Forgiveness is not forgetting

Charleston's challenge

by Ken Sehested

        In the surge writing following the massacre at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the most significant may be Roxane Gay’s “Why I Can’t Forgive Dylann Roof.”  (Stacey Patton has a similar piece in The Washington Post, "Black America should stop forgiving white racists.") I think it most significant not because I agree but because it states what so many feel because of a culturally-warped reading of Scripture.

        Gay realizes that this counterfeit forgiveness is a form of cruelty to victims. All she says is true—but not true enough.

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Building a Culture of Peace: An Interfaith Agenda

“New faces: Charlotte’s Growing Interfaith Community” sponsored by Mecklenburg Ministries, Programa Esperanza, Community Relations Committee and International Ministries
Tuesday, 13 November 2001, First United Methodist Church, Charlotte, NC

by Ken Sehested

       In the 19th chapter of the gospel of Luke, in the Christian Newer Testament, is this brief transition narrative as Jesus approaches Jerusalem. He’s near the end of his career and is prepared for a showdown with the ruling elites of the age. And you should know that Luke purposefully arranges this episode immediately before the story of Jesus’ outburst in the Temple, where he turns over the money-changers’ tables, a notorious racket whereby corrupt religious authorities colluded with unscrupulous entrepreneurs to exploit poor and working-class people during their expression of religious fidelity and devotion.

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Speak out clearly, pay up personally

The purpose, promise and peril of interfaith engagement

by Ken Sehested, Lynn Gottlieb, and Rabia Terri Harris

        In the early weeks of 2011, during the Arab Spring uprising, Egyptian blogger Nevine Zaki posted a photograph from Cairo’s Tahrir Square. It showed a group of people bowing in the traditional style of Muslim prayer, surrounded by other people standing hand-in-hand, facing outward, as a wall of protection against hostile pro-government forces. Zaki affixed this caption: “A picture I took yesterday of Christians protecting Muslims during their prayers.”

        Similar scenes—some ancient, some as recent as yesterday’s newspaper—have been arranged in a host of ways with a variety of religious identities. No religious tradition can claim a monopoly on compassionate courage. And yet such snapshots remain rare.

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“Stingy spenders hold back growth”

Is it a trivial matter to complain about such screamer headlines?

by Ken Sehested

       “Stingy spenders hold back growth.” So reads the title of a recent USA Today business section story reporting that “penny-pinching consumers tainted” otherwise robust economic indicators.

        Is it a trivial matter to complain about such screamer headlines?

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There is a new creation

The Apostle Paul’s vision of the ministry of reconciliation

by Ken Sehested

So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:
everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ,
and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;
that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself,
not counting their trespasses against them,
and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.
2 Corinthians 5:17-19

        Few things are more uniform among Baptist churches the world over than Sunday school. Many are surprised to learn that this organized form of Bible study began in Britain in the 18th century. And its specific purpose was to provide literacy training for poor children. It was a ministry of reconciliation in an age when industrialization was deepening the chasm of poverty.

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Are the poor “always with us”?

Brief commentary on a fatalistic reading of an ancient text

       My hometown paper, the Asheville Citizen-Times, recently ran an editorial arguing that poverty is not inevitable. The following was my response, printed as a letter to the editor.

        Wednesday’s AC-T editorial (“The cycle of poverty is not inevitable”) offers a compelling rebuttal to the notion that poverty is preordained. One reference, however, repeats a popular misreading of ancient authority: “Many who are not poor accept the biblical maxim that the poor will always be with us. . . .”

        The “maxim” in Deuteronomy 15:11 (referenced by Jesus, in three of the Gospels, for other purposes) is the premise for this conclusion: “I therefore command you, ‘Open your hand to the poor and needy.’”

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Bowling in Baghdad

Which memorial will guide?

by Ken Sehested, Memorial Day 2015

The Al-Fanar Hotel restaurant was bustling when I walked in. I sat with a new friend, Charles, a professional photojournalist and fellow Iraq Peace Team member. There were about 40 of us, split between three hotels in downtown Baghdad on the banks of the Tigris River. This was February 2003, in the weeks leading up to the “shock and awe” invasion.

We were monitoring the effects of U.N. sanctions and providing an alternative account to that of the mainstream media’s war promotion. The trip was not undertaken lightly, given the impending invasion, along with the threat by our own government of prison sentences and steep fines for breaching the U.S. travel ban.

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After the ecstasy, the laundry

Ken Sehested
Texts: Isaiah 6:1-8; Psalm 29; John 3:1-17


         It was the first football game of my senior year of high school. We traveled west-by-northwest, paralleling the Louisiana coastline, to New Iberia, where that bottle of spicy Tabasco sauce in your kitchen cabinet was made.

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Lovers in Dangerous Times

Ken Sehested
Text: Romans 8:12-25

“We are lovers in dangerous times.” —Bruce Cochburn

“Faith is not belief in spite of the evidence. Faith is life lived in scorn of the consequences.” —Clarence Jordan

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The Promise of Pentecost

A sermon for Pentecost

by Ken Sehested
Texts: Acts 2:1-21; Ezekiel 37:1-14; Romans 8:22-23

      Word association: What images or associations come to your mind when you hear the word “Pentecostal”?

      Three texts intersect for today’s service:

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