Silent night

An Advent poem

by Ken Sehested

To move into a seemingly bleak and
ominous future requires laying hold
of stories from our past:

Stories to remind us that buoyancy
        emerges from unseen places,
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We’ve a Story To Tell, a Song To Sing

A spiritual journey from individualistic faith to concern for world peace

by Ken Sehested

Presented at the “Evangelism and the Peace Witness of the Church,” sponsored  by the Baptist World Alliance & the Mennonite World Conference, January 10-12, 2002, Eastern College, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

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“For the darkness shall turn to dawning, And the dawning to noonday bright,
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We’ve a story to tell to the nations

The nonviolent war cry of the people of God

by Ken Sehested

“[V]iolence is the behavior of someone incapable of imagining other solutions to the problem at hand.”
—Vicenç Fisas

            New Testament scholar and activist Walker Wink provides one of the most helpful frameworks for understanding the addictive appeal of violence as a way to right wrongs. The “Myth of Redemptive Violence,” he wrote, “not Judaism or Christianity or Islam, is the dominant religion in our society today.” [1] Read more ›

Itching for a brawl

To interpret the latest round of US-Iran tension, here is some history you need to know

by Ken Sehested

“The [US] rationale is embarrassingly circular—we must remain in
the Middle East to protect against terrorists who hate America
because we are in the Middle East.”
—Jeff Faux, “Why Are We in the Middle East?”

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Worried about increasing US-Iran tensions?

You should be

by Ken Sehested

Worried about increasing US-Iran tensions? You should be. The stakes are high, Trump is recklessly impulsive and currently in need of a public distraction from the Mueller investigation. It’s not likely to be an all-out war, but some limited strike—maybe backing Israel to do so, as it did in 2007—that would further escalate belligerence.

(Remember: This year is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I which began with one assassination, in a country few US citizens had heard of, igniting what was then the deadliest war in history, due to a complex web of international alliances, planting the seeds of World War II, then the Cold War, and on and on.)

Hatred—as e.e. cummings said—bounces. Read more ›

Epiphany: Manifesting the Bias of Heaven

by Ken Sehested

      There are three versions of what Epiphany (“Manifestation”) is meant to commemorate in the church’s calendar. One of those traditions is to celebrate Jesus’ baptism on January 6. Another tradition—Eastern Orthodox, using the Julian calendar—observes Christmas on January 7. Yet another tradition celebrates Epiphany as marking the arrival of the magi—of “We Three Kings” fame, the figures played in every Christmas play by children dressed in bathrobes. Yet the common element in each is the inauguration of a confrontation between God’s Only Begotten and those in seats of power.

Art ©John August Swanson.

      As a baptismal occasion, this Manifestation inspired Jesus’ first sermon in the temple at Nazareth. The gathered crowd was so perturbed at his message of deliverance that the text says they “were filled with wrath” and attempted to launch him headlong over a cliff. Read more ›

Epiphany of the Lord

Commentary on Ephesians 3:1-12

by Ken Sehested

(From "Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 1," David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, editors. Westminister John Knox Press, 2009)

Although the Apostle doesn’t use epiphany (“manifestation”) in this text, he likely had something similar on his mind. Something new has happened in Jesus. Better yet, the Word—God’s “eternal purpose” (v. 11)—can now be “seen” (v. 9) in ways previously unimagined. This “mystery” is news even to the heavenly hosts (v. 10). There is something of a Copernican Revolution underway. The entire universe of God’s Providence has been revised: not only in the context of a Roman imperial venue (the Apostle is again writing from jail) but also in the redemptive story centered in Israel’s promise.

In the church’s history, Epiphany has three traditions. One is to commemorate Jesus’ baptism. Another, signifying his birth. And the third, the arrival of the magi, of “We Three Kings” fame, so often enacted in annual congregational Christmas pageants by children in bathrobes. In each case, though, the context inaugurates a confrontation with the way things are, between the Incarnate One and those who presently define reality. Read more ›

News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  13 December 2019 •  No. 203

Processional. This young drummer, Silas, is a member of Jesus the Redeemer Church in Kapenguria, Kenya, accompanying a praise song, “Sing With Joy, Jehovah Has Given Us Eternal Life.” (Thanks Boaz.)

Every year NASA produces a Hubble Space Telescope Advent Calendar. Pictured above: Spirals of dust swirl across trillions of kilometers of interstellar space as an expanding halo of light around a distant star, named V838 Monocerotis illuminates the giant cloud. The glow comes from the red supergiant star at the middle of the image, which gave off a flashbulb-like pulse of light, This image shows the progress the light-pulse had made after two years of traveling away from the star in all directions, imaged by Hubble on February 8, 2004. V838 Monocerotis is located about 20,000 light-years away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Monoceros, at the outer edge of our Milky Way galaxy.

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“Peace, like war, is waged”

A personal remembrance of Walker L. Knight, in light of Advent's threat and promise

by Ken Sehested

My mentor-cum-friend Walker Knight has died. It wasn’t a surprise—his health has been poor for several years. For him, and his family, it is likely merciful.

Acknowledging as much, though, doesn’t ease what appears to the living as a certain dimming of the light. Read more ›