‘Pentecostal Passion,’ prayerful poetry from a peacemaker

“TO THE PENECOST” This 1902 painting by Sergei Korovin was produced under the rule of czarist Russia, yet the painting’s title echoed lines from Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. Before his untimely death in a duel at age 37, Pushkin himself had trouble with czarist authorities for his biting commentary on the Russian ruling class. A major theme in Eugene Onegin is the selfish lack of compassion among Russian nobility for anyone who is suffering.For Pentecost 2012, we welcome back peacemaker, poet and pastor Ken Sehested, who was the founding director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America. Ken’s story and some of Ken’s writing are included in Daniel Buttry’s new Blessed Are the Peacemakers.
Ken currently is pastor of the Circle of Mercy congregation in Ashevile, North Carolina, with his wife Nancy Sehested and Joyce Holiday.

For Pentecost this year, Ken sent us one his poems that voice Psalm-like prayers. In this case, Ken echoes Ezekiel 34:1-14, Acts 2:17 and Romans 8:22. (Care to learn more about the centuries-old Christian observance? Read Stephanie Fenton’s holiday column on Pentecost.)
And, from the poet, here is …

Pentecostal Passion


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 mind that
you lose—it’s your heart,
which falls head-over-heels
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.


Want more on Ken, social justice and peacemaking?

Find peace in your reading—and group discussions—this summer:
Consider learning about Daniel Buttry’s Blessed Are the Peacemakers. (The book includes more about Ken Sehested and his work.)

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Originally published at readthespirit.com, an online magazine covering religion and cultural diversity.

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