Guardian

Best one-liner. "We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself." —Dietrich Bonhoeffer

For the beauty of the earth. This video shows Mac hiking the entirety of the Pacific Crest Trail from the US/Mexico border to the US/Canada border across 2,660 mi / 4,200 km through California, Oregon, and Washington, passing through 25 national forests and 7 national parks. He collected one-second video clips each day and spliced them together sequentially to create this 3:15 video travelogue. (Thanks Amy.)

Altar call. “Who is this Christ, who interferes in everything?” —Rainer Maria Rilke

Benediction. “To the wrongs that need resistance, / To the right that needs assistance, / To the future in the distance, / Give yourselves.” —Carrie Chapman Catt

Recessional.In the Mood,” The Glenn Miller Band.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Oh, Giver of good gifts, steel my soul with endurance, to sustain my living and loving. Grant a sturdier heart, one strong enough to stand up to the journey’s brambles and cold nights. Grant sharp eyes to spot those lost sheep, and an equal share of courage to face wild beasts.” —continue reading “All these things and more,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 66

Lectionary for Sunday next.In praise of the undazed life: ‘Why stand ye gazing?’” Acts 1:11.

Memorial Day preparation. Memorial Day and Pentecost Sunday often compete for attention on the church’s calendar. Usually one is emphasized; the other, a nod. Rarely do we explore the alternative memorials taking place.
        A significant number of Christian communities gather frequently—often weekly or monthly—around Jesus’ Table of Remembrance (Lord’s Supper, Communion, Holy Eucharist). Rarely are the two memorials compared and contrasted. See the “Memorial Day preparation materials” below.

Just for fun. Three adolescent bears and a hammock: Who knew the fun to be had? (1:37 video. Thanks Abigail.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “That big sound inside you: Prison life and the language of sighs,” Nancy Hastings Sehested

• “All these things and more,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 66

• “In praise of the undazed life: ‘Why stand ye gazing?Acts 1:11

Special: Memorial Day preparation materials

• “Memorial Day: A historical summary

• “Patriotic holidays in the US [we have a dozen]: The nation’s liturgical calendar celebrating our militarized history

• “Memorial Day piety: A meditation on the day’s significance

• “How long will you sit on the fence: A Memorial Day sermon

• “Memorial Day preparation quotes: The minority report

• “Bowling in Baghdad: Which memorial will guide?

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