Signs of the Times

News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  19 April 2019 •  No. 191

Processional. “Lamb of God / with love poured out / you suffer with the world.” —The Many, “Lamb of God

Above: Wisteria Tunnel at Kawachi Fuji Gardens, Japan.

Invocation. “Let him easter in us.” —line from a Gerard Manly Hopkins poem

Call to worship. “The spiritual life does not come cheap. It is not a stroll down a Mary Poppins path with a candy-store God who gives sweets and miracles. It is a walk into the dark with the God who is the light that leads us through darkness.” —Joan Chittister OSB, “Called to Question: A spiritual memoir”

Two seasonal essays.

        • “The week beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with Easter Eve is arguably the most volatile and conflicted period on the liturgical calendar. Even the lectionary suggestions for Scripture readings give the options of celebrating a coronation or lamenting a crucifixion. Do we give priority to the cross or the crown?—continue reading “Jesus wasn’t lynched because he talked about getting right with God

        • “Earth Day observance represents a significant theological lens focusing Easter’s provision with Pentecost’s promise. In the testimony of Scripture, all creation is sentient—capable of responding to the Creator’s purpose, promise and provision.” —continue reading “Earth Day – The link between Easter and Pentecost

Resources from prayer&politiks for local for congregations’ observance of Earth Day.

Hymn of praise. “O Sacred Head Now Wounded,” Darrell Adams.

Why Easter is called Easter, and other little-known facts about the holiday.

To comprehend many themes in Christian faith, we must first explore the antecedents in Judaism. See “What is Passover?—My Jewish Learning

Good news. “A federal court issued another blow to the Trump administration's aggressive deregulatory agenda when it ruled on Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must immediately reinstate an Obama-era pollution rule that sets methane emission standards for the oil and natural gas industry.” Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

Confession, reminiscent of Jesus’ “why hast thou forsaken?” “I read somewhere that you are / near the brokenhearted / Which causes me to wonder / if you have seen my heart / or is it just some distant thunder  / . . . ‘God Answers Prayer’ I’ve read / on greeting cards and bookmarks / Someday I hope to find ‘that prayer’ / and say it the right way / then maybe you will answer / . . . I do not understand how / to see into the unseen / or if it’s you, or if it’s me / who seems to be / agnostic, God.” —poem fragment from Aaron, a friend in prison

¶ In late March and early April, fires consumed three century-old African American congregations (pictured above) in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana: St. Mary Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church, and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. Authorities have arrested a suspect, the 21-year-old son of a deputy sheriff, and prosecutors charged him with three counts of arson and a fourth “hate crime” charge. (As of this writing, authorities are not using the word “terrorism” to describe this violence. They appear to be laying the groundwork to attribute the crimes to mental illness.) —for more background on previous fires in black churches in Louisiana, see Claire Taylor, Acadian Advocate

You can contribute to the rebuilding of these churches via a GoFundMe campaign organized by the Seventh District Baptist Association.

Hymn of supplication. “We all see through different eyes / Blinded by each other’s lies / Truth be told we’re all the same / A mother lies awake at night / Not a trace of hope in sight / She’s asking god who to blame / She’s on her knees and screams his name / No luck from above God knows it’s not easy to love.” —Eli Yacinthe, “Easy to Love” (Thanks Mandy.)

Words of assurance. Watch this brief (2:37 video) excerpt of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s final speech, I Have Been to the Mountaintop,” delivered under stressful conditions (the first march in support of striking sanitation workers in Memphis had turned violent) on the night before King's assassination.

Professing our faith. “As a deputy and an employee of the county, I have to watch out for residents. But as a human being and a Christian, I also have to watch out for people. . . .” —Deputy Sheriff and code enforcement investigather Ben Cothran, who spends off hours working with Rev. Kurt Stutler, pastor of South Main Chapel and Mercy Center, whose ministries include care for the homeless in Anderson County, SC, in Kirk Brown, “When the woods are home,” Independent Mail

Hymn of resolution.Old Rugged Cross,” Zane King, steel guitar.

¶ “Earth Day challenge for gardeners: Don't poison bees.” Rachel Layne, CBS News (Thanks Davis.)

Short story. “As the author E.B. White watched his wife Katherine planning the planting of bulbs in her garden in the last autumn of her life, he wrote, ‘there was some thing comical yet touching in her bedraggled appearance . . . the small hunched-over figure, her studied absorption in the implausible notion that there would be yet another spring, oblivious to the ending of her own days, which she knew perfectly well was near at hand, sitting there with her detailed chart under those dark skies in dying October, calmly plotting the resurrection.

        “‘Katherine was a member of the resurrection conspiracy, the company of those who plant seeds of hope under dark skies of grief or oppression, going about their living and dying until, no one knows how, when or where, the tender Easter shoots appear, and a piece of creation is healed.’" —Robert Raines

Hymn of intercession. “Have mercy, my God, / for the sake of my tears! / Look here, heart and eyes / weep bitterly before You. / Have mercy, have mercy!” —translation of lyrics to "Erbarme dich mein gott" (“Have mercy, my God”) from Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” performed by Delphine Galou, contralto

Word. “Act on climate change like you did on Notre-Dame, activist Greta Thunberg begs EU.” Within 24 hours some $700 million [the total is now $1 billion] has been pledged to rebuild the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. How can we provoke such bold generosity to confront climate change? SBS News

More from the young, following the March 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. After the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, students mobilized for action, including trips to meet with legislators in Florida and, in Washington, DC, members of congress. Here is an extraordinary afterward statement by Parkland student Delaney Tarr, one of the organizers of March for Our Lives. (1:43 video)

¶ “Jesus was lynched. Holy Week’s symbols should include a cross and a noose.” Chris Ellis, Baptist News Global
        Which reminds me that Will Campbell once quipped, “If want to feel the true meaning of the cross, wear a miniature electric chair on your necklace.”

¶ “In the old days, on Easter night, the Russian peasants used to carry the blest fire home from church. The light would scatter and travel in all directions through the darkness, and the desolation of the night would be pierced and dispelled as lamps came on in the windows of the farm houses, one by one. Even so the glory of God sleeps everywhere, ready to blaze out unexpectedly in created things. Even so his peace and his order lie hidden in the world, even the world of today, ready to reestablish themselves in his way, in his own good time: but never without the instrumentality of free options made by free people.” —Thomas Merton

Preach it. “It’s Friday But Sunday’s Coming,” a short clip (3:34) from Tony Campolo’s most famous sermon.

Can’t makes this sh*t up. “In an eye-opening exclusive reported by CNN, it was revealed that former Aetna Medical Director, Dr. Jay Ken Iinuma, admitted under oath that ‘he never looked at patients’ records when deciding whether to approve or deny care.’ This admission was made during a deposition in a lawsuit brought against Aetna by Gillen Washington, a 23 year old with common variable immune deficiency (CVID) who was denied coverage for an infusion of intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) four years ago.” —Robert Glatter, Forbes

Right: “Christ carrying the cross” by Sadao Watanabe, Japan’s foremost Christian artist. See more of his art.

Call to the table. “It was in losing the fear of death that I began to understand faith and hope. Faith is the belief that certain outcomes will happen, and hope is the belief that they can happen. The work of faith is to actively surrender to forces unseen, to acknowledge that what is desired will come about, but by means you might never know – and this is difficult. Faith will sometimes waver. . . .

        “Hope is the precursor to strategy. It powers our vision of how to bring about a desired goal, and it amplifies our efforts. I am not surrendering to luck, or a blind faith that things will just get better. I am reminded that to have faith that a world of equity and justice will emerge does not relinquish one’s role in helping it do so. This is the way to use hope: as faith’s companion, and vice versa.” —DeRay Mckesson, “‘I learned hope the hard way’: on the early days of Black Lives Matter,” Guardian

The state of our disunion. “Fuzzy chicks and cut bunnies are part of the pastel pantheon of Easter décor, and their charm helps define the look of the season. . . . The key to a modern Easter look is simple, according to Kevin Sharkey, executive creative director for Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia: ‘It’s about a controlled color palette.’

        “At ALLYOU.COM, find instructions for turning eggshells into tiny votive holders, nestled in silver egg cups—an elegant Easter dinner idea. Spring hues and simple style elements will take your Easter décor from sweet to sublime.” Kim Cook, Associated Press

Best one-liner. “We seek justice in the world, we fight for the flourishing of each and all, not just because we suffer with others, but because we sense the luminosity and love the loveliness.” —Mayra Rivera

For the beauty of the earth. “The secret life of flowers,” short (3:46) animated video. The Unbounded Spirit

Altar call. “Return to your heart, O you transgressors, and hold / fast to the One who composted soul and soil alike. / Stand with the Beloved and your footing shall be / firm. Rest in the Merciful One and you shalt be / buoyed.” —continue reading “Return to your heart: Altar call for repentance and amendment

Benediction. “May Easter’s affection / spawn many children / who know / despite the trouble / the toil / the rubble strewn soil / the way of the cross leads home.” —Easter blessing by Ken Sehested

Recessional. “Ain’t No Grave (Can Hold My Body Down),” A Southern Gospel Revival & Jamie Wilson.

Lectionary for this Sunday. Confronting white supremacy with Easter’s announcement: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any who fear God and does what is right is acceptable to God.” —the Apostle Peter, Acts 10

Lectionary for Sunday next. “We must obey God rather than any human authority.” —the Apostle Peter, upon his arrest by the Temple police, Acts 5:27-32

Just for fun. Think of this brief (1:32) video as analogous to the early disciples’ (and ours) stumbling, bumbling efforts to understand our mission. (Thanks Linda.)

And before we go, a wee bit of bragging—prayer&politiks won two writing awards from the Associated Church Press (for material published in 2018): “He desired a better country: A remembrance of David McReynolds,”  and “Getting soaked: A meditation on the recovery of baptismal integrity.”

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Featured this week on prayer&politiks

• “Jesus wasn’t lynched because he talked about getting right with God

• “Earth Day – The link between Easter and Pentecost

Earth Day resources from prayer&politiks for local congregations

• “Return to your heart: Altar call for repentance and amendment

Right: Each of the three “Rose Windows” (this one the "North") in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris were among the art objects rescued from the fire. More than a billion dollars has already been raised to rebuild the 13th century church building.

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