“Bloom in New Beginnings: Love is a Song” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

December 16th,2021 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter

Beloved Friends,

I hope that this advent has found you preparing with hope, peace, joy, and now love, to move toward new things. The newness of the Christ child is near, the new year is just two weeks away, and new traditions as we hit our second pandemic Christmas are settling in. New can be beautiful but it can also be hard as certain types of newness, like loss, carries immense grief and sadness. This Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Advent, the Sunday of Love, and I know that is so needed this time of year for each and every one of us. It can be hard to care well for yourself as you navigate the deep emotions of this season with the more joyous spirit of the holidays. If you are experiencing loss or navigating grief in this time, know that we are here for you. Please do reach out. It is in the spirit of holding each other close in prayer that I ask you to keep our brother David Sookai (our Dir. of Finance and Building Manager) and his family in your prayers.  David’s beloved father, Rampersaud, passed away this week and his family is now navigating the sadness of this new loss. Funeral information is available please email me or Stephanie Wilson for that information. Our community also joins in prayer with the families of the incomparable professor, author, and activist, bell hooks and the peerless historian, mentor, author and brilliant critic of art, music, and so much more- Greg Tate, as they grieve the loss of their loved ones. All three of these losses deeply affect The Park community in both unique and shared ways. They will be missed and remembered always.  I am so grateful for the way this community cares for each other in every season of life.

While this week has been sad and challenging in so many ways, we also know God created us with depth and complexity capable of holding and containing multitudes. Between loving memories and sad goodbyes, I found myself in my bathroom this morning singing along to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” as it played from a car nearby. We have hit that time of year where I find myself singing into hairbrushes, broomsticks, and pen caps anytime the spirit moves me to sing. Christmas Music is filling the streets, the stores, the commercials, and even my favorite podcast. Music can be such a blessing to healing, have you noticed that? I am curious what your favorite Christmas or holiday song is? If you email me, I will put together a playlist to share in next week’s newsletter so that we all might share in the love of Christ through our community’s favorite songs. Speaking of songs, this Sunday is a special service of music and scripture. It will be one you won’t want to miss. It will look a little different than our normal Sundays, but if you are the type of person who likes to sing along to incredible music, then be sure to grab your mic (or whatever you use in your home – hello wooden kitchen spoon!) and be sure to join us at 11 am.

Because there is such rich and deep scripture to accompany this Sunday’s worship and there is more than we usually have in worship, I am not going to try and address them all in this newsletter. Instead, this week (and next week) we have four separate scripture readings for each of our worships, so, I am going to simply invite you to read them and let the spirit move you.

And as the Spirit moves you, hold onto to these questions:

Do any of these scriptures read like a song?
How does music inform your faith?
How does God use music?
What does love mean to you?
How do you give and receive love?
What does God’s love feel like?

Let us read now these passages holding onto the love of God and the music that is abundant in God’s beautiful creation.

1 Samuel 1:19-28
19 Hannah and Elkanah rose early in the morning and bowed down and worshiped before the HOLY ONE OF OLD; then they turned back and went to their house at Ramah, Elkanah knew his wife Hannah, and the HOLY ONE remembered her, 20 And it was with the turning of the days that Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son. She called his name Samuel (God hears), for she said, “From the GOD WHO HEARS have I asked him.”

21 Now the man Elkanah went up along with his whole household to offer to the HOLY ONE the yearly sacrifice, on account of a vow; 22 Yet Hannah did not go up, for she said to her husband, “[Not] until the child is weaned, then will I bring him, that he may be seen in the presence of the MOST HIGH and remain there perpetually, I will present him as a nazirite in perpetuity, for all the days of his life.” 23 Her husband Elkanah said to her, “Do what is best in your eyes, stay until you have weaned him. May the FAITHFUL GOD establish the words your mouth.” So, the woman remained and nursed her son until she weaned him. 24 And she took him up with her after she had weaned him along with a three-year-old bull, an ephah of flour, and a jug of wine. Hannah brought him to the house of the EVER-LIVING GOD at Shiloh and the boy was just a little boy, 25 Then they slaughtered the bull, and they brought the boy to Eli, 26 And Hannah said, “My lord! As you live, my lord, I am the woman, the one who was standing beside you in this (place] to pray to the GOD WHO HEARS. 27 For this boy I prayed; and the FAITHFUL GOD gave me my asking, what I asked from God. 28 Therefore have I bequeathed him to the GRACIOUS GOD; all his days will he be a bequest to the GOD WHOSE NAME IS HOLY.”

So, she left him there and she bowed down and worshipped the FAITHFUL GOD.

Canticle of Hannah (1 Samuel 2:1-10)
1 Hannah prayed and she said,
“My heart exults in the HOLY ONE OF OLD;
my horn is lifted up in my God.
My mouth (opens] wide against my enemies,
for I will rejoice in my victory.
2 “There is none holy like the MOST HIGH,
none besides you;
there is no rock like our God.
3 Speak proudly no more, multiplying pride,
nor let arrogance come from your mouth;
for the AGELESS GOD is a God of knowledge,
and by God deeds are accounted.
4 The bows of the mighty are broken,
yet the feeble gird on warrior-strength.
5 Those who were full have hired themselves out for bread.
yet those who were hungry are fat.
She who was barren has birthed seven children,
yet she who has many children languishes.
6 The CREATOR OF ALL kills and gives life;
brings down to Sheol and raises up.
7 The GRACIOUS ONE makes poor and makes rich;
brings low and also lifts up.
8 God raises the poor from the dust,
and lifts the needy from heaps of human waste,
to seat them with nobles and inherit a seat of honor.
For to the CREATOR belong the pillars of the earth,
and on them God has set the world.
9 God will guard the feet of the faithful who belong to God,
while the wicked perish in shadow;
for it is not by might that one prevails.
Those who strive against God shall be shattered;
God thunders against them from heaven.
The FOUNT OF JUSTICE will judge the ends of the earth;
God will give strength to God’s ruler,
and exalt the power of the anointed of God.”

Titus 3:4
When the graciousness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 God saved us through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to God’s mercy, 6 This Spirit God poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by God’s grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of life eternal.

Matthew 1:18
Now this is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah happened: When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, but before they care together, she was found to have child in her womb from the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph her husband was a just man and unwilling to shame her; he wanted to divorce her secretly, 20 But when he deliberated this, suddenly an angel of the Most High God appeared to him in a dream and said, Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for in her is conceived a child from the Holy Spirit, 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” 22 All this happened to fulfill/what had been spoken by the Most High God through the prophet:
23 “Look now! The virgin shall conceive a child in her womb and give birth to a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel”

which translated means, “God is with us” 24 When Joseph got up from sleep, he did as the angel of the Most High God commanded him. He took her as his wife, 25 yet did not know her sexually until her birching of a son and named him Jesus.

Friends, may you always know that you are the melody and the lyric and the beat of God’s most precious song and you are so deeply loved.

Shalom Y’all,
Rev. Stephanie

Simple Prayer: O Holy One, Thank you for loving us in our wholeness. Amen.