Dissonant memories and conflicting mandates

A meditation on the US Memorial Day

by Ken Sehested

My question is not whether we should mourn, legitimately and unreservedly, the loss of our war dead on Memorial Day.

Yes. A thousand times yes.

My question is, on what day should we also mourn the loss of others’ war dead? Indeed, one of Memorial Day’s stories of origin traces to April 1866 when a group of women in Columbus, Mississippi, decorated the graves of Confederate solders. Noticing the nearby barren graves of Union soldiers, the women place flowers on those as well. Read more ›

Ascension-deficit disorder

A meditation on the Feast of the Ascension

by Ken Sehested
Feast of the Ascension 2021

The Feast of the Ascension is observed by some on the 40th day after Easter;
by others, on the seventh Sunday of Eastertide.

The Feast of the Ascension doesn’t get marquee billing, at least not in Protestant circles. Do a quick web image search and you can see why: Many depict a pasty white Jesus, in a chalk-colored robe, levitating above his surrounding disciples in a beam-me-up pose. Makes me think of the velvet paintings of Elvis. Read more ›

An Emmaen prayer

by Ken Sehested

“He was made known to them in the breaking of the bread.”
—Luke 24:35, story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus following Jesus’ execution

  Read more ›

Breathing room

A meditation on the conviction of Derek Chauvin

by Ken Sehested
21 April 2021

As I pulled out of our driveway, the NPR radio host said that the jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial had reached a verdict and would be announced shortly. I immediately felt my stomach tighten and swallowed an inhaled “oh no.”

Like most, I thought the evidence against him in the death of George Floyd was irreproachable. But history said otherwise, particularly given the massive loophole provided by the Supreme Court’s ruling granting “limited immunity” to law enforcement, for “breathing room to make reasonable but mistaken judgments about open legal questions.” Read more ›

News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  22 April 2021 •  No. 213

Above: Ieshia Evans, being arrested in a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Baton Rouge, La., 9 July 2016. Photo by Jonathan Bachman.

Invocation.Breathe on Me.” —James Cleveland Read more ›

Easter’s fertile promise

Composting as parable of faith formation

by Ken Sehested
Easter Sunday, 4 April 2021

I’ve never had a green thumb. My wife tends indoor plants and outside flowers. I’ve never had the urge to garden, though I wish I had.

But I’ve enjoyed making dirt for over 30 years. Soil, I should say. Dark, fertile, nutrition rich soil that growing things need to thrive, filled with nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and a dozen other nutrients and organic matter. Read more ›

A few (somewhat unconventional) music suggestions for Holy Week and Easter

Introduction

It's important to remember that the first Holy Week was not upbeat, chocolatey, nor an occasion for spring fashion. The disciples did not want to be in Jerusalem. They knew the dangers for Jesus, and for themselves, since both the Temple elite and the Roman rulers were lying in wait for an opportunity to nab Jesus.

It was Passover season, recollecting the Hebrew freedom march out of Egypt; thus nationalist sentiment ran hot. Rome always brought in extra security forces during this period. The crowd that welcomed Jesus waved palm branches—symbols of victory which, then as now, implied military engagement. And they shouted "Hosanna"—"God save us!"—not so much for heaven but from Rome's colonization. Both the palms and the hosannas had an undercurrent of insurrection. Given Jesus' notoriety, many hoped—or feared—he was there to ignite a violent insurgency against Roman tyranny and Temple collaboration. Palm Sunday was a dangerous provocation, which Jesus struggled to clarify in Maundy Thursday's footwashing. As the disciples feared, the authorities arrested, tortured, and lynched Jesus by crucifixion, a form of capital punishment reserved for political subversives. The disciples went into hiding. No one had an inkling of what came next.

Palm Sunday

Read more ›

Hong Kong, Britain’s 19th century war to save its drug cartel in China, and escalating US-China relations

To understand the present, you have to know some history

by Ken Sehested

US-China relations have deteriorated dramatically in recent months. Once an outspoken admirer of Chinese President Xi, President Trump is now laying much of the blame for the COVID-19 pandemic at China’s door, further exacerbating the preexisting conflict over balance of trade.

Some of China’s blame, for delaying news of the pandemic’s spread, is merited. Then again, CNN has identified 37 instances where Trump praised China’s handling of the coronavirus between 22 January and 1 April. Then, as the pandemic began to spread widely in the US—and the US government’s inaction became apparent—the president began looking to deflect responsibility.

Until this past week, when China pushed through Hong Kong’s legislature an act severely penalizing criticism of Beijing, Trump has remained neutral on the ongoing civil unrest there. Now both he and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are making very public threats against China. Read more ›

The death of George Floyd was a match that lit a bonfire

Four testifiers

by Ken Sehested

I encourage you to open a second tab and listen to the song “Stand Up
by DGLS, a young African American quartet, as you read this post.

As has been said, no one can create a movement. But you can be prepared for it. And the evidence suggests we are now witnessing—and, hopefully, participating in—one here in the US (with echoes sounding around the world). Read more ›