Pentecostal Passion: A Poem by Ken Sehested
My friend, Rev. Ken Sehested, is a bit of an odd duck. (No wonder we’re friends. 🙂 ) A Texas Baptist by conviction and upbringing, he swam upstream enough to quit football when a student at Baylor so that he could devote more time to his studies! (A male athlete voluntarily quitting FOOTBALL–the REAL dominant religion of the South–in order to be more studious is unheard of in the South. In Texas, the debate would be over whether to call in the psychiatrists or begin a heresy trial!) He then bucked tradition further by studying for the ministry NOT in one of the six Southern Baptist seminaries, but in the ecumenical Union Theological Seminary, a school with a reputation for liberalism in that most un-Southern of places, NEW YORK CITY! He not only married a woman minister (Rev. Nancy Hastings Sehested), but put her calling first–moving to her pastoral placements in Atlanta, then Memphis, and, finally, Asheville, SC. Ken was the founding Director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and led that fine organization for two decades. Today, is one third of a co-equal pastoral team (along with Joyce Hollyday and Nancy Hastings Sehested) of the ecumenical congregation, Circle of Mercy, in Asheville, NC–a self-declared peace church jointly affiliated with the United Church of Christ and the Alliance of Baptists. Ken is also a poet and writer on theologically-related topics. This poem of Ken’s was inspired by his study of Ezekiel 34:1-14; Acts 2:17; Romans 8:22.
Pentecostal power has little to do with
exaggerated religious emotion. But
such power, when granted,
has everything to do
with passion, with conviction.
It’s not your head that
you lose4–it’s your heart,
which falls head-over-heals
in love with the vision of dry bones
re-sinewed and aspired to life.
When such power erupts, they
probably will call you crazy.
“Have you lost your mind?!”
Yes, we will say, because
these days the mind has
become acclimated to a culture
of war; has become inured to
the ravages of poverty in a culture
of obesity; has become numb
to ecological wreckage.
When Pentecostal power erupts, all
heaven’s gonna break loose.
The boundaries will be compromised;
barriers will be broken; and
borders will be breached.
Economies of privilege will be fractured
and the politics of enmity will be impeached.
The revenge of the Beloved is the
reversal of Babel’s bequest.
“I will pour out my Spirit,”
says the LORD; Poured out
not for escape to another
world beyond the sky but
here, amid the dust. Poured out
not on disembodied spirits but
“upon all flesh.” It is to the
agony of abandonment that Heaven
is aroused. Queer the One Who
fashions a future for the disfavored.
The groaning of creation is both
an ache and an assurance. We
dare not insulate ourselves from
the one, lest we be deafened to
the other. Birth is at work.
Though the labor is prolonged,
provision is tendered.
Pentecostal power is the wherewithal
by which we wager our lives on
the surety of this promise.
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