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Signs of the Times  •  3 May 2017  •  No. 118

Processional.What Wondrous Love Is This,” Cantores Celestes Women’s Choir and The Trillum Brass Quintet.

Above: 6000 years-old baobab tree in Senegal.

Invocation. “All the weary mothers of the earth will finally rest; / We will take their babies in our arms, and do our best. / When the sun is low upon the field, / To love and music they will yield, / And the weary mothers of the earth will rest.” —Joan Baez, “All the Weary Mothers of the Earth

Call to worship. “Oh, Strong Refuge, incline your ear to the clamor of children and all of weary voice. / Hasten now, all you whose life is spent with sorrow, you of bone-wasting days, of sighing weeks and storm-tossed years, / 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

In a slippery-fact environment, this is way cool. “These high school journalists investigated a new principal’s credentials. Days later, she resigned.” —Samantha Schmidt, Washington Post

¶  “Mother’s Day is celebrated in many cultures. Although others are given credit for founding the observance, Julia Ward Howe led in establishing what some believe to be the first observance of Mother’s Day in the U.S. (2 June 1872) after witnessing the carnage of the U.S. Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War in Europe. The Mother’s Day festival, she wrote, ‘should be devoted to the advocacy of peace doctrines.’” —continue reading “A brief history of Mother’s Day

Hymn of praise. “We were blessed by the minister / Who practiced what he preached / We were blessed by the poor man / Who said heaven is within reach / We were blessed by the girl selling roses / Showed us how to live / We were blessed by the neglected child / Who knew how to forgive / We were blessed by the battered woman / Who didn't seek revenge.” —Lucinda Williams, “Blessed

¶ “Bread-baking, kitchen-dwelling, breast-feeding God, / we return to your lap and to your table / because we are hungry and thirsty. / Fill us again / with the bread that satisfies, / with milk that nourishes.” —continue reading “Bread baking God,” a Mother’s Day poem

Confession. “I, Brian, a sinner, a most simple suburbanite, a generally decent sort but subject to fits of unrelieved selfishness, do here wish to confess and be shriven, in such a manner that speaking of that which I have not done well will provoke me to do better; this slight daily improvement being exactly the work we are asked to do by the Shining One. So then. . . .” —continue reading Brian Doyle’s “Confessio,” Christian Century

Hymn of lamentation.Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Persistent mothers. “Haydée Gastelú was among the first to arrive. ‘We were absolutely terrified,’ she recalls. On the afternoon of 30 April 1977, 14 courageous women set aside fear—and their families’ warnings—and left their homes to confront the dictatorship that had stolen their children. That day marked the first weekly march by the mothers of Argentina’s “disappeared” against the military commanders who had planned the systematic murder of [some 30,000 people].” —Uki Goñi, “40 years later, the mothers of Argentina’s ‘disappeared’ refuse to be silent,” The Guardian. Above: The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo march against the military commanders who had planned the systematic murder of thousands. Photograph: Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images.

History review. “Alabama is the first state to rescind the legal right of men to beat their wives (Fulgrahm v. State).” —You can trace the history (going back to 753 BCE) of judicial norms governing the rights of men to subject their wives to physical abuse in “History of Battered Women’s Movement.”

By the numbers. “In 1997 the US ranked 52nd in the world for women’s representation in government. This year we fell to 97th?” —Sarah Kliff & Soo Oh, “Whey Aren’t There More Women in Congress?” Vox (Thanks Alan.)

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

Professing our faith. Eastertide reflection from Pope Francis: “Revolution of tenderness(includes the text, translated into English, of Pope Francis’ TED talk and 17:52 video).

For Mother’s Day: On Keeping Silence in the Church. “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silence in the churches.” (1 Corinthians 14:33-34)
    I know a woman named Silence
    She said her parents did not know her very well when they
          named her.
    They thought Silence was a beautiful name for a girl.
    She stands up in her pew and speaks her mind:
    When a couple in church announces the birth of a girl
    Silence says, “I think we should all clap for that.”
    When a foreign student speaks about war in Ethiopia
    Silence says, “Keep telling us about that, we need to

    When someone complains about the church needing air
    Silence says, “That’s why I bring my fan.”
    I love this woman named Silence
    And I think we should definitely
    Keep Silence in the church.
—Margalea Warner, Daughters of Sarah magazine

Hymn of resolution. “And if it's bad / Don't let it get you down, / You can take it. / And if it hurts / Don't let them see you cry, / You can make it. / Hold your head up, woman.” —Argent, “Hold Your Head Up

More persistent women. Among the reasons women’s charges of workplace harassment are beginning to be heard is because of Anita Hill’s testimony in 1991 of abuse by Clarence Thomas, during Thomas’ confirmation hearing for his nomination for a seat on the US Supreme Court. In a recent interview, Hill commented. “The idea that these kinds of behaviors can stay hidden is fading because there are ways to get them out. I think the key is to keep pushing. When you deal with someone like Roger Ailes and Bill O'Reilly, the key is for people to keep coming forward." Jessica Guynn, USA Today

¶ “The most incredible thing about the Fox News-Bill O’Reilly story is just how common it is. The first time a story of workplace sexual harassment by the boss gained widespread attention was in 1991, when then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas was accused of sexually harassing an employee of his when he was chairman of the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Since then, workplace sexual harassment and assault stories by powerful executives have become a mainstay of headline news.” Gina Scaramella, Washington Post
        It wasn’t O’Reilly’s sexual harassing behavior that got him fired. Fox has been paying millions to settle such suits since 2004. What got Fox’s attention was the sheer number of advertisers (more than 80 companies) that pulled their ads from O’Reilly’s show.

Right: Portrait of Anita Hill.

Hymn of intercession. “As we come marching, marching, we battle, too, for men— / For they are women's children and we mother them again. / Our lives shall not be sweated from birth until life closes— / Hearts starve as well as bodies: Give us Bread, but give us Roses!” —“Bread and Roses” from the movie “Pride,” inspired by an extraordinary true story.  It’s the summer of 1984, Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers is on strike, prompting a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists to raise money to support the strikers’ families.

Arbor Day (generally commemorated on the last Friday in April). “I confess I complained more than I should, / of your small branches falling in my yard, / having to stop the mower to toss them / to the side, for later bundling at the / curb for the city’s yard debris pickup. And / for your prodigious leaf rain each fall. / I suspect, though, you were pleased to / know your petals fed my compost. Did your / sensors recognize parts of your own / genome sequence in my cherry tomatoes?” —continue reading “Elegy for an Ash,” a poem

Preach it. “The wounds of the world deserve better than just making space for more complaints. We need to create places for new dreams to be born—the dream of protecting people who may be in danger, the dream of introducing our privilege to the integrity of sharing power with others, the dream of listening to the still small voices otherwise ignored.” —Gareth Higgins, “An Introduction to The Porch

Can’t makes this sh*t up. “Man Accidentally Shoots Himself at NRA Headquarters.” NBCWashington

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. “[President Trump’s] fondness for Big Macs and KFC is well-known, but we shouldn’t let Colonel Sanders and McDonald’s run the school cafeteria.Ken Cook, after news that the Trump administration is rolling back health regulations on school lunches requiring more whole grains and limitations on fat, sugar and salt, in an effort to address the fact that one-in-six children in the US are obese. “At stake are the profits of several large food companies that sell frozen pizzas, french fries and other prepared foods to schools.”

For parents facing empty nests. “As each take your leave / now charting your own courses / I pause and ponder your absence / with dreaded joy: / joy that your wings have spread / so far so fast, / dread at the silence filling the air / which your voices once stirred.” —continue reading “On the Flow of Tears: For my daughters (as they take their leave)”

Right: “Theotokos” (MPOV) icon. Mary, Mother of God. Literally, “God-Bearer.” Linocut art ©Julie Lonneman

Best one-liner. “The chemistry of caring is reciprocal: You get it, you give it.” —R.I.P. Eugene Lang, who contributed over $100 million to education over his lifetime. Listen to this NPR story.

For the beauty of the earth. Pod of dolphins. Natural choreography. (42 second video. Thanks Jo.)

Altar call.Wash Me Thoroughly,” George Frideric Handel, performed by the St. Andrew's Womens Ensemble.

Benediction. “Forget my sins upon the wind / My hobo soul will rise / Lie-d Lie-d Lie / I'm not afraid to die.” —Gillian Welch, “I’m Not Afraid to Die

Recessional. “The building block that was rejected became the cornerstone of a whole new world.” —Noel Paul Stookey, “Building Block” [cf. 1 Peter 2:7]

Lectionary for this Sunday. “The large tension in the book of Acts consists in the interface between imperial authority and the work of the Holy Spirit. . . . Given the interface of Spirit and empire, we may not be surprised that this tension concerns money and possessions as well. Thus the notion of a community that holds money and possessions in common is a radical departure from imperial economics.” —Walter Brueggemann, commenting on the Acts 2 and 4 statements about the early Jewish-Christian community having all things in common, in his book, “Money and Possessions”

Lectionary for Sunday next. Remembering St. Stephen (Acts 7:55-60), whose imitatio christi included refusing the demand for a just war on his executioners, in obedience to both the practice and teaching of Jesus: Lord, do not hold this sin against them.

New Yorker cartoonist Jack Ziegler died 29 March at age 74. He will be sorely missed.

Just for fun. Comedienne Ellen DeGeneres on procrastination. (7:00 video.)

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “A brief history of Mother’s Day

• “By Thy might,” a litany for worship inspired by Psalm 31

• “Bread baking God,” a Mother’s Day poem

• “Such is the journey: A call to Jesus’ memorial table”

Other features

• “Elegy for an Ash,” a poem

• “On the Flow of Tears: For my daughters,” a poem for parents experiencing “empty nest”

©Ken Sehested @ 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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