Signs of the Times • 18 April 2017 • No. 116
Special theme issue
¶ Processional. “For the Beauty of the Earth,” Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Above: The spiral Sombrero galaxy. Thick dust lanes encircle the brilliant white core of the galaxy, which is 50,000 light-years across and 28 million light-years from Earth. For more astounding photos, see “Hubble's Greatest Hits. Pictures from the space telescope have dazzled us for 25 years.”
¶ Invocation. “Creation is not simply the props and drops, / the costumes and orchestra, / the catwalks and footlights / on the stage of salvation’s drama. / Rather, creation is an active part / in history’s narration. / Without the cosmos, / Salvation’s story / cannot be comprehended.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Earth’s habitus: A meditation on creation"
¶ “If you defile the land, it will vomit you out” (Leviticus 18:28).
¶ Call to worship. “Earth Day,” Immediate Music-Believe, Aleksandar Dimitrijevic. (3:19 video)
¶ Awesome news. “A small-town Iowa newspaper has won a Pulitzer Prize for taking on powerful agricultural companies over farm pollution.
“Art Cullen, who owns the Storm Lake Times with his brother John, acknowledged it wasn’t easy taking on agriculture in a state like Iowa where you see hundreds of miles of farm fields in every direction. The Cullens lost a few friends and a few advertisers, but never doubted they were doing the right thing.
“‘We’re here to challenge people’s assumptions and I think that’s what every good newspaper should do,” he said.” —The Guardian
¶ Earth day strategies. Think of the now-familiar trilogy of recommendations: reduce, reuse, recycle. Then add a fourth observation: refuse—break habits of mindless consumption. And to undergird it all, a fifth: rejoice—fostering a vision of Creation's blessedness granted at the beginning: "God saw everything that was made, and indeed, it was delightful" (Genesis 1:31—the English words "very good" fail to convey the outright glee of the Hebrew text). —continue reading “Covenant-making on Earth Day”
¶ “The Trump administration plans to take a sledgehammer to the Environmental Protection Agency. Thursday’s proposal by the White House would slash the EPA’s budget by 31% from its current level of $8.1 billion to $5.7 billion. It would cut 3,200 positions, or more than 20% of the agency’s current workforce of about 15,000.” —Brady Dennis & Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post
¶ In case you need a reminder, in light of the threatened gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency. “This is why we need the EPA.” (50-second video. Thanks Lisset.)
Left: A Pakistani Christian woman prays during an Easter service at Catholic Sacred Heart Cathedral church in Lahore, Pakistan, Sunday, April 16, 2017. Photo by K.M. Chaudary, The Associated Press. See more photos in “Photos: Easter Around the World 2017.” —Denver Post
¶ Hymn of praise. “In colors, / In colors the fields are dressed / In the springtime / In colors, / Colorful are the little birds / That come from far away / In colors, / Colorful is the rainbow / That we see shine / And that is why the great loves / of many colors are pleasing to me” (English translation). —Joan Baez, “De Colores”
¶ You know you’re down the rabbit hole when the CEOs of fossil fuel icons ExxonMobil and General Electric join “in slamming the White House’s environmental environmental policies.” —Bess Levin, Vanity Fair (Thanks Kristen.)
¶ Creative resistance. The Alt National Park Service is “a growing coalition of 59 National Park Service employees from nine different National Parks. We formed to ensure the protection of the environment for future generations to come. We were forced into a media blackout, hiring freeze, policy changes, and possible reduction in funding. We are here to stand up and speak out against the current administration. We all refuse to be silenced while we watch everything we love crumble. Join the movement.” —Alt National Park Service, (Thanks Lenora.)
¶ “For Texas, this most Republican-dominated, oil-rich and fracking-friendly of states, has found itself with the improbable status of being a national leader in this growing form of renewable energy. . . . [A]ccording to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, wind turbine technician is by far the nation’s fastest-growing occupation.” —Tom Dart & Oliver Milman, The Guardian
¶ Climate change “at a rate faster than at any time since the end of the ice age—change too fast perhaps for life to adapt, without severe dislocation”. That was the startling warning issued by the oil giant Shell more than a quarter of a century ago. The company’s farsighted 1991 film, titled Climate of Concern, set out with crystal clarity how the world was warming and that serious consequences could well result.” —Damian Carrington & Jelmer Mommers, The Guardian
¶ "All the light of the Earth / everyone shall see / through the window / of the drop of a tear." —Mexican poet León Felipe
¶ Confession. “For 200 years we've been conquering nature. Now we're beating it to death.” —Tom McMillan
¶ “The Breathing Earth.” (1:40 video)
¶ Hymn of lamentation. “And daddy won't you take me back to Muhlenberg County / Down by the Green River where Paradise lay / Well, I'm sorry my son, but you're too late in asking / Mister Peabody's coal train has hauled it away.” —John Prine, “Paradise”
¶ Words of assurance. ““There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.” ―John Calvin
¶ Professing our faith. “This ‘world’ is not my home; but this earth is. / We are not drifters: directionless, detached, / disaffected, suffering neither loves nor longings, / risking no hopes, claimed by no promises. / We are in fact squatters, occupying the land / and waters whose only trustworthy deed / challenges every indenturing creed, every / realty’s lien which privileges the few at the / expense of the many. We seek no flight to / another terrain for it is this very domain— / every meadow’s shadow, every peak’s brow, / every river’s careen, every furrow’s plough— / which asserts heaven’s riposte to Hades’ advance.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Pacem in terris: Easter. Earth Day, and Pentecost’s promise”
¶ One thing Jesus did not say: “You are the sugar of the earth.”
¶ “What the earth would look life if all the ice melted,” produced by Alex Kuzoian. (2:44 video)
¶ Hymn of resolution. “And all the trees of the field will clap their hands! As you go out with joy.” —“Trees of the Field” (cf. Isaiah 55:12) performed by Cantate Domino of the congregation of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, Singapore
¶ By the numbers. “Global biodiversity is declining at an alarming rate, putting the survival of other species and our own future at risk. The Living Planet Index reveals that global populations of fish, birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. We could witness a two-thirds decline in the half-century from 1970 to 2020—unless we act now to reform our food and energy systems and meet global commitments on addressing climate change, protecting biodiversity and supporting sustainable development.” —World Wildlife Federation
¶ The earth, and human presumption, in perspective. Carl Sagan, “Pale Blue Dot”. (3:45 video)
Right: Ricardo Levins Morales, ©RLM Art Studio
¶ Hymn of intercession. “Trees of the Field,” Winfield Bennett Marine.
¶ Call to Earth—A message from the world’s astronauts to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. (8:03 video)
¶ “Spirituality is not to be learned by flight from the world, or by running away from things, or by turning solitary and going apart from the world. Rather, we must learn an inner solitude wherever or with whomsoever we may be. We must learn to penetrate things and find God there.” ―Meister Eckhart
¶ Offertory. Lucia Micarelli, “To Love You More.”
¶ “The ultimate test of your conscience may be your willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.” —Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day
¶ Short story. A brief profile of Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day.
¶ Preach it. “It is striking how the earliest Christians, like mainstream rabbis of the period, clung to the twin doctrines of creation and judgment: God made the world and made it good, and one day he will come and sort it all out. Take away the goodness of creation, and you have a judgment where the world is thrown away as so much garbage, leaving us sitting on a disembodied cloud playing disembodied harps. Take away judgment, and you have this world rumbling on with no hope except the pantheist one of endless cycles of being and history. Put creation and judgment together, and you get new heavens and new earth, created not ex nihilo but ex vetere, not out of nothing but out of the old one, the existing one." —N. T. Wright
¶ "When the well's dry, we know the worth of water." —Benjamin Franklin
¶ Can’t makes this sh*t up. “A new law in Michigan will prohibit local governments from banning, regulating or imposing fees on the use of plastic bags and other containers. You read that correctly: It’s not a ban on plastic bags — it’s a ban on banning plastic bags.” —Chelsea Harvey, Washington Post
¶ Call to the table. “Ô Sang et eau” (“O blood and water”), Chant de la communauté de l' Emmanuel.
¶ “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, one finds it attached to the rest of the world.” —John Muir
¶ For the beauty of the earth. “A stunning new map (left) shows the complex network of rivers and streams in the contiguous US. Created by Imgur user Fejetlenfej, a geographer and GIS analyst with a ‘lifelong passion for beautiful maps,’ it highlights the massive expanse of river basins across the country.” —see more details, and an animated video, at Cheyenne MacDonald & Mark Prigg, “The veins of America: Stunning map shows every river basin in the US,” Daily Mail (Thanks Marti.)
¶ The state of our disunion. “Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Vestavia Hills [a wealthy suburb of Birmingham, Alabama] is trying to establish its own police force.” —Lauren Walsh, ABC News
¶ Best one-liner. “If the environment were a bank, it would have been saved by now.” —Senator Bernie Sanders
¶ Altar call. “Leave the field and leave the fire / And find the flame of your desire / Set your heart on this far shore / And sing your dream to me once more.” —English translation of lyrics to “Mo Ghille Mear,” performed by UCD Choral Scholars
¶ Benediction. “Farewell, my friends, I'm bound for Canaan, / I'm trav'ling through the wilderness; / Your company has been delightful, / You, who doth leave my mind distressed. / I go away, behind to leave you, / Perhaps never to meet again, / But if we never have the pleasure, / I hope we'll meet on Canaan's land.” —Second Ireland Sacred Harp Convention (2012), “Parting Friends.” (Thanks Chris. If you’re unfamiliar with sacred harp/shape note singing, the song is first sung using names of the “shape” of the note. Here is a site with more info on Sacred Harp singing.)
¶ Recessional. “Sing, Sing, Sing,” Benny Goodman Orchestra, featuring the dance of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire.
¶ Lectionary for this Sunday. A breathtaking, breathgiving, statement. “‘As the Abba has sent me, so I send you.’ When [Jesus] had said this, he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” —John 20:21-23
¶ Lectionary for Sunday next. “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 Ken Sehested’s “Easter’s aftermath,” a poem inspired by Luke 24:13-35 and Matthew 25:1-13
¶ Just for fun. “Astronaut Tips: How to Wash Your Hair in Space.” (2:57 video)
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Featured this week on prayer&politiks
• “Earth Day resources” for local congregations
• “Easter’s aftermath,” a poem inspired by Luke 24:13-35 and Matthew 25:1-13
• “Pacem in terris: Easter. Earth Day, and Pentecost’s promise,” a meditation on our lectionary journey
• “I arise today,” a litany for worship inspired by Acts 2:25-28, Psalm 16:8-11, and “The Deer’s Cry,” anonymous 8th century poem often attributed to St. Patrick
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