Signs of the Times • 29 October 2020 • No. 207
Photo by Malcolm Marler
Two features in this issue
• All Saints Day resources for worship (listed at bottom)
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¶ Processional. “Are you alright? Are you okay? / I hope your body is whole tonight / And if your heart is breaking / I hope it’s breaking open / And if your breath is shaking / I hope it’s shaking though. . . . / Oohoo-woah I hold my rage / I pray my rage is a fire / That cleans my mind out / And makes me ready to listen. . . .” —“The Keep Going Song,” Abigail and Shaun Bengson
¶ Invocation: an honest prayer for the president
“O Wind of Spirit who moved across the face of chaos,
breathing life into creation and humanity.
Heal this man, afflicted in his presidency,
from the very illness he has unleashed in mockery.
Defend him from the Power of Death by which he is so enthralled
and so embraced, as to set it upon countless others
whom we pray you protect as well.
For the time and sake of mercy,
withhold the wrath of your judgment and bring him instead
into the fullness of his humanity, painful though it be.
When his breath comes easy and he wakes, may truth dawn upon him like a bolt. . . .”
—Bill Wylie-Kellermann, “Prayer for Mr. Trump, the human being,” Radical Discipleship
¶ Call to worship. “As part of my own spiritual practice, I read obituaries and eulogies. And have written quite a few eulogies in my ministry. . . . All Saints is a time to illumine the mystery of the communion of saints. Death has its day. It ends a life but not a relationship. Our grief ebbs and flows, but grief never ends. Neither does our communion with the saints.” —continue reading “All Saints: Call to worship and pastoral prayer,” Nancy Hastings Sehested
¶ Hymn of praise. “This joy . . . this strength . . . this love . . . this peace that I have / the world didn’t give it to me / and the world can’t take it away.” —Resistance Revival Chorus, “This Joy”
¶ Featured essay
From all appearances, we in the United States are at one of the most dangerous moments in our nation’s political history. We have a president who thinks that “when someone is president of the United States the authority is total.”
Someone who winks at white supremacist terror plots to assassinate public officials. Who repeatedly suggests that he won’t leave office voluntarily—and by so saying may in fact unleash a hail of street violence after the election.
So, yes, I believe voting is an urgent duty. As the poet adrienne maree brown writes, “today we show up for those furthest from power” (“election day spell”).
But we need to bring added context to this urgency. Here are a baker’s dozen suggestions to keep in mind before, during, and after you cast your ballot.
1. Voting is such a small part of our commonwealth duty. You will likely spend more time in grocery store lines every month than in polling stations every year. Elections are but the end result of an advocacy for the common good that starts in each watershed. Imagine a different future, find collaborators, and spend yourself extravagantly.
2. Renewed public policy requires new public consensus. Even our best, most humane public officials face immense pressure from powerful, moneyed interests, particularly at election time. They need the backing of public opinion to withstand corruption. Do what you can to organize and focus such backing.
3. Ballots have proved a welcomed alternative to bullets. It is no small feat that the U.S. has survived for over two centuries with only one attempted coup d’état. But elections do not a democracy make. They can be bought in a thousand different ways. —continue reading “Voting: What it does and does not do: 13 suggestions to help clarify decisions”
¶ Confession. “The current chaos is designed to make you hopeless about creating change, so that you give up. To combat that, look away and recharge your batteries. Focus on the things that ground you: family, friends, pets, gardening, movies, books, biking, church… whatever works. Just come back when you can… and remember to vote. It’s going to be nuts from here on out.” —Heather Cox Richardson
¶ “The idea of ‘cheerful news’ makes me want to dunk my head in a vat of soup. When John Krasinski launched Some Good News (15 minute video) at the onset of the pandemic, no bowl of bisque was big enough. I know I’m being a churl, but there is literally nothing more grating than bad good news. I don’t want to hear cloyingly uplifting emotional stories. I want the good news to be usefully good. I want it to be good news that points at greater news, and not a false dash of aberrational cheer amidst the bleakery.” —Sarah Lazarovic, Yes! magazine
¶ All Saints Day Gospel lection. Sydney Mark (age 7) reading Matthew 5:1-12, the Beatitudes, in worship, Circle of Mercy Congregation, Asheville, NC.
¶ Prayer of intercession. “Today's Tiny Prayer (for poll workers): May you be surrounded by safety and gratitude, may you feel the warmth of beaming smiles beneath our masks, may you be protected from conflict and violence, may you be buoyed by the pride of taking selfless part in our collective act of democracy. . . .” —Micah Bucey
¶ Preach it. “Another thing I did not see in 6,000 miles of American pavement [on a recent long car trip]: 'Jesus is coming back; prepare to meet your doom.' But maybe Jesus is already back, teaching us steps one and two of Shalom: Don’t shout at people you don’t know. And don’t give up on the world that God so loves.” —Gary Gunderson, author of “Leading Causes of Life,” in “Drive”
¶ Can’t makes this sh*t up. “I'm working ... my a** off on the Christmas stuff, that you know, who gives a f*** about the Christmas stuff and decorations?” —First Lady Melania Trump, from a recorded conversation with her former senior advisor, Dominique Mosbergen, Huffpost
¶ Call to the table. "When I think of all the things that we've been through, I know just one thing is true... Life is better with you." —"Life Is Better With You," Michael Franti & PS22 Chorus. (Thanks Marti.)
¶ Highly recommended. “Therapy After the Election: Therapists are preparing themselves to support clients after November 3.” —Russell Siler Jones, Psychology Today
¶ Best one-liner. “[T]he difference between being at peace and being complacent is one of the most basic lessons saints can teach us.” —Charles Mathewes
¶ Helpful tools.
• Listen to this brief (2:11) video by my friend and former colleague Daniel Hunter speak on “How Are Organizers Planning For a Potential Coup?” around the election. —AJ+ videos
• “10 things you need to know to stop a coup,” Daniel Hunter, Waging Nonviolence.
¶ Among the signs of our dangerous times. On 27 May of this year, President Donald Trump retweeted a video by the group “Cowboys for Trump” in which the group’s leader, Cuoy Griffin, an Otero County, New Mexico commissioner who said “I’ve come to a place where I’ve come to the conclusion that the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.” See the verification by Snopes.
¶ Prayer of intercession. “May you remember that, beyond the gaslighting, beyond the equivocating, beyond the trickery, there are truths that transcend, truths that you know deep in your soul, truths that you feel deep in your heart, truths that you actively embody every time you listen for the still, small voice inside you and connect it to the voices within those around you, stepping away from narcissism and nationalism, questioning your own assumptions and privileges, and continuously co-creating new ways for truth to reveal itself and rise above the lies. Amen.” —Micah Bucey. See his daily “Today’s Tiny Prayer"
¶ For the beauty of the earth. “The Greatest Grand Canyon Timelapse We've Ever Seen.” (2:34 video. Thanks Carson.)
¶ Altar call. “The entire Bible goes out of its way to life up the widows, the orphan, the foreigner, and the poor. God loved the ‘inconvenient.’ If you’re not for them, you’re certainly not for the Bible, and the while irony of it is that I’m pretty sure Jesus died for both them and for you, too.” —J.S. Park
¶ Benediction. “Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.” —Book of Common Prayer 823 (Thanks Steve.)
¶ Recessional. “There’s No Easy Walk to Freedom.” —Peter, Paul and Mary (Thanks Dan.)
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All Saints Day resources
• “Precious memories: An All Saints Day meditation”
“In my deep-water baptist territory, All Saints Day—following "All Hallows Eve," or Halloween—was never mentioned, much less observed. We didn’t believe in saints. Though we did have Annie Armstrong and Lottie Moon, namesakes of bi-annual mission offerings—a surprisingly feminine pantheon for a body with severely circumscribed leadership roles for women.
“I now believe there is no observance in the liturgical year in greater need of recovery than All Saints Day. In turbulent times and turgid circumstances, we need the sustenance of resilient memory.” —continue reading
• “Hallowed Week: A call to worship for All Hallows’ Eve and All Saints Day,” Abigail Hastings
• “All Saints: Call to worship and pastoral prayer,” Nancy Hastings Sehested
• “After Tuesday: Electoral season pastoral prayer,” Nancy Hastings Sehested
¶ Just for fun. The moko jumbie stilt dancers of Trinidad and Tobago. —Great Big Story (2:29 video. Thanks Marti.)
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