Articles, Essays & Sermons

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 ›

Speak out clearly, pay up personally

The purpose, promise and peril of interfaith engagement

by Ken Sehested, Lynn Gottlieb, and Rabia Terri Harris

        In the early weeks of 2011, during the Arab Spring uprising, Egyptian blogger Nevine Zaki posted a photograph from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. It showed a group of people bowing in the traditional style of Muslim prayer, surrounded by other people standing hand-in-hand, facing outward, as a wall of protection against hostile pro-government forces. Zaki affixed this caption: “A picture I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers.”

        Similar scenes—some ancient, some as recent as yesterday’s newspaper—have been arranged in a host of ways with a variety of religious identities. No religious tradition can claim a monopoly on compassionate courage. And yet such snapshots remain rare.

        A recent magazine ad for a large U.S. stock brokerage firm features a stunning photograph of the Earth taken from space. Superimposed over that image is the phrase “WORLD PEACE IS GOOD.” And then the ad continues: “But finding a stock at 5 that goes to 200 is better.” This glimpse of cynicism gives us some idea of the economic and emotional forces we’re up against when we try to work for genuine peace. Read more ›

There is a new creation

The Apostle Paul’s vision of the ministry of reconciliation

by Ken Sehested

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ,
and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,
not counting their trespasses against them,
and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
Read more ›

Bowling in Baghdad

Which memorial will guide?

by Ken Sehested, Memorial Day 2015

The Al-Fanar Hotel restaurant was bustling when I walked in. I sat with a new friend, Charles, a professional photojournalist and fellow Iraq Peace Team member. There were about 40 of us, split between three hotels in downtown Baghdad on the banks of the Tigris River. This was February 2003, in the weeks leading up to the “shock and awe” invasion.

We were monitoring the effects of U.N. sanctions and providing an alternative account to that of the mainstream media’s war promotion. The trip was not undertaken lightly, given the impending invasion, along with the threat by our own government of prison sentences and steep fines for breaching the U.S. travel ban.

Midway through our meal Charles asked if I’d like to go bowling. Read more ›