News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  4 April 2017  •  No. 115

Processional. “Mother Mary, full of grace, awaken. / All our homes are gone, our loved ones taken. / Taken by the sea – / Mother Mary, calm our fears, have mercy. / Drowning in a sea of tears, have mercy. / Hear our mournful plea. / Our world has been shaken, / we wander our homelands, forsaken.” —Eliza Gilykson, “Requiem,” written after the 26 December 2004 earthquake in the Indian ocean, creating a tsunami which struck Indonesia, killing over 260,000 (Thanks Steve.)

Above: Kalbyris Forest in Denmark placed first in nature and wildlife, photographed using a drone, by Michael B Rasmussen. See more in “The best drone photography of 2016” at The Guardian.

Invocation. “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 Ken Sehested’s “Mutinous lips,” a litany inspired by Psalm 118

Call to worship. “Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants, beyond my fears, from death into life.” —John Michael Talbot, “Shepherd Me, O God”

Historic anniversary. On 4 April 1887, Susanna Madora Salter (2 March 2 1860 – 17 March 17 1961) became the first woman elected to the office of mayor, of Argonia, Kansas. See portrait at right. —for more see Wikipedia

Good news. “20 Good News stories you may not have heard about.” —Curiosity (3:08 video. Thanks Kristen.) 

Hymn of praise. It Is Well With My Soul,” Zero8 Chorus. (Thanks, Karen.)

Confession. “The Rock of the Righteous is our God: / Who marks the boundaries between justice and vengeance; / Who blazes the Way from enmity to peace; / Who causes the wicked to stumble in their folly / But protects the weak against howling storms of contempt.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “By Thy might,” a litany inspired by Psalm 31

[Artwork by Ella Kaye]

Historic speeches anniversaries. “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered. —Martin Luther King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam” speak, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City

Left: “Martin Luther King Jr., “I have been to the mountaintop,” art by Ella Kaye

        Two significant anniversaries of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches occur this week. Monday, 3 April 1968, was his “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech in Memphis the night before his assassination. Tuesday, 4 April 1967, is the 50th anniversary of his “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence” speech where he stated his full-throated opposition to the war in Vietnam, linking the roots of racism, materialism, and militarism.

        King’s “Mountaintop” speech is an instructive way to prepare for Holy Week; “Beyond Vietnam,” for Eastertide, when present realities come into sharp relief by Resurrection’s promise.

“I Have Been to the Mountaintop,” Mason Temple in Memphis, Tenn., 3 April 1968, the night before his assassination.
        •Complete speech (43:14 audio)
        • Excerpts (22:14) of the speech along with photos, video clips and commentary from some of his colleagues.
        •Brief excerpt of the speech’s key lines. (2:37 video)

Beyond Vietnam” speech
        •Full speech (audio, 53+ minutes)
        •22-minute excerpt from the speech
        •7:50 minute excerpt

        You will be surprised at how many paragraphs in “Beyond Vietnam” that are relevant, with little or no editing, to current realities.
        For more background, see “When the dream gets a bit dreamy: On the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s 'Beyond Vietnam'” speech.”

Hymn of lamentation. "Death hath deprived me of my dearest friend," Thomas Weelkes, a eulogy on the death of Thomas Morley in 1602, performed by Vox Luminis.

¶ “He took control of Egypt. And he really took control of it.” Trump’s statement about visiting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was a compliment. “We agree on so many things,” Trump continued.
        In case you forgot, it was then-General el-Sisi who came to power in a military coup in 2011, deposing democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi (not to our liking), killing hundreds of street protestors and jailing thousands of others, including several American citizens. In 2015 President Obama blocked US military aid for Egypt because of these human rights abuses. —see Peter Baker & Declan Walsh, New York Times

Words of assurance. No, Never Alone,” Sister Rosetta Tharpe. (Click the “show more” button for the lyrics.)

Kaiser Family Foundation poll. “When survey respondents are told that only about 1% of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid, the share saying the US spends too little more than doubles (from 13% to 28%), while the share saying we spend too much drops in half (from 61% to 30%).”
        The average citizen thinks foreign aid is 28% of the US budget. Only 4% of those polled knew non-military foreign aid is less than 1% of the national budget.

¶ “As Secretary James Mattis said while commander of US Central Command, ‘If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.’ The military will lead the fight against terrorism on the battlefield, but it needs strong civilian partners in the battle against the drivers of extremism—lack of opportunity, insecurity, injustice, and hopelessness.” —Jeffrey D. Sachs, “The Ethics and Practicalities of Foreign Aid,” CommonDreams

¶ “Foreign Aid 101: A quick and easy guide to understanding US Foreign Aid (Third Edition),” OxfamAmerica

It is a myth “that the United States carries the aid burden while other governments shirk their responsibility. This is plain wrong. The US spends less as a share of our income than other countries spend as a share of their income. US aid is now just 0.17 percent of US Gross National Income (GNI), roughly $32 billion in aid out of a GNI of $18 trillion. The average aid spending by other donor governments is more than twice the US share, around 0.38%.” Jeffrey D. Sachs, Professor of Sustainable Development, Columbia University

The bulk of humanitarian foreign aid requires that recipient nations purchase from US companies and ship on US vessels. It is, in effective, a subsidy for the US economy. —for more information, see Anup Shah, Global Issues

Professing our faith. Scripture’s gravitational pull always returns to the question of idolatry. Here is one example of what that entails: “A king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save” (Psalm 33:16-17). Is it any wonder that any who heed this warning risk being indicted for treason? —kls

Short story. Can’t you just read the front page headline in newspapers in countries unfriendly to ours:

        “Repressive state agents arrest compassionate man in the US State of Florida for feeding starving people.” Subhead: “New wave of Western . . . capitalistic/militarized police force . . . infidel’s coercive treatment of its citizens [pick one] caught on camera.”

        What triggered this tirade?

        “When 90-year-old Florida resident Arnold Abbott said following his arrest on Sunday that police couldn’t stop him from feeding the homeless, he apparently meant it. Abbott was charged again on Wednesday night for violating a new city law in Ft. Lauderdale that essentially prevents people from feeding the homeless.

        “‘I expected it’ he said in a Sun Sentinel report. ‘At least this time they let us feed people first.’ Officers lingered in the area for about 45 minutes during which time Abbott and volunteers with the Love Thy Neighbor charity he founded handed out more than 100 plates of hot chicken stew, pasta, cheesy potatoes and fruit salad to homeless men and women.

        “If he’s found guilty of violating city ordinance laws, he faces 60 days in jail or a $500 fine.”

        Cheers for the police allowing him to finish the distribution. They did not make the city ordinance.

        Now for the lesson: Next time you read of something similarly terrific reported here from another country (particularly if its an “unfriendly”), remember the story above and ask yourself, “I wonder what really happened?—story by Marc Weinreich, New York Daily News

Hymn of intercession.We Found Love (In a Hopeless Place),” Rihanna, performed by Choir! Choir! Choir!

Preach it. “What makes Christians Christian is their willingness to look for redemption by fighting for justice even if redemption is not evident and even when justice does not readily come. The world cannot survive Christians pussyfooting around those pursuits in expectation that redemption and justice will arrive as a matter of course. Neither can anyone claiming to be Christian.” —Stanley Hauerwas & Jonathan Tran, “Sanctuary Politics: Being the Church in the Time of Trump,” Religion and Ethics

When only the blues will do. The Thrill Is Gone,” Bonnie Raitt, Gary Clark Jr., and the B.B. King Blues Band.

Can’t makes this sh*t up.Trump Sends Hate Group to Represent US at UN Women's Rights Conference" —Nika Knight, Common Dreams

Call to the table. “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” —Alice Walker

The state of our disunion. Our Commander in Mischief’s herky-jerky behavior makes him a prime source of betting pools. Dublin-based Paddy Power Betfair has had to hire a full-time bookmaker to handle traffic from gamblers in Britain and Ireland. Currently, odds are 3-1 that Trump will be impeached this year, 25-1 that Mexico will fund the border wall, 100-1 that he will commission adding his face to Mt. Rushmore. Kim Hjelmgaard & Jane Onyanga-Moara, msn

Best one-liner. “Dance like no one is watching; email like it may one day be read aloud in a deposition.”

For the beauty of the earth. This dramatic video of glacier calving (3:24 video—go into “full screen” mode for this one) at Viedma Glacier, Patagonia, Argentina, is both awesome and ominous.

Altar call. “We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are.” —Anaïs Nin

Benediction. “There is nothing / a blessing / is better suited for / than an ending, / nothing that cries out more / for a blessing / than when a world / is falling apart.” —Jan Richardson

Recessional.The Lord Bless You and Keep You,” St. Paul Cathedral Choir.

Lectionary for this Sunday. “Is there no song to be sung, no bell to be rung, no laughter from the fields at play with their yield? Would that my mouth be formed and my lips unleashed to speak a word, a true and hearty word, to all grown deaf with grief.” —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9a

Good Friday.Dueling Psalms,” a litany with texts contrasting Psalms 22 & 23.

Easter special. On numerous occasions our congregation has done a choral reading of John 20:1-18 in a prison service on Easter morning and then in our own service Sunday evening. With just a little practice, this can be an especially animating way to hear John’s dramatic resurrection story. —see “Choral reading of John 20:1-18,” a script for eight voices

Lectionary for Sunday next. Turning from darkness (death) to light (life) is a major theme in Scripture. But there is also a minority report, where darkness and shadow are the place of God’s abiding Presence.
        “Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry; give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit. Guard me as the apple of the eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm17:1, 8)
        “How precious is your steadfast love, O God! All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.” (Psalm 36:7)
        “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, until the destroying storms pass by.” (Psalm 57:1) —continue reading Ken Sehested’s “Refuge in the shadow," a litany for Holy Week

Just for fun. 100 years of fashion in 100 seconds.”

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Palms, Passion, Politics and Prayer,” a Palm Sunday sermon

• “Refuge in the shadow,” a collection of Scripture for Holy Week, on “darkness” and “shadow” as the place of God’s abiding presence

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

• “Sustain the weary with a word,” a litany for worship inspired by Isaiah 50:4-9a

Other features
• “Dueling Psalms,” a litany for Good Friday, with texts contrasting Psalms 22 & 23

• “Choral reading of John 20:1-18a script for eight voices

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