Conflicting Memorials: The Lord’s Table of Remembrance vs. The Nation’s Vow of Preeminence

Ken SehestedBy Ken Sehested

My earliest memory of Memorial Day is of my Dad, puttering in his garage shop (he was a mechanic and jack-of-all-trades fixer-upper) on a rare day off from work, listing to the Indianapolis 500 car race on a portable radio. On one of those occasions I remember using a hammer, and the concrete garage floor, helping him straighten nails for reuse.

Both my parents were children of the Depression. Thrift was a primal virtue even when it was no longer a necessity.

I have no doubt Dad would silently recall some of his war-time experience while enduring the monotony of listening to race cars doing 200 laps around an oval track at speeds in excess of 200 mph. He managed to survive being in the first wave of troops landing at Omaha Beach in the 1944 D-Day invasion of Europe, though I can remember only once in my life when he talked about those days. I was an adult before I knew he carried a bit of 88mm German artillery shrapnel, bone-embedded, behind his right ear.
Continue reading

Pacem in terris: Easter, Earth Day, and Pentecost’s promise

prayer-politiks-logo-1x.pngBy Ken Sehested

Pacem, pacem, pacem in terris

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. Continue reading

Easter’s Aftermath

ResurrectionBy Ken Sehested, the editor and author of prayerandpolitiks.org, an online journal at the intersection of spiritual formation and prophetic action

Easter resurrection is never as assured
as the arrival of Easter bunnies.

Clothiers and chocolate-makers alike yearn
for the season no less than every cleric.

And yet, in my experience, the Spirit
rarely blows according to the calendar,
much less on demand. Continue reading

Lamentations’ call to arms

kenA poem inspired by the book of Lamentations (especially chapter three)

by Ken Sehested

Turn off (what passes for) the news.
Boycott the season’s electoral charades.
Don’t give in to Pokémon’s promise of
“augmented reality.” Attend instead to
unmitigated reality: bloodied, stricken
and strewn. Offer grief the hearing it
demands, the voice it obliges, and
the risk it assumes. Continue reading

The Labor of Lament

TearsBy Ken Sehested, of Prayer & Politiks, written for an ecumenical “Service of Lament and Healing” following the August 2014 killing of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, MO. Inspired by Ps 6:6; 42:3; 80:5; 102:9; Luke 7:38

Who among you believe that
grieving and lamentation
are symptoms of despair.
Not so!
Only the hopeless are silent
in the face of calamity—
silenced because they no
longer aspire even to be heard,
much less heeded. The labor
of lament, on the other hand,
is premised on the expectation
that grief’s rule will be bound
by the Advent of Another. Continue reading

Shoah

shoahFrom Ken Sehested of Prayer & Politiks:

Yom HaShoah (aka “Holocaust Remembrance Day,” more formally “Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Day”) is observed one week after the end of Passover, this year beginning at sundown on Wednesday 15 April, the date linked to the anniversary of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Increasingly, the word Shoah (“calamity”) is preferred because holocaust has historical roots in the Hebrew word olah, meaning “completely burnt offering to God,” with the implication that Jews and other “undesirables” murdered by the Nazis during World War II were a sacrifice to God…

Sehested included this powerful quote from Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jew, Hillesum who died at age 29 in Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp, in 1943:

I have looked our destruction, our miserable end, straight in the eye and accepted it into my life, and my love of life has not been diminished. I am not bitter or rebellious, or in any way discouraged. . . . My life has been extended by death, by accepting destruction as part of life and no longer wasting my energies on fear of death or refusal to acknowledge its inevitability. It sounds paradoxical: by excluding death from our life we cannot live a full life, and by admitting death into our life we enlarge and enrich it.