“Commit to Healing: All the Flowers” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

October 17th,2019 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter
Beloved Church,

With the murder of Atatiana Jefferson in her home, this week has been hard for so many of us, so my message this week is one I hope encourages you to find the time to care for yourself. Remember our commitment phrase of October is, “I commit to my wholeness.” Last week we lifted up so many communities with love and value yet seems this week did everything it could to knock us back down. I don’t mean to be grim, just honest. But we worship a God of resurrection. So, dear friends, know that the living God of grace and love, is with you always and will see you through every step of your journey. Your pastors are here for you as well. Take care of yourself. We hope to see you Sunday for worship.

This week’s scripture comes to us from the book of Luke. And in light of last week’s multiple national and international days of celebration I read this text through a new lens. Each day that we lifted up a specific group (Coming Out Day for LGBTQIA+ people, Indigenous Peoples, Day of the Girl, etc.) I read a multitude of varying narratives and stories. Each story shared painted a picture of someone’s life and experience that helped me continuously break down the monolithic definition of that group that I had in my head and help me widen the working definition I have of what it means to be a person identified within that group. For example, we all have a working understanding of what it means to be a flower. But a flower that lives its whole life secluded on a mountain, and a flower that is cut for a bouquet in a hospital room, have two very different experiences. And when we read these different stories, we get a vaster – a more whole- understanding of God’s diverse creation. This broader understanding led my reading of this week’s scripture. Let’s see if it does the same for you:

10 “Two people went up to the Temple to pray; one
was a Pharisee, the other a tax collector. 11
The Pharisee stood and prayed like this: ‘I give you thanks,
O God, that l’m not like others-greedy, crooked, adulterous—
or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week.
I pay tithes on everything I earn.’

13 “The other one, however, kept a distance, not even daring
to look up to heaven. In real humility, all the tax collector
said was, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ 14 Believe me,
the tax collector went home from the Temple right with God,
while the Pharisee didn’t. For those who exalt themselves
will be humbled, while those who humble themselves will
be exalted.” (Luke 18:10-14)

I don’t know about you, but I have a very distinct picture in my head of what it means to be a “Pharisee” and a “Tax Collector.” And yet with this story, I am reminded that we are more than the labels that come with our social location or our jobs. Not only are we more than what society has placed on us, we are often more than the labels we place on ourselves. The good thing is that God created each of us as beautifully diverse and intersectional people whether we can see it or not. What that matters is that God can see it. And if we commit ourselves to being present and loving members of God’s community, then we are better able to see it too.

Friends, what labels do you identify with and what labels does God use for you? What do you have to do in your life to use those labels for yourself and what needs to be addressed for you to see God’s labels in others? This is all a part of the journey of wholeness that we are taking together- with God. A journey I am so grateful to be on. Take care of yourself and others, little flower, and remember you are more than any label that may be placed on you.

Shalom Y’all,
Rev. Stephanie

A quick prayer for your week: God, help me see all that you created me to be. Amen