“Commit to Speak Up: Love Your Neighbor” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

July 18th,2019 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter

Beloved Church,

I hope this week has loved you well. Mid July is always a time in which it seems like the city takes a collective breath and slows down. I love this time in the city. It feels like a time of preparation. A time that says rest so that you don’t have to stop. I hope you are taking the city’s lead and resting so that you can sustain yourself with the help of God. This week is also the week where some of us are headed to Des Moines, IA for the Disciples of Christ General Assembly. Much like the UCC Synod where Pastor Kaji preached the opening worship, General Assembly is where the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) gather to go over new business with old friends and reimagine old ministries with new partnerships and support. It is a great time and I look forward to sharing what I learned and was inspired by, with each of you.

These last few weeks I have been actively cheering on the US Women’s National Team in the FIFA World Cup. The very first game I sat by myself at a table at a local restaurant and cheered loudly for the team and my favorite player Megan Rapinoe. At the half a young man turned to me to talk about the team. During the second half he moved to my table and we cheered together. “See you next game?” he asked me. “Absolutely,” I replied. We walked out of the restaurant toward our homes and realized that we were neighbors. He lives in the building next door to mine.

New York has a wonderful sense of what it means to be a neighbor. We call people “neighbor” if they live next door, on the next block, in the neighborhood, and sometimes in adjacent boroughs if the context is right. Every time I call someone neighbor, I am reminded that no matter how much time I spend in my own home by myself, I am a part of a larger community. One that depends on me to show up and be active in its growth. When I am active in the community, be it voting, a block party, or the city’s Pride events, I feel truly alive. This week’s scripture is one that speaks to the notion that we are meant to be communal people. That living a life with and for God is one that calls us to love more than just ourselves. It calls us to love our “neighbor” in the very broadest terms of its definition. Let’s read together from the Gospel of Luke chapter 10:

25 An expert on the Law stood up to put Jesus to the test and
said, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?”
26 Jesus answered, “What is written in the law? How do
you read it?”
27 The expert on the Law replied:
“You must love the Most High God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your strength
and with all your mind,
and your neighbor as yourself.”
28 Jesus said, “You have answered correctly. Do this and
you’ll live.” (Luke 10:25-28)

When I was a child, I would watch Mr. Rogers and because of it, singing, “won’t you be my neighbor,” became a Kendell household staple. But my parents would always change the word “neighbor” to my name, to remind me that I belonged to them as part of the family. I always really appreciated the flexibility of that song, because I think that is what Mr. Rogers meant when he invited you to be his neighbor. He didn’t mean to literally move next door to him. He meant, that being a neighbor means showing up as yourself and being mindful and caring to the people we share this planet with. This scripture, which I am sure influenced Mr. Roger’s song (he was also a clergy person and knew scripture well), reminds us to do what we can for God, a God that is most often visible in humanity-each and every one of us. It reminds us to not call someone “that person” but “neighbor.” And it challenges us to meet these new neighbors and hear new stories, and then love them as if their life and stories are a Gospel narrative. Because they are.

Shalom Y’all,
Rev. Stephanie

A quick prayer for your week: Lord I see you in my neighbor. Those that I know, those that I don’t, and those that I don’t know yet. Amen.