“Bloom with Grace: Follow Me” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

January 14th,2021 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter
Beloved Church,

I continue to pray that you all find spaces of rest and joy in your days. With everything going on it is important that you rest so that you can continue. The work that is required in this life- justice, community, love, etc.- seem simple in theory, yet as we know take incredible emotional and physical effort. So, taking care of yourself, finding times to renew your spirit and recharge your body, is part of the work. And while this year feels much older than two weeks, it’s a reminder that we are in this work for the long haul. For me, I found great renewal in our YASS gathering on Sunday where 11 of us gathered to laugh and lament in community. I was also moved by our Bloom with Community gathering last night and have become more aware at the way my body reflects the shape of my spirit. What a gift it is to be in this community. If you want to join any of the ministries of the Park (You are welcome to all of them!) please be sure to email Stephanie Wilson. This week we have Soulfood Fellowship, Bloom in Prayer training for Deacons, and Bloom in Conversation.

About 10 years ago, I was living in Los Angeles in an apartment building that felt like a family. We all had keys to each other’s apartments and on more than one occasion I would wake up to one of my neighbors making coffee in my kitchen because they had run out. We were all so close we called each other roommates rather than neighbors. When I started going to church, I slowly started to invite my roommates as I felt called. One was invited after a long discussion about faith and our childhood; another invited months later when they were looking for some organ music to help inspire their work. I invited my friends into the church as the Spirit led. And even though most of us have moved away from that home, we all still attend church and follow Jesus.

I was reminded of this time in my life when reading this week’s scripture. The first time I brought guests to the church, I said “Follow me,” several times- excited to share with my roommates my spiritual home. This is the same language that Jesus uses to gather the apostles in today’s text. And while I was not asking my roommates to follow me spiritually- what the invitation actually did was say, “Follow me to a place that you are spiritually safe to grow in your faith and relationship with Jesus.” The church has done a lot of harm to God’s beloved people, my roommates had been victims of that harm, but with a simple invitation to “follow me”- an invitation from Jesus to all of us- we can start to heal and grow and find our people with whom God is calling us to journey.

So, let’s read together these words from the Gospel of John where Jesus starts to gather his people.

The next day, after Jesus had decided to leave for Galilee, he met Philip and said, “Follow me.”  Philip came from Bethsaida, the same town as Andrew and Peter.

Philip sought out Nathanael and said to him, “We’ve found the One that Moses spoke of in the Law, the One about whom the prophets wrote: Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary and Joseph.”

 “From Nazareth?” said Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

“Come and see,” replied Philip. 

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he remarked, “This one is a real Israelite. There is no guile in him.”
John 1:43-47 (ILB)/ Juan 1:43-47 (NVI)

Friends, who is your person that said, “Follow me?” Have you been that person for others? The Park is a special place where truth is spoken, justice sought, and love expected. And it continues to be that way because we lean into the divinity of diversity that is sewn into the fabric of our faith and community. So, in this new year I invite you to look for “Follow Me” moments. Spaces and people that need the explicit invitation to join God’s beloved community. Because Jesus didn’t stop at 12 Disciples and we won’t stop either. I am so grateful that you are mine and that I am yours and that we are all God’s beloved.

Shalom Yall,
Rev. Stephanie

A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, I will follow you. Amen