News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  20 December 2018 •  No. 179

Processional. Flash Flash – Jerusalem during the Christmas Tree Lighting party.” (Thanks Dick.)

Above: A face-on view of spiral galaxy NGC 4911, located deep within the Coma Cluster of galaxies, 320 million light-years away, lined with long clouds of dust and gas. These are seen in silhouette against glowing newborn star clusters and iridescent pink clouds of hydrogen, the existence of which indicates ongoing star formation. Hubble also captured the fainter outer spiral arms of NGC 4911, along with thousands of other galaxies of varying sizes in the background.
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Commentary on Colossians 3:12-17

1st Sunday after Christmas Day, Year C

by Ken Sehested


        Mohandas Gandhi is popularly known as one who confronted empires. Yet those who knew him, or have studied him since, acknowledge the Mahatma spoke often of a more complex struggle against tyranny. The conflict is not only with the British, he would say, but also within our own communities and “with myself.”  The Pauline vision generally, and the specific pastoral advice in this text, is rooted in just such a multidimensional understanding of reconciliation. There’s a seamlessness to the task which communities of faith are forever separating and assigning graded priority.

        Empires do dominate, then as now. But such domination has its claws in us, too. Which is why the struggle is not merely against “flesh and blood”—against particular personalities or ideologies which guide the beastly ravaging of governing regimes. The struggle is also against what Paul elsewhere spoke of as “principalities and powers,” the spirit of those regimes whose cunning capacity transcends political structures. We, too, who claim allegiance to God’s Reign, are standing in the need of prayer. Read more ›

The breakthrough of God is happening

An Advent call to worship

by Nancy Hastings Sehested

The breakthrough of God is happening. It is happening in the midst of the dark night of the soul, when no one can see clearly, and our fears are magnified. God is creating in the darkness of the womb of this world.

We are Zechariah, saying our prayers in the congregation, carrying our own disappointments in prayers unanswered. We are stunned into silence by God’s promise of new life.

We are Elizabeth, having given up our dreams to our own barrenness. We are shocked that we are not too old or too forgotten for God to remember us with new life. Read more ›

News, views, notes and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  7 December 2018  •  No. 178

IN THIS ISSUE: a poem, and a litany for worship, focused on John the Baptist. Below that, a large collection of Advent and Christmas resources for personal reflection and public worship. —Ken Sehested

The baptizer’s bargain
A poem based on John the Baptist

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The treasures of darkness

A poem for Advent

by Ken Sehested

It has been said:
You shall know the truth,
and the truth will set you free;
but first it will make you miserable.

The pilgrimage to mercy
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The Baptizer’s Bargain

A sermon based on Luke's story of John the Baptist

by Ken Sehested,
Texts: Luke 3:7-18; Zeph. 3:14-20; Phil. 4:4-7

            The text and sermon for this week is a continuation of the story from Luke, and Joyce’s commentary last week: the story John the Baptist. Or, more properly, John the Baptizer. (John really wasn’t a Baptist—although, one summer during college I worked as a youth minister in a church whose pastor believed that Baptists can trace their history back to John. If that were true, that means there were Baptists before there were Christians!)

            Before I read the second part of the text from Luke 3, let’s review the first part. Read more ›

The baptizer’s bargain

A poem on John the Baptist

Such a tame name for a man
     born to inhabit the wild side
     of heaven’s incursion.
You startle children with
     your leather-girdled, camel-haired attire,
     hot breath bidding the devout
     into Jordan’s penitential wake,
     the same waters that marked
     the boundary of beneficence: of the Hebrew
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News, views, notes, and quotes

Signs of the Times  •  15 November 2018 •  No. 177

Processional. "Pie Jesu" (“Merciful Jesus”) by Sarah Brightman, Paul Miles-Kingston. The music accompanies actual film footage (3:34) from World War I’s “Battle of The Somme,” when French and British allies took the offensive against German troops in France, 1 July-18 November 1916. The British suffered 57,000 casualties on the first day of the offensive. All totaled, more than 1 million men were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in history. 

Above: Wild poppies (Papaver rhoeas, known variously as the Flanders poppy, corn poppy, red poppy and corn rose) grow in the "Trench of Death," a preserved Belgian World War I trench system on July 14, 2017, in Diksmuide, Belgium.

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The taunt of Lamech’s revenge

Authorization for Use of Military Force: 60 words that bring the US to the edge of a permanent state of war

by Ken Sehested

        Fifteen years ago today, 14 September 2001, the US Congress approved a 60-word joint resolution—with only one dissenting vote, by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA)—named The Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF). It grants the president sweeping latitude for authorizing military action. The implications it carries have become so commonplace they no longer raise public attention. Not unlike the lyrics to some popular children’s songs, the AUMF’s assumptions are repeated so often we are numbed to their significance.

        This is unfortunate, for the AUMF, approved amid the trauma and rage of the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, has brought us to the edge of a permanent state of war.

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King Jesus and Brother Pontius

A litany for worship, "Christ the King/Reign of Christ" Sunday

by Ken Sehested

Prior to his lynching at the hand of Roman rage, and to the cheers of Caiaphas’ temple tyranny, Pilate asks Jesus, “So, are you to be king?”

“So say you, Brother Pontius,” Jesus replies. (Which is to say, I am but not as you think.) “My reign is not planted in the world you imagine. If it were, all who claim me as lord would bloody the sword.”

So tell us King Jesus, of what realm shall you rule, for what world do you long? Read more ›