Articles, Essays & Sermons

Carpe Noctem—Seize the Night

The struggle for spiritual vision in a dark time

by Ken Sehested
Texts: Psalm 181-11; Habakkuk 1:1-11; Revelation 12:1-18
Sermon for the annual joint worship service of FOCUS, an ecumenical, congregationally-based community ministry, Albany, NY, 23 November 2003.

         Earlier this fall I was asked to address a gathering of Christians on the of “peacemaking in a post-9/11 world.” Let me begin here as I did there, with a reminder of an earlier policy which has helped bring us to where we are—struggling for spiritual vision in a dark time. The “Kennan Doctrine,” as it is now called, was articulated in 1948 shortly after the very first use of weapons of mass destruction. It was written by George Kennan who directed the U.S. State Department’s planning staff and was later credited as the intellectual architect of the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union.

         "We have about 50% of the world's wealth but only 6.3% of its population.  This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia.  In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment.  Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security.  To do so we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives.... Read more ›

Bold confession amid bitter complaint

Sermon anchored in Job 23:1-17, Psalm 22:1-15, Hebrews 4:12-16 & Mark 10:17-31

by Ken Sehested
Circle of Mercy Congregation, Sunday, 12 October 2003
Texts: Job 23:1-17; Ps. 22:1-15; Heb. 4:12-16; Mark 10:17-31

This summer I learned from a mutual friend that William Sloan Coffin is dying. His doctor has given him a year.

Some of you know of Bill’s legacy: a CIA operative who got saved, began a ministerial career as the Chaplain at Yale University and from that post undertook a nationally-recognized leadership role in the movement to end the war in Vietnam; then, for many years, the beloved pastor as Riverside Church in New York City. Read more ›

Old Wounds, New Visions

Sermon anchored in Job 1:1, 2:1-10

by Ken Sehested
Circle of Mercy Congregation, 8 October 2006
Text: Job 1:1; 2:1-10

            Several things converged to inform my reflection this evening. One is that I simply want to take advantage of the wake of Marc Mullinax’s excellent sermon last week, when he preached on the topic “This I disbelieve.” Disbelieving is a crucial part of our vocation, as Marc so eloquently said. Afterward, I remembered a quote I heard years ago: The reason ancient Rome oppressed the early Christian community was not because Christians proclaimed that “Jesus is Lord.” The Roman authorities were actually quite tolerant of a variety of religious expressions. The thing that got them mad is that when Christians say “Jesus is Lord,” they were also saying “Caesar is NOT Lord.” In Rome, as in lots of places, it’s OK to be religious as long as you don’t threaten the existing order.

            So I decided to flip the coin over to talk about “This I Believe.” As Marc and all our teachers know, students sometimes have to “unlearn” certain things in order for good learning to occur. In the same way, “disbelieving” is integral to deciding what we do in fact believe. Read more ›

Days of Awe

What the Jewish High Holy days teach us about penitential living and repair of the world

by Ken Sehested

“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation
and brings no regret, but worldly grief produces death.”
—2 Corinthians 7:10

        We are in a maelstrom of historical markers and liturgical import. For people of faith, it points to a significant fork in the road. Read more ›