Articles, Essays & Sermons

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 ›

Wade in the water

Baptism as political mandate (in this and every '9/11' moment in history)

by Ken Sehested

      Among the first questions I heard on the epochal date of September 11, 2001, was that of my good friend’s third-grader: “Papa, are we safe here?” Emily had just returned from school in the small East Texas town where I was visiting.

      By now the most turbulent emotions of that infamous rupture have yielded to the daily demands of groceries to buy, laundry piling up, calendars to keep. And children to attend, even more so now, according to demographers who report an upturn in birthrates, as if last September’s devastation triggered not just emotional but biological urges to connect, to repair the breach of life, tikkun olam (“repair of the world,” in Judaism’s rabbinic tradition). But the deeply affective question “are we safe?” continues to roil just beneath the surface.

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Suffer the children

A Bible study on Jesus’ teachings about “becoming like children”

by Ken Sehested

Written with gratitude for the Children’s Defense Fund,
on the 25th anniversary of its “Children’s Sabbath” program.

      From the intimate environment of the home to the callousness of war-ravaged regions, the scale of violence against children is numbing. A few examples: Read more ›

Plastic Jesus

A Lenten meditation on plastic

by Ken Sehested

        My wife’s eyebrows first raised, then furrowed, when I answered her question, “What’s your column focus for this week?

        “Plastic,” I said.

        I knew immediately from her response that I needed to do some explaining as to why, in the middle of Lent, plastic is a relevant topic. [For more on this, see the 1 March 2018 edition of “Signs of the Times.”] Read more ›

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 ›