The latest US-Iran dust-up

Reckless baiting . . . again

by Ken Sehested

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer . . . who says Cyrus [“the Great,” 6th century BCE ruler of Persia,
modern day Iran, who freed the Jews from Babylonian captivity] is my shepherd and he shall carry out
all my purpose” for he is my “anointed” [the same word later used for Jesus in the Newer Testament].
—Isaiah 44:28-45:1

It’s quite possible that the last two days’ headlining spat between the US and Iran may be Trump’s desire to distract public attention from his domestic challenges. It is not inconceivable that, as some are saying, he’s willing to go to war with Iran in order to get reelected.

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Ten quotes from Rachel Held Evans

(Feel free to add yours)

"Rachel Held Evans, a well-known Christian blogger, author, and joyful troublemaker online, died on Saturday [4 May 2019] from massive brain swelling after being hospitalized for an infection, according to her family. She was 37. Evans leaves behind two little kids, a husband, and four books to her name. Her death has been met with an up-swelling of grief and appreciation from loyal readers, famous pastors who sparred with her, and, especially, young people who saw her as a mentor." —continue reading Emma Green, "Rachel Held Evans, Hero to Christian Misfits," Atlantic

Here is a quick roundup of my top 10 quotes from her faithful heart and creative hand. —kls

• “Imagine if every church became a place where everyone is safe but no one is comfortable. Help us to hold one another to the truth.”

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Jesus wasn’t lynched because he talked about getting right with God

A Holy Week meditation*

by Ken Sehested
Maundy Thursday 2019

        The week beginning with Palm Sunday and ending with Easter Eve is arguably the most volatile and conflicted period on the liturgical calendar. Even the lectionary suggestions for Scripture readings gives the options of celebrating a coronation or lamenting a crucifixion. Do we give priority to the cross or the crown?

§  §  §

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Earth Day – The link between Easter and Pentecost

Pacem, pacem, pacem in terris

by Ken Sehested

Easter’s focus is always sharper when allied with Earth Day. We sing, properly, of being wayfaring strangers. “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor” (Deuteronomy 26:5) is among the oldest testimonies of fate and faith. An alternate translation—“A Syrian ready to perish was my ancestor”—brings added poignancy to the text.

We are indeed strangers; but not foreigners. In common usage these two words seem similar. Biblically speaking, though, the theological difference could not be greater.

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The prowess of Resurrection’s promise

A Holy Week meditation

by Ken Sehested
6 April 2016

“I shall wrassle me up a future or die trying.”
—Zora Neale Hurston, African-American novelist and folklorist
(and daughter of a Baptist preacher)

        Dustin Johnson is currently at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking. Talking about his talent, both physical and mental, one of his colleagues commented in an ESPN interview, “He’s fearless. It’s like he doesn’t really care if he wins or loses.”

        Obviously, that’s hyperbole. I’m sure Johnson does in fact enjoy winning. But the comment underscores something very important: Maybe Johnson’s greatest asset is not allowing the fear of losing to dominate his play.

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The war in Yemen

Why it matters*

by Ken Sehested
*For more background, see the 11 April 2019 (No. 190) issue of “Signs of the Times.”

        The news was easy to miss. I saw it in several media, but never “above the fold” or in the opening lineup of topics for cable news shows. And there is reason to debate how significant the news is, depending on your level of political optimism or pessimism.

        But the fact that Congress recently voted to exercise its never-before-used War Powers Act to cut off US funding for the Saudi-led  war in Yemen is at least unusual. The face that both the House and the Senate approved the measure is significant; though the margin in the Senate makes it unlikely they can override an anticipated veto by President Trump.

        Created in 1973, after the disclosure of a mountain of governmental lies deployed to sustain the war in Vietnam, the Act was supposed to return to Congress the constitutional mandate for declaring war. The Act has gathered dust ever since, despite the fact that the US has undertaken military action in at least 14 countries since then, including the war in Afghanistan, which has now lasted nearly as long as all our other wars combined.

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Blessed are you if you do them

Maundy Thursday’s mandate

by Ken Sehested
A 2018 Maundy Thursday sermon

        Last Friday several of the youth in our congregation joined several others from another congregation in our city, making the long drive to Washington, DC, to take part in Saturday’s “March For Our Lives” rally against gun violence.

        My wife Nancy, Circle of Mercy’s co-pastor, met them at the rendezvous point to offer a blessing on their journey. She said two things.

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What a friend

The influence—for good and ill—of the Wesleyan tradition of faith

by Ken Sehested

Correction. In the original post of this commentary, I mistakenly attributed authorship
of "What a Friend We Have In Jesus." The correct author is Joseph M. Scriven.
That's a big goof on my part—but an instructive one, since the story behind
Scriven's writing is a dramatic and compelling narrative. I've posted
a summary at the bottom of this page.

The recent decision by the United Methodist Church policymakers to retain (and harden) its rejection of lgbtq pastors and matrimonial blessings is, for many inside and out of that confessional body, a bitter pill. The news prompted me to push everything aside and compose a pastoral note. (“A humble word of encouragement to my Wesleyan friends: On the United Methodist Church’s General Conference decision to ostracize queerfolk")

It also made me switch gears entirely for this issue of “Signs of the Times” [1 March 2019 #188], to provide some background on John Wesley’s influence in directly molding one significant stream in the Christian tradition and influencing many others.

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The imposition of Ash Wednesday

by Ken Sehested

           The imposition of Ash Wednesday, inaugurating the practice of Lenten lament, is the preparation for and anticipation of the exultation of Easter Morning.

            The ashen smudge is not accusation but recognition of our frenzied and frantic efforts at braggadocios living; it is the call to reclaim our true selves in the leisure of Sabbath’s composure aligned with Creation’s intent.

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