Articles, Essays & Sermons

Thomas Merton

A special edition of "Signs of the Times" featured quotes from that most unusual monk

Selected and edited by Ken Sehested

Introduction: A special issue of “Signs of the Times” devoted to Thomas Merton (31 January 1915 – 10 December 1968) quotes was already in the works, to mark the centennial of his birth. But when Pope Francis, in his historic address to a joint session of Congress, lifted Merton's name for special recognition (along with three other Americans), it seemed timely to move up the schedule. (Continue reading Ken Sehested’s "Introduction: The Quotable Thomas Merton.")

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§ Meditation has no point and no reality unless it is firmly rooted in life. Read more ›

Another world is possible

Introduction to "We Are the Socks," Dan Buttry's new book

by Ken Sehested

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up people together to collect wood
and assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them
to long for the endless immensity of the sea."
—Antoine de Saint-Exupery

            What Dan Buttry does in We Are the Socks is what he does better than anyone I know: Write vivid, easy-to-read narratives that are hopeful but not sentimental, honest but not cynical, revealing without being voyeuristic, personal without being self-serving, sometimes humorous but never silly. And the people he writes about, in these few selected episodes out of literally dozens of others from his global work, are not drawn from self-selected elites—the morally heroic or intelligent or ingenious. Mostly they are commonplace folk, drawn from every sort of circumstance, typical admixtures of hope and doubt, compassion and malice, vision and blind sightedness. Not your stereotypical candidates for sainthood. In other words, folk like us, like the ones in our churches and neighborhoods and families. Read more ›

Remembering the Future: "Bright with Eden’s dawn"

A sermon for World Communion Sunday

by Ken Sehested,
Text: Hebrews 2:5-12 (The Message)

      The main title of this sermon, “remembering the future,” is a nonsensical notion. How can you remember the future since it hasn’t happened yet? Maybe if you love science fiction, or if you’re a fan of the actor Michael J. Fox, you can imagine going “back to the future.” But remembering the future?

      How silly is that, in a grown-up world? Read more ›

Days of awe and Meccan pilgrimage

Reflections on the confluence of Jewish and Islamic holy days

by Ken Sehested

        My lectionary imagination jumped the rails, enamored by this month’s confluence of Jewish and Islamic holy days.

        For Jews the ten “Days of Awe” began with Rosh Hashanah this past Sunday at dusk, stretching through next Wednesday’s Yom Kippur observance. For Muslims the annual pilgrimage to Mecca—“Hajj,” one of the five “pillars” of Islam, taking place this year from 21-26 September (calculated, as with Jewish holidays, by distinctive lunar calendars)—is expected to draw well over 2 million people from 188 countries.

        The second day of Dhul-Hijjah (the Month of Hajj), the annual pilgrimage to Islam’s holiest site, is called the Day of Arafat, when pilgrims travel out of Mecca to the nearby Mount Arafat to celebrate Mohammed’s “Farwell Sermon.” Read more ›

In the valley of the shadow

Reflections on the trauma of 11 September 2001

by Ken Sehested, with Kyle Childress
Written in the days following 11 September 2001


"How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become,
she that was great among the nations! . . . She weeps bitterly in the night. . . ."
Lamentations 1:1
Read more ›