A musical playlist for commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth anniversary (with a preface)

Ken Sehested

Preface

As I write, the fifth day of Eastertide (which began on Easter eve ending 50 days later on Pentecost Sunday) draws close. As does the moment in 1968 when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated while standing just outside his Lorraine Hotel’s second floor room in Memphis, Tennessee.

It was 6:01 p.m. CST. The fourth of April. Barely a half-century ago. He was 39 years old.

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On the proximity of International Women’s Day and the start of Ramadan

Ken Sehested

Introduction: On the proximity of the International Women’s Day (8 March 2024) and the cusp of Ramadan (10 March 2024 sundown, a month-long ascetically devotional observance commemorating the initial revelation to the Prophet Muhammad in 610 CE, later named the Noble Qur’an)

Little is known about the 8th century CE Islamic poet and mystic often named simply as Rabia of Basri (a city/region in what is now southern Iraq). But her stature as one of the first saints in Islam is unquestioned, especially among Muslims who identify with the more mystical tradition of Sufism. The quote below which addresses (without naming) Allah (the Arabic word for God) as “eternal beauty” is a striking feature of mystical traditions of all sorts:

“If I adore You out of fear of hell, burn me in hell. / If I adore You out of desire for paradise, lock me out of paradise. / But if I adore You alone, do not deny to me Your eternal beauty.”

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Days of hysteria (madness), promise of hilaria (rejoicing)

On maintaining the heart’s composure
amid electoral mania

Ken Sehested

There is a certain pathology in our current season,
electoral follies punctuated by fresh tales of human
fury and nature’s duress—the combination exaggerated
if not unique. All the more reason to be reminded:

There is a life beneath, above, on the other side of this
present madness, a brightness excelling all expectation,
but not necessarily the one imagined, a surprise ending
beyond the sadness, a gladness for which we can only

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We live in a fretful land

A litany for worship regarding the plight of immigrants

Gracious One, who jealously guards the lives of those at every edge, we lift our heavy hearts to your Mercy. Corrosive leaders claim that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.”

We live in a fretful land, anxious over the ebbing away of privilege, fearful that strangers are stealing our birthright.

Loud, insistent voices demand a return to “the rule of law.”

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Lenten excavation

Welcome to Lent’s invitation to wild foraging, bushwhacking adventure, deep excavation

Ken Sehested

Invocation. “Psalm 51,” Choir of St. Simon the Leper, Republic of Georgia (sung in Aramaic)

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Epiphany’s provocation

Ken Sehested

We, of the majority caste, are largely innocents. By innocent
I mean clueless about the way history has privileged some
and impoverished others. If we are to move toward a future
beyond the fatal consequence of our transgressions, we
must lose our innocence, which includes much unlearning.
We have hard work to do, patient work, risky work, but
worthy, inspiring, hopeful work.

Take a hand. Make your vow. Gird your loins. Declare an
allegiance beyond the tip of your nose. Step over your
contented threshold and out of your comfort zone.
Prepare for turbulence, maybe threat. Make alliances
across racial and class and cultural boundaries.
Cultivate the kind of imagination needed to resist
cultural conformity and nationalist fervor.

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Advent’s summons

Ken Sehested

Invocation. "The First Noel," Leslie Odom Jr. ft. PS22 Chorus

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Implausibly, and over the decades, my consistent experience is that when I dare venture into war zones and places of serious social conflict, I find people you would think should just give in, give out, give over their futures to those with greedy hearts and malevolent hands.

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