Articles, Essays & Sermons

Religion of the Heart

Ken Sehested
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Circle of Mercy, 2 April 2006

        Friday’s Asheville Citizen-Times featured front-page story was about the first day of our new lottery. The story, titled “Let the Dreams Begin,” was dominated by a photo of the woman who won the area’s first prize. She shelled out $20 at the Hot Spot convenience store and gas station south of where Nancy and I live on Brevard Road. The fact that she only won $3 didn’t seem to dampen her enthusiasm. “This is the only way I’m ever going to be a millionaire,” she said. “I can work all my life, and it isn’t going to happen.” [Hold up paper with headline: “Let the Dreams Begin”]

        Meanwhile, the state of North Carolina raked in $10 million on the first day. Last year the voters were promised the money would supplement spending on education, that it would be added to the profits from thousands of bake sales and raffles and school-sponsored carnivals—and, of course, property taxes that support public education. It wasn’t until all the lottery machinery was in place that the governor announced: Oh, by the way, a full 35% of the profits would go to education. And . . . well . . . the richest school districts would be getting more than their proportionate amount because . . . well . . . those poor owners of expensive homes pay an awful lot of taxes. Read more ›

The cost of freedom entails moral accountability

The need for truthtelling about the CIA’s torturing practices

by Ken Sehested


A few weeks ago, Senator Richard Burr [R-NC] took over as Chair of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, whose responsibility is to oversee the Central Intelligence Agency. But already we are troubled by his actions in that job.

Mr. Burr stepped into this role at a critical time: A little more than a month ago, the Committee released a 500-page summary of its “Torture Report,” publicly documenting the inefficacy and brutality of the CIA’s torture program. The full report, which totals some 6,900 pages, remains secret.
Read more ›

Out of the House of Slavery

Bible study on “immigration"

by Ken Sehested

This material was delivered in 2010 to a North Carolina Council of Churches-sponsored series of clergy gatherings in various cities.

      My assignment is to do a Bible study relevant to the intense conversation underway in our nation over the question of immigration. Others will offer social analysis and practical strategies. But I should mention three presumptions I bring.

      First, I believe we have a powerful witness to bear from our Scriptures, one that is surprisingly relevant. It’s not more information that we need. We don’t so much need to be convinced as to be convicted. Read more ›

“Journey to Iraq: Of risk and reverence” & “Caitlin Letters”

by Ken Sehested


     Context: On 8 February 2003 Rev. Ken Sehested traveled to Iraq for three weeks as a member of the Iraq Peace Team, a project of Voices in the Wilderness, calling for an end to the threat of war by the U.S.
     Prior to going, the Asheville (N.C.) Citizen-Times newspaper published his article, “Journey to Iraq,” as a guest editorial and asked Sehested to write three weekly columns for the newspaper while in Iraq. Printed below is the initial article followed by three columns posted from Baghdad. The latter are titled “Caitlin Letters,” written as open letters to Caitlin Wood, a member of Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville. Caitlin was among the more than 200 high school students in Asheville who participated in the 6 March 2003 “Books Not Bombs” nationwide school walk-out in opposition to war on Iraq.
     Sehested previously traveled to Iraq in March 2000 as part of an interfaith delegation of Jews, Christians and Muslims from the U.S. Read more ›

Pastoral Principles for Prophetic People

by Ken Sehested

      Working for peace and justice isn't easy. We live in a world predicated by greed and violence. Swimming against that stream isn't easy. It can be unpopular and lonely. Flannery O'Connor, paraphrasing a verse from John's Gospel, wrote: "You shall know the truth, and the truth will make you odd!"Sometimes we wonder if we're crazy. Sometimes even prophets need pastoral care.

      All of us have known people who have attempted to "win the world" only to have their own spirits wither, their vision blurred. Maybe not with such tragic drama—maybe they've simply stopped speaking out . Something has come undone in their lives. Maybe it's happened to you.

      In the Bible, prophets people arose from the most unlikeliest of places. They were often "ordinary" people, without special training, and often protested, saying they didn't have enough talent for the job. Much like people in our congregations. Read more ›