Readings from Jewish, Christian and Islamic scripture and tradition

Prepared for "A Penitential Opportunity," worship resources for a service in commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the My Lai massacre

§The bows of the mighty are broken, but the feeble gird on strength. Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread, but those who were hungry have ceased to hunger. . . . [God] raises up the poor from the dust [and] lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with the rulers and inherit a seat of honor. —1 Samuel 2:4-5, 8a

§You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also. . . . You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say unto you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. —Matthew 5:38-39, 43-44

§The Messenger of God (peace and blessings be upon him) said: Whoever is untrustworthy in his dealings has no faith, and whoever is not committed to his promises has no religion. —Bayhaqi

§By three things the world is preserved, by [restorative] justice, by truth, and by peace, and these three are one: if [restorative] justice has been accomplished, so has truth, and so has peace. —JT Ta'anit 4:2 Read more ›

Worried about increasing US-Iran tensions?

You should be

by Ken Sehested

Worried about increasing US-Iran tensions? You should be. The stakes are high, Trump is recklessly impulsive and currently in need of a public distraction from the Mueller investigation. It’s not likely to be an all-out war, but some limited strike—maybe backing Israel to do so, as it did in 2007—that would further escalate belligerence.

(Remember: This year is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I which began with one assassination, in a country few US citizens had heard of, igniting what was then the deadliest war in history, due to a complex web of international alliances, planting the seeds of World War II, then the Cold War, and on and on.)

Hatred—as e.e. cummings said—bounces. Read more ›

Pastoral dilemmas with observing Mother’s Day

by Ken Sehested

            Some of you share my childhood church experiences of Mother’s Day. During the service, the oldest and youngest mothers present were recognized. All women were offered carnations to wear, pink if your mother was living, white if deceased. And of course, families took Moms out to eat lunch after church, so she wouldn’t have to cook that Sunday(!).

            This was in a time—long ago in a galaxy far, far away—when restaurant visits among my social strata were rare. In my rearing, the only eating out was occasional trips to the Dairy Queen for burgers, a few times on vacations (which were still burger events for me), and Mother’s Day. (Nowadays, the average American consumes 4.2 commercially prepared meals per week.)

            A brief anecdote by Maralee McKee illustrates how unintentionally brutal those Mother’s Day observances could be. Read more ›

Reversal of fortunes

What if schools enjoyed pork-barrel largesse and the military depended on corporate charity?

by Ken Sehested

     One recent slow morning, in late August, the grocery stores’ circulars in the newspaper caught my attention. I began to wonder how things might be different if certain fortunes were reversed. Instead of “back-to-school” it’s “back-to-basic-training” discount offers.

     Imagine, if you will:

      •At Ingles, earn $1,000 for mops for the Navy, boots for the Army, when you use your Advantage™ Card. And keep your eyes out for our “Box Tops for Top Guns” special deals to ensure cockpit decal maintenance. Read more ›

Dr. James Cone: A brief remembrance

by Ken Sehested

I was traveling when the news of Dr. James Cone’s death was reported on Saturday. The first thought that came to mind was what seems to be a providential concurrence: His passing came two days after the opening of the National Peace and Justice Memorial, solemnizing the lynching in the US of some 4,400 black people, in 800 counties, between 1877 and 1950.

Cone’s last book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, was recipient of this year’s Grawemeyer Award in Religion. In that book he wrote “in the United States, the clearest image of the crucified Christ was the figure of an innocent black victim, dangling from a lynching tree.” A fitting reminder in this season of Eastertide.

My second thought was more personal. Dr. Cone was my seminary master’s thesis reader. Yet in our several meetings to discuss my research and writing progress, only one clear memory remains—one that had nothing to do with my academic project, a survey and assessment of 19th and 20th century exegesis of the “community of goods” accounts in Acts 2 and 4. (Hint: Those texts made scholars of every stripe—across the conservative-to-liberal spectrum—squirm. One respected scholar went so far as to say this account was surely idealized for it would have otherwise revealed the early apostles as lacking in common sense!) Read more ›