Articles, Essays & Sermons

Where do you put the anger?

Anger and the animating presence of God

by Ken Sehested

            Few topics are as ambiguous for people of faith as anger. All of us get angry from time to time. But something inside us tells us we’re not supposed to be angry—even though sometimes it feels right.

            The Bible itself seems to be ambiguous. Jesus appears to forbid it when he says “every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment.” (Matthew 5:22—although a textual note adds: “Other ancient authorities insert ‘without cause’ in this verse. The rest of this text involves Jesus’ warning about insulting behavior.)

        God surely gets angry. A lot. How come God gets to, and we don’t? The Psalms, in particular, are packed full of angry statements., though we almost never read those. (For more on this, see “Angry words in the Psalms: A collection of texts.”) Read more ›

Three exegetes—a traditionalist, a modernist, and a post-modernist—walk into a bar

Pastoral commentary on Ephesians 1:3-14

by Ken Sehested, slightly adapted from a Feasting on the Word article

        A traditionalist, a modernist, and a post-modernist walk into a bar. Over shots of bourbon, the three friends discuss the prologue (1:3-14) to the epistle to the Ephesians.

        [The following exchange is fictitious—though quite plausible—imagining the voices and perspectives of three particular friends.]

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Out of the House of Slavery

Bible study on “immigration"

by Ken Sehested

This material was delivered in 2010 to a North Carolina Council of Churches-sponsored series of clergy gatherings in various cities.

      My assignment is to do a Bible study relevant to the intense conversation underway in our nation over the question of immigration. Others will offer social analysis and practical strategies. But I should mention three presumptions I bring.

      First, I believe we have a powerful witness to bear from our Scriptures, one that is surprisingly relevant. It’s not more information that we need. We don’t so much need to be convinced as to be convicted. Read more ›

Imagination and transformation

Do not be conformed

by Ken Sehested

            Imagination is one of our age’s feel-good words, and if you use it (and I do, a lot), first pause to consider the term’s shadow side.

            Imaginary, a linguistic cousin, can be used to describe a life removed from the vicissitudes of history, e.g., pipe dreams sprinkled with pixie dust, also known as magical thinking. To call such living childish is an insult to children. Imagination is not escapism. Spiritual life is not evacuation to another world.

            Also, imagination is not exempt from human manipulation for domineering purposes. Scientific and technological imagination created weapons of mass destruction and facilitated the rapacious assault on the ecosphere. We now live in what is now being called the Anthropocene, the epoch when human extraction from the biosphere exceeds nature’s capacity for replenishment. Read more ›

Conflicting memorials

The Lord’s Table of remembrance vs. the nation’s vow of preeminence

Violence is evangelism for the Devil

by Ken Sehested

            My earliest memory of Memorial Day is of my Dad, puttering in his garage shop (he was a mechanic and jack-of-all-trades fixer-upper) on a rare day off from work, listing to the Indianapolis 500 car race on a portable radio. On one of those occasions I remember using a hammer, and the concrete garage floor, helping him straighten nails for reuse.

            Both my parents were children of the Depression. Thrift was a primal virtue even when it was no longer a necessity. Read more ›