Articles, Essays & Sermons

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 ›

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 ›