Background to the touch down

President Barack Obama's historic visit to Cuba

by Ken Sehested

       In case you missed this historic video (1:10)—of President Barack Obama and family deplaning in Havana, Cuba, on Monday morning, 21 March 2016.

        Even now, during the Christian community’s Passion Week, a countersign—the Promise embedded within the Passion—can be discerned. History, despite its bloodied face, is not fated; and we, among history’s actors, need not abandon the field in hopes of a private realm of bogus atonement detached from fleshly circumstance.

Right: Air Force 1 on approach to the José Martí International Airport in Havana. Photo by Jose Luis Casal.
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Who gonna’ roll that stone?

Easter sermon

Easter morning, Sunday 24 April 2011
Marion Correctional Institution
(maximum security prison for men)
Text: John 20:1-18

by Ken Sehested

        It was still dark when Mary Magdalene crept away from her home, down the street, up into the garden to where Jesus had been buried two days before. Joseph of Arimathea had bravely volunteered to take Jesus’ body away from the Golgotha killing ground. Nicodemus, with whom Jesus had earlier met secretly at night, also came to the burial place, bringing traditional ointments and spices to retard the smell of a decomposing body, along with linen, the customary burial garment of the time. Read more ›

Wedding on the oncology ward

A meditation on the hurried-up wedding of my youngest and the occasion of International Women’s Day

by Ken Sehested

Introduction: It is right and proper to retrieve and celebrate the memory of women of significant achievement who model excellence, infused with righteousness, for us all. However, the vast majority of such women (and men) are highly contextual, inconspicuous, and will only be known to a handful of witnesses. Kathy Waters is one of those.
        The following is a meditation, circulated to friends, after the collision of trauma and joy surrounding my youngest’s wedding. I did not realize until now that these events from 14 years ago coincided with International Women’s Day.

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No resurrection by proxy

What 8-year-old Amelia Meyer has to teach us about Lenten arrangements that lead to life’s flourishing

by Ken Sehested

        My vote for this Lent’s saint of the season is 8-year-old Amelia Meyer of Kansas City. Given the current electoral charade, with its evisceration of democratic traditions, her testimony couldn’t come at a better time.

        I learned of her story in a most mundane setting. My lunchtime habit is to heat up leftovers, or smear apple slices with peanut butter, and watch television news channels or sporting reports while eating. Occasionally, when all of those have simultaneous commercials, I flip to CNN’s “Headline News” for an update on “trending” styles and the subjects of public gossip. (You should try it—it can get pretty funny.)

        However, I was sitting in stunned silence, with moist eyes, by the end of a very brief profile of Amelia, my memory turning to Isaiah’s incredulous insistence that, in the end, “a child shall lead.” Read more ›

Remembering in a different way

A meditation on communion, forgiveness and reconciliation's labor, inspired by Isaiah 43:16-21

by Ken Sehested

I had a dream. We were in Sunday’s circle, settled in our motley gaggle of chairs, some fabric, some stained; some vinyl, some torn,

Huddled ’round an ordinary, store-bought Formica-topped table, of folding legs, covered in cloth and adorned with host and cup and candles burning,

Lit in remembrance of ones dear but too-long absent, Read more ›

Mamrean encounter

A meditation on the threat of refugees, the burden of strangers and the bounty of God

by Ken Sehested

Eons ago, “the Lord”—in the guise of three traveling
strangers—ventured into Abraham’s and Sarah’s
oaken camp at *Mamre, were given hospitality, and
then announced the promise of a fertile womb beyond all conceivable prospect.

Today, that same angelic presence peers through the eyes of yet more strangers, waylaid on some new Jericho Road, modern refugees from Cain's ancient madness, and
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Deepening the Call

A wilderness fast in opposition to a "Desert Storm"

by Ken Sehested

The following was published in February 1991 by the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America (BPFNA), along with the names of 1,700 individuals who earlier formally endorsed  the “Call to Prayer and Fasting” action sponsored by the BPFNA as one response of resistance to “Desert Storm,” the U.S.-led war against Iraq. This material was originally delivered at Prescott Memorial Baptist Church, Memphis, Tenn., on Wednesday evening, February 13, 1991, as part of the church’s Ash Wednesday service.

            Two months ago we urged members of the Baptist Peace Fellowship (and any others who would join us) to engage in daily prayer and weekly fasting. We issued a document entitled “All Things Are Possible: Call to Prayer & Fasting.” Its purposes were to mobilize and amplify the voice of Baptists and others who opposed the prospect of war in the Middle East, to affirm diplomatic initiatives to resolve the conflict, and to suggest creative, practical and redemptive ways for Christians to express their convictions.

            The purpose of this new “Deepening the Call” statement is to encourage those who have already given their endorsement to continue in their prayer and fasting disciplines; and to urge those who have not yet committed themselves to do so. Read more ›

From ecstasy to epilepsy

A Transfiguration Sunday sermon

by Ken Sehested
Text: Luke 9:28-43

            Once upon a time, Chris Semper and I both lived about an hour southwest of New Orleans, so we know about the significance of this time of year in South Louisiana. (TO CHRIS: Did you go to a lot of Mardi Gras parades?) The parades in New Orleans go on for more than a week; and lots of smaller towns down the bayous had at least one parade, all leading up to “Fat Tuesday,” the day before Ash Wednesday.

            Mardi Gras is almost synonymous with “revelry.” Partying. Excessively so, in some cases. Bourbon Street, in the heart of the French Quarter and ground zero for Mardi Gras festivities, is appropriately named. Read more ›

Realm of earth, rule of Heaven

Bodified faith and environmental activism

by Ken Sehested

        The greatest failure in the history of Christian thought is the separation of souls from bodies, spirit from soil, the wrenching of hearts from habitation—all representing the abdication of the realm of earth from the rule of Heaven. It is the great anthropomorphic heresy: that redemption is for humans alone, and then only for some ethereal essence: no bodies, no biology, no hills or dales, neither minnows nor whales.

        As Tom McMillan has noted, for 200 years we've been conquering nature. Now we're beating it to death. To be saved we must cultivate a bodified faith.

        Mostly, communities of faith, along with others, have largely acquiesced in the profiteers’ auction of oceans and forests, fields and fowl, to the highest bidder. Among its elite are the environmental gangsters and their bankster backers in the fossil fuel industry. (Though, forego all moral posturing—we all drink from a common pool of blindness. The focus of repentance is not punishment but reparation.) Read more ›

Conscientious objection

Stories of faith from veterans

Few testimonies about nonviolence are stronger than those from war veterans. Our friends at the Mennonite Central Committee's Peace Education Office have compiled the following online resources. (For those who work with young people: These would be excellent resources for discussion, particularly for those approaching the age of mandatory Selective Service registration.)

•Reflections from Iraq War veteran Ben Peters. Six video clips (each 4-7 minutes long) with study guide for high school students/adults.  Ben discusses the identity-shaping experiences of boot camp, his struggles with post traumatic stress syndrom, the question of whether violence can be redemptive, biblical frameworks and more.  Ben is thoughtful, articulate and a compelling presenter.  

•Reflections from Iraq War veteran Logan Mehl-Laituri and Marine Joe Gibson. 
Five video clips that feature reflections on conscientious objection, moral injury and contrasts between the call of the armed forces and the call of God.

•Reflections from Iraq War veteran and Abu Ghraib interrogator, Joshua Casteel. One video clip featuring a remarkable story of Joshua's encounter with a Saudi jihadist in an interrogation room about the Sermon on the Mount, the cycle of vengeance and more.  It was a life-changing encounter for Joshua that led him out of the military. Read more ›