Other Poems

Don’t go moonshining on the empire’s behalf

Or, what to do with disconsolation

Ken Sehested

You are encouraged to listen to Roberta Flack and
Donny Hathaway’s rendition of “Come, Ye
Disconsolate
”  before, during or after you read.

We are often suspicious of words of comfort, and
for good reason: such sentiments too often coax us
into being comfortable, too often keep us on our
couches, too often justify passivity in the face of
pillage. As if sanitizing our own hands is the end of
our duty.

Comfort’s purpose is so much more. Blessed
assurance is the latch that springs the doors of
compassion. Encouragement is the infusing of
courage in the face of trembling, troubling news. To
be assuaged is not to be sedated. Spend your grief
wisely. To be nurtured in hope’s promise does not
involve eating cotton candy. Being consoled is the
opposite of being appeased.

When we sing, “Come, Ye Disconsolate,” the hymn is
not an invitation to a pity party. The music is not
for dissipating passion or tempering conviction.
Rather, disconsolation is the Beloved’s tutor sent to
instruct; it is the Spirit’s invitation to dig deeper, to
lift our eyes beyond the current horizon, to draw
apart from the cacophony in order to hear with
clarity, to awaken to an epiphany calling into
question the wretched order by which the world is
currently ruled.

To be forced to our knees by truth’s eclipse and
enmity’s reign is exactly and precisely the posture
whereby we may avail ourselves of that power
“from above”—power not as magic, not as
desertion from fleshly life, but power disguised so
as not to be accessed by arrogant soul-mongering
forces. The bended knee and the penitent, empty
handed surrender in the face of failure’s threat is
the very thing that steals death’s sting.

Comfort is available to the obedient, because
obedience, in its root meaning, is the capacity to
listen rightly, specifically for the Spirit’s trespassing
presence, of her bridge-building, wall-broaching
advent into a world hijacked by “principalities and
powers,” by pirates and plunderers, gangster
banksters and freemarketeers, trumphoolery of
every sort.

Only the comforted can access the beatific vision,
which is armed with a realpolitik aimed at the
politics of privilege. Conflict is inevitable. The
prevailing derangement will first ignore you; failing
that, it will ridicule you; then censure you; then jail
you; maybe even impale you.

The quieting still point to which the conflicted are
called in the midst of every scandalous and
scorched regime does not quell truth’s insistent
claim. Rather, it gives staying power and holy
perseverance. Because she persists, so can we. The
Mercy Seat in whose presence we bask is the only
reliable position from which we can be immersed in
the Blessed One’s baptismal warrant.

In the midst of tribulation, take heart. Don’t go
moonshining on the empire’s behalf. Walk in the
Spirit’s spell, cast against every desecrating
imperium. Sisters and brothers, do not grow weary
in well-doing, in bearing one another’s burdens, for
in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart.
(cf. John 16:33; Galatians 5:16; 6:2, 9)

For earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

©ken sehested @ prayerandpolitiks.org