Articles, Essays & Sermons

Epiphany of the Lord

Commentary on Ephesians 3:1-12

by Ken Sehested

(From "Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 1," David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors. Westminister John Knox Press, 2009)

Although the Apostle doesn’t use epiphany (“manifestation”) in this text, he likely had something similar on his mind. Something new has happened in Jesus. Better yet, the Word—God’s “eternal purpose” (v. 11)—can now be “seen” (v. 9) in ways previously unimagined. This “mystery” is news even to the heavenly hosts (v. 10). There is something of a Copernican Revolution underway. The entire universe of God’s Providence has been revised: not only in the context of a Roman imperial venue (the Apostle is again writing from jail) but also in the redemptive story centered in Israel’s promise.

In the church’s history, Epiphany has three traditions. One is to commemorate Jesus’ baptism. Another, signifying his birth. And the third, the arrival of the magi, of “We Three Kings” fame, so often enacted in annual congregational Christmas pageants by children in bathrobes. In each case, though, the context inaugurates a confrontation with the way things are, between the Incarnate One and those who presently define reality. Read more ›

Epiphany: Learning to see what’s really real

A sermon for Epiphany Sunday

by Ken Sehested
Text: Matthew 2:1-12

            Before examining the text, let me first do some interpretation of this service. We’re doing two special recognitions this evening: earlier we did the blessing of Jessica and Rich, and at the end of the service we will commission those traveling to Cuba this next week.

            Welcoming a child into the world, whether by birth or adoption, is still among the most profound callings. This is true even though some who dearly want to have children are not able to do so. And crossing the boundary of enmity, to build relationships with friends in Cuba, is an extraordinary witness to the Gospel word. Some of the legislation governing U.S. relations with Cuba are officially called “Trading with the Enemy” Act. Read more ›

Epiphany: The queerness of God

A sermon for Epiphany Sunday

by Ken Sehested
Text: Matthew 2:1-12

            It wouldn’t surprise me if you’ve never heard of the Naga people, whose ancestral homeland straddles the border area of northeast India, southern China and northwest Burma. In the early 19th century, when British colonizers exerted control over the region, the Nagas were the one people they were never able to fully subdue. The Nagas were known as fierce warriors, and in fact they were headhunters until the first Christian missionaries reached them in the mid-19th century. Naga history before this period is unwritten and barely known; more than likely they migrated from the area now known as Mongolia.

            Ever since the British were expelled from India in 1947, there has been a low-intensity war going on in Northeast India. The Naga people actually declared their independence from Britain one day before the new Indian government did so. Both Gandhi and Nehru, the first Indian premier, promised independence for the Nagas. That promised was never kept, and the region has seen sporadic civil war ever since. What makes it even more complicated is the fact that the Naga political party suffered several splits, so that now there are four rival parties, two of which have substantial guerilla armies—often shooting at each other as much as fighting Indian security forces. Read more ›

Made Flesh Among Us

by Ken Sehested
Text: John 1:1-18

Background: Our congregation’s Christmas service was in one of our member’s farm barn, with a simple Christmas story reenactment interspersed with singing Christmas carols. The following Sunday we used the lectionary text from John 1.

        We had a wonderful Christmas at our house. All our kinfolk managed to safely dodge the worst of the weather. With 10 people in the house, two of them juiced-up preschoolers, shoveling snow and splitting firewood offered a welcome break from the clamor. Of course, it’s always a special treat to watch youngsters rip open Christmas gifts. Read more ›

Trust and obey

Reflections on living in the Spirit

by Ken Sehested
(unpublished lecture delivered at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, March 1993)

Two ancient texts to begin:

The Problem: Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. (Genesis 6:11) Read more ›