Signs of the Times

News, views, notes, and quotes

9 April 2015  • No. 17

Invocation. “ Love is / The funeral pyre / Where I have laid my living body. / All the false notions of myself / That once caused fear, pain, / Have turned to ash / As I neared God.” —Hãfez, 14th century Persian poet whose work is regarded as a pinnacle of Persian literature

A novice once came to Abba Macarius in the monastery at Scete, eager to excel quickly in his quest for holiness. “I’ve got three days to spend here,” he said. “I want to learn how to be a Desert Father just like you.” The abbot’s amused response was to send him to a nearby cemetery, instructing him to make all manner of accusations against those buried there. Though confused by the instruction, the novice complied.
        The next day the abbot issued an even more unusual assignment to the novice. This time, he instructed the novice, go to the cemetery and utter the most profound praises to those buried in these same graves. The novice dutifully complied. But at the end of the day he reported back that not a single one among the dead had replied either to curses or praises.
        Macarius responded, saying that they must be holy people indeed. “You insulted them and they did not answer; you applauded them and they said nothing. Go and do likewise.” —cited in Belden Lane’s “Backpacking with the Saints” Read more ›

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3 April 2015  •  No. 16
Good Friday  •  Pesach

Invocation. “Nothing can trouble, nothing can frighten. / Those who seek God shall never go wanting. / God alone fills us.” —Listen to the Taizé chant “Nada Te Turbe,” based on the mystical writing of the Spanish mystic, St. Teresa of Avila (aka Teresa of Jesus). This past week marked the 500th anniversary of her birth. Teresa was canonized 40 years after her death and, together, with Catherine of Siena, was declared a “Doctor of the Church” by Pope Paul VI in 1970.

Hopeful news. Some 40 faith leaders across the width of Christian denominational lines have published a Holy Week letter calling for an abolition of the death penalty in the United States.
        “We urge governors, prosecutors, judges and anyone entrusted with power to do all that they can to end a practice that diminishes our humanity and contributes to a culture of violence and retribution without restoration,” the group said in a statement released the week Christians around the world commemorate the suffering and execution of Jesus leading up to Easter.
        “We especially ask public officials who are Christian to join us in the solidarity of prayer this week as we meditate on the wounds of injustice that sicken our society,” the statement said. Read more ›

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26 March 2015  •  No. 15

Invocation. It’s not the Muslim, not the Jew, but it’s me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer. —old spiritual, new verse

Amazing. Renewable energy sources “now generate nearly half of Nicaragua's electricity, a figure that government officials predict could rise to 80 percent within a few years. That compares to just 13 percent in the United States. . . . There is so much untapped energy in Nicaragua that it's planning to export electricity to its Central American neighbors.” —John Otis, "Nicaragua's Renewable Energy Revolution Picks Up Steam

The message from Eduardo came with the asunto [subject] line “First time ever!!!!” followed by several photos, taken at the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People office in Ciego de Avila, where the St. Paul, Minnesota-based Global Volunteers delegation presented an American flag as a gesture of hope for reconciliation. Rev. Eduardo Gonzalez (at left, center, back row), pastor of Iglesia Bautista Enmanuel, served as the local host.
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19 March 2015  •  No. 14

Invocation. “Why, when God's world is so big, did you fall asleep in a prison of all places?” —Rumi

Remarkable news. “South Africa may be one of just 10 countries in the world to permit same-sex marriage—not to mention the only country in Africa—but it is also a place where the assault, rape and murder of lesbians remains a troublingly common issue. At the same time, however, a brave effort is taking shape to counter this hatred and violence. Among the groups leading the charge is Luleki Sizwe, founded in 2005 by Ndumie Funda. The group’s main objective is to put an end to corrective rape—a phenomenon where men rape lesbian women with the belief that it will somehow correct them of their sexuality.” —Ray Mwareya-Mhondera, “South Africa’s brave struggle against lesbian hate crimes”

Good news you likely didn’t hear. An interfaith crowd of more than 1,000 surrounded Oslo, Norway’s main synagogue on Saturday 21 February, chanting “No to anti-Semitism, no to Islamophobia.” The event, organized by Muslim youth in the city, was done in solidarity with Norway’s Jewish community on the heels of the murder of two people outside the synagogue the previous week.
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12 March 2015 • No. 13

Invocation. “Be humble for you are made of earth.” —Serbian proverb

Southern Appalachian mountaintops are now a bit safer. “After five years of action by Earth Quaker Action Team, PNC Bank announced a shift in its policy on March 2 that will effectively cease its financing of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.
        “This marks a major turnaround for the nation’s seventh largest bank, which for years refused to budge on this issue. After more than 125 actions, their desire to continue business as usual proved no match for Earth Quaker Action Team, or EQAT, and our allies.
        “As more and more banks stop financing mountaintop removal, we expect the coal companies to have more trouble over the next few years securing financing for extreme extraction.” —“How a small Quaker group forced PNC Bank to stop financing mountaintop removal,” George Lakey Read more ›