T.S. Eliot's Pentecostal agenda

Refined by Pentecost’s blaze or consumed by war's conflagration

by Ken Sehested

        Pentecost Sunday is far and away my favorite moment on the church’s liturgical calendar.

        It wasn’t always so. In fact, I grew up with inherited suspicion of “Pentecostal” Christians. Their rambunctious style of worship—speaking in “tongues,” ecstatic trances, slayings in the spirit and, generally, excitable emotions—were considered reprobate in my pietist-revivalist culture. We had our amen corners, but other outbursts were frowned upon. Such intrusions into more restrained Baptist sanctuaries were considered divisive and inflammatory.

        I have this bit of news in my files as illustration. When Southern Baptists in Georgia came to their 1998 convention meeting, among the first orders of business was to vote on two proposed constitutional amendments for congregational membership in the body, both being causes for being “disfellowshiped.” The first was endorsement of homosexual behavior; the second, engaging “in non-biblical charismatic worship practices.” Read more ›

Ten quotes from Rachel Held Evans

(Feel free to add yours)

"Rachel Held Evans, a well-known Christian blogger, author, and joyful troublemaker online, died on Saturday [4 May 2019] from massive brain swelling after being hospitalized for an infection, according to her family. She was 37. Evans leaves behind two little kids, a husband, and four books to her name. Her death has been met with an up-swelling of grief and appreciation from loyal readers, famous pastors who sparred with her, and, especially, young people who saw her as a mentor." —continue reading Emma Green, "Rachel Held Evans, Hero to Christian Misfits," Atlantic

Here is a quick roundup of my top 10 quotes from her faithful heart and creative hand. —kls

• “Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe but no one is comfortable. Help us to hold one another to the truth.” Read more ›

Jesus wasn’t lynched because he talked about getting right with God

A Holy Week meditation*

by Ken Sehested
Maundy Thursday 2019

        The week beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with Easter Eve is arguably the most volatile and conflicted period on the liturgical calendar. Even the lectionary suggestions for Scripture readings gives the options of celebrating a coronation or lamenting a crucifixion. Do we give priority to the cross or the crown?

§  §  § Read more ›

The war in Yemen

Why it matters*

by Ken Sehested
*For more background, see the 11 April 2019 (No. 190) issue of “Signs of the Times.”

        The news was easy to miss. I saw it in several media, but never “above the fold” or in the opening lineup of topics for cable news shows. And there is reason to debate how significant the news is, depending on your level of political optimism or pessimism.

        But the fact that Congress recently voted to exercise its never-before-used War Powers Act to cut off US funding for the Saudi-led  war in Yemen is at least unusual. The face that both the House and the Senate approved the measure is significant; though the margin in the Senate makes it unlikely they can override an anticipated veto by President Trump.

        Created in 1973, after the disclosure of a mountain of governmental lies deployed to sustain the war in Vietnam, the Act was supposed to return to Congress the constitutional mandate for declaring war. The Act has gathered dust ever since, despite the fact that the US has undertaken military action in at least 14 countries since then, including the war in Afghanistan, which has now lasted nearly as long as all our other wars combined. Read more ›

The imposition of Ash Wednesday

by Ken Sehested

           The imposition of Ash Wednesday, inaugurating the practice of Lenten lament, is the preparation for and anticipation of the exultation of Easter Morning.

            The ashen smudge is not accusation but recognition of our frenzied and frantic efforts at braggadocios living; it is the call to reclaim our true selves in the leisure of Sabbath’s composure aligned with Creation’s intent.

            To live in this sort of leisure, this sort of rest, comes by acknowledging Creation’s gravitational sway on history’s alignment with the Creator’s assignment. Read more ›