The Quelling Word: Emancipation is Still Coming

By Ken Sehested

Written against the backdrop of New Year’s Eve services, 1862, when African Americans gathered to await news of US President Abraham Lincoln’s promised Emancipation Proclamation. Inspired by Revelation 21:1-6a, lectionary text for the New Year’s Eve Watch Night service.

The angel breaks with Heaven’s hail!

from Joy’s horizon on every weary heart,

amid that unruly, precarious land beyond

where cheery sentiment stalls and merry,

bright roads end. Now, in terrain beyond all

mapping, the adventure begins. No warranty

reaches this far. Creature comforts here are

few, risks are high, and danger surrounds.

Here winded Breath calls to bended knee

with promises of ecstasy and manna’s

fragile provision. Here water clefts rocks to

slake desperate thirst. Chained, tamed hearts

will never survive, deprived as they are of

Mercy’s solvent power to undo generations-old

resentments, driven deep by fear’s reflexive

habit into armed entrenchments. The

temptation is strong to abandon earth’s rancor

in favor of Heaven’s rapture. Yet from Joy’s

horizon storms the quelling word: Heaven’s

abode is anchored in earth’s tribulation.

The proclamation has been rendered;

incarnation, tendered; emancipation,

though delayed, will not finally be hindered.

Misery’s tearful eye will glisten with elation;

mournful cries shall rise in thankful jubilation.

Despoiling death itself will yield to adoration.

Behold! All things—from earth’s bounded

borders to Heaven’s blissful shore—stand

destined under Glory to be made new.

The quelling word to a quarreling world:

Come home. Come home.

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Ken Sehested is curator of, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action.

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