Trouble is where we go

A sermon for Lent, following the death of my Mom

by Ken Sehested
Circle of Mercy Congregation, first Sunday of Lent 2020
Text: Matthew 4:1-11

(The first draft was written late night of 25 February 2020, Shrove Tuesday, following the death of my Mom early that morning.)

“Isn’t there anything you understand?
It’s from the ash heap God is seen.
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On the character of persistence

Elizabeth Warren and the schooling of US politics

by Ken Sehested
5 March 2020

I’m glad that Senator Elizabeth Warren did not cry in her press interview outside her home this afternoon, announcing she was dropping out of the race for the Democratic nominee for president. Because I was already on the verge of tears.

I have supported more losing candidates for political office than I care to admit. The immediate, sensory evidence of victory—for those pursuing the Beloved Community—is typically piecemeal and prelude. Read more ›

14 tentative conclusions on the U.S. presidential primary process

by Ken Sehested

1. Save us, Lord Jesus.

2. We reap what we sow. We have not sown righteously. Looking through a wide lens, we citizens really do get the politicians we deserve. We need to prepare for the possibility that things will get worse before it gets better—regardless of November’s election results.

3. We invest far too much in what happens in Washington, DC, or state capitols, or county seats, or city commissions. Long-term change begins with grunt work in neighborhoods. All politics—as former House Speaker Tip O’Neill said a lifetime ago—is local. Systemic change is dependent on the patient, persevering work of shifting the conversation in nearby streets. Read more ›

What to do when your grandchild’s Sunday school teacher is arrested?

by Ken Sehested

“Oh Lord, I’ve made you a place in my heart,
and I hope now you leave it alone.”
—Greg Brown, sung by Dar Williams, Richard Shindell & Lucy Kaplansky

It’s not what you think. (The arrest.) Nothing salacious or seedy here. My friend BJ was handcuffed for committing an act of civil disobedience to call attention to our worsening climate crisis. Read more ›

A Broadman Hymnal story

by Ken Sehested

The story begins on a Saturday, before dawn, while still in high school. I began my 12-hour shift of pumping gas, doing oil changes, and washing cars in my hometown along the South Louisiana bayous.

First thing when we opened was to transfer product displays and stacks of new tires outside. The radio was on—the station owner loved the Cajun and Zydeco music on the local station. Then the music stopped, momentarily, for a bit of news. The announcer was saying something about Martin Luther King Jr.

“That Martin Luther Coon, he ain’t no Christian,” Mr. Dediveaux muttered toward the radio in an emphatically derogatory tone. “Everywhere he go there’s trouble.” Read more ›

Storm coming

How to tell the truth about climate collapse without counseling despair

by Ken Sehested
23 September 2019

Stirred by correspondence with three friends, and punctuated by two historic events, the past week has been a whirlwind of emotions.

My good friend Greg is the smartest person I personally know when it comes to understanding the complex web of factors behind impending environmental collapse. He also has a keen moral vision. A high school math teacher, his convictions are rooted in spiritually-formed personal integrity. He’s taken part in dozens of environmental direct actions, including several stays in jail, for acts of civil disobedience. Read more ›

Hearts over heads

A Reformation Sunday story

by Ken Sehested

My wife Nancy and I were jointly ordained on Reformation Sunday, 1981, at Oakhurst Baptist Church in Decatur, Georgia. As you might guess, the choice of the date was intentional—not simply to align ourselves to that dissenting ecclesial movement of a half-millennium ago, but to affirm that the community of faith is always and everywhere called to reform and refine its vision and mission, to realign itself at the intersection of the abiding Word and the ever-shape-shifting words whose purpose are to confuse and deceive and vandalize the common good.

The days leading up to that Sunday were glad ones, with one misgiving. My parents made a long car trip to be present for the occasion, and we didn’t know how my traditional-minded Dad was going to take being present for a woman’s ordination.

There was no doubt that he adored Nancy—elegant, funny, generous, not to mention beautiful. In fact, Dad’s opinion of me improved significantly when we married. He would never say as much, but I imagined him thinking, “If a quality person like Nancy thinks he’s pretty good, my boy must be OK.” Read more ›

Dream On

Martin Luther King Jr., the Beloved Community and post-holiday resolve

by Ken Sehested

        The needs of a beloved had me racing to the emergency room late Monday evening, near the end of Dr. King’s birth-honoring holiday. Then, often enough, comes the tedious waiting, including finding things to occupy your time when the hours drag on. My eyes fell on one of those large monitors that crowd the walls of every room. When not in use by medical personnel, it reverted to a series of in-house hospital notices.

        One wished a “happy holiday” (likely irritating the “Merry Christmas” culture-warring patrons). Another reminded staff of new parking regulations. Another solicited volunteers for the hospital chorus which performs at special occasions; another warned about “medication diversion,” referencing the epidemic of prescription drug misuse; another announced the hospital’s medical insurance plan.

        The one that really engaged my attention was a message urging staff to nominate candidates for the hospital’s “Spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Award.” (The deadline was a week earlier, so this one and the “happy holidays” note suggest the communications team was still on holiday.) Read more ›

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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