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
12 September 2018

“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 ›

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.]

§  §  § 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 ›

Pulling back the veil: The call to penitential living

(In light of the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre)

Ken Sehested
Circle of Mercy, Asheville NC
18 March 2018
Texts: Psalm 51:10-19, Jeremiah 6:14-15

         Most of you know I’m a pretty mild mannered sort of guy. I was reared to be nice. “Y’all be nice” was what my parents said any time I went out. Occasionally they would say “y’all be good.” But we were never told “y’all be truthful.”

         Being truthful is not always nice. And tonight I’ve decided to come out swinging. Read more ›