Articles, Essays & Sermons

Labor in the Shadow of Sabbath

A Labor Day sermon

Text: Ephesians 4:25-32

by Ken Sehested

         This weekend we mark another Labor Day holiday, both here and in Canada (excepting Quebec). At least 80 other countries celebrate the first of May as a workers’ holiday. Jamaica has the most interesting Labor Day tradition. For most of its colonial history the country observed “Empire Day” on 24 May in honor of British Queen Victoria’s birthday and her emancipation of slaves in 1938. But in 1961 Empire Day was supplanted by "Labour Day" on 23 May, to commemorate the 1938 labor rebellion which led to independence. And the day’s focus is not on picnics, retail sales and car racing but on community service projects.

         As with so many of our holidays, we have mostly forgotten the severe conflict which provides the historical context. In the latter decades of the 19th century industrialization was hitting its stride in the developing world. The technology of commerce was producing massive amounts of profit and a widening gaps between rich and poor. When recounting the history of the holiday, many Labor Day histories point to a massive march by sweatshop workers in New York City in 1882, demanding a shortening of the 12-14 hour workday. The workers’ chant was "Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest. Eight hours for what we will." Read more ›

Wade in the water

Baptism as political mandate (in this and every '9/11' moment in history)

by Ken Sehested

      Among the first questions I heard on the epochal date of September 11, 2001, was that of my good friend’s third-grader: “Papa, are we safe here?” Emily had just returned from school in the small East Texas town where I was visiting.

      By now the most turbulent emotions of that infamous rupture have yielded to the daily demands of groceries to buy, laundry piling up, calendars to keep. And children to attend, even more so now, according to demographers who report an upturn in birthrates, as if last September’s devastation triggered not just emotional but biological urges to connect, to repair the breach of life, tikkun olam (“repair of the world,” in Judaism’s rabbinic tradition). But the deeply affective question “are we safe?” continues to roil just beneath the surface.

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There are more with us than there are with them

Every question about power is a question about God

by Ken Sehested,
Text: 2 Kings 6:8-23

        The text we’ve just read is one of my favorites. The king of Aram—basically what is today modern Syria—is frustrated because his army’s maneuvers seem to be anticipated in every instance by the Israelite army. He’s losing every strategic advantage. Before he thought his generals were simply losing their edge. But the evidence now is overwhelming: He’s got a security breach; a spy in their midst; a mole inside his intelligence operation. Hackers have penetrated his firewalls. Wikileaks is broadcasting his campaigns.

      So the King calls together the joint chiefs of staff. He demands to know the source of this security breach. Read more ›

In the Shadow of a Steeple

Time for a post-national church?

by Ken Sehested
Texts: Matthew 5:1-12, Micah 6:1-8, Psalm 15, 1 Corinthians 1:18-31

      This coming week I’ll be applying to start early retirement Social Security benefits. Those of you who’ve already past that marker know what a milestone it is. It’s intimidating, and can make you anxious. The good thing it does is make you focus your attention. That’s why I relinquished more than half my pastoral job description. I want to give significantly more time to analyzing the reality in which we live, both as citizens of the United States and as followers of Jesus.

      In preparation for today I’ve scoured my electronic and print files for how we in the Circle have broached the topic of “empire.” I was surprised. I’d forgotten how many times sermons from this podium have addressed the question of empire. It’s a conversation that’s come up fairly frequently in our meetings and gatherings and retreats, as well as here in our worship services. It’s not a new topic. Read more ›

Building a Culture of Peace: An Interfaith Agenda

“New faces: Charlotte’s Growing Interfaith Community” sponsored by Mecklenburg Ministries, Programa Esperanza, Community Relations Committee and International Ministries
Tuesday, 13 November 2001, First United Methodist Church, Charlotte, NC

by Ken Sehested

       In the 19th chapter of the gospel of Luke, in the Christian Newer Testament, is this brief transition narrative as Jesus approaches Jerusalem. He’s near the end of his career and is prepared for a showdown with the ruling elites of the age. And you should know that Luke purposefully arranges this episode immediately before the story of Jesus’ outburst in the Temple, where he turns over the money-changers’ tables, a notorious racket whereby corrupt religious authorities colluded with unscrupulous entrepreneurs to exploit poor and working-class people during their expression of religious fidelity and devotion. Read more ›