“Finding Good Amongst the No Good” – Sunday Preview for Jan. 21 by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

January 18th,2018 Categories: Latest News, Stephanie Kendell Letters

Ravi Ragbir

Beloved Church,

This has been a week filled with emotions. Last Sunday was a beautiful outpouring of love in a baptism and a raw, emotional sermon. It was followed by a week in which my voice hurt from screaming. My feet were sore from walking. And my heart ached and continues to do so, for our sisters and brother being unjustly detained and even deported. But my cup also runs over with love, new friendships, and hope because of all the ways we have shown up for each other and come together. I invite you to join us once again this Sunday to gather, see, listen, and love each other as we reflect and rejoice in a just and graceful God.

For as long as I can remember I have loved taboo expressive words. “Cuss” words have been an active part of my vocabulary for years. I also love to travel. I spent my Junior year of college in Salzburg, Austria and I have been fortunate enough to travel around the world throughout my life.  So, a couple of years ago a friend of mine gave me a book by Emma Burgess called “The Little Book of Essential Foreign Swear Words.” Clearly this friend knows me well.

However, this last week (and let’s be honest…this last year) some of the words that I love as a form of verbal expression, have been perverted and spoiled as they have been used as an attempt to diminish those that are already marginalized in our society and world. Although the level of offensiveness changes with the times, we can see that all words have carried weight throughout history. Look at this week’s text from John 1:43-51 in which Nathanael used the name of the city of Nazareth as a “bad” word. A word of ill repute, if you will. However, ask those that follow Christ and even if you have never been there, Nazareth holds place in our spiritual lives as the home of Jesus and as a holy place filled with holy people.

Here is the text:

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’

So how does our perception of things, people, and places change when the words used to describe them are holy? I offer these three sentences…

“You can do anything … Grab them by the [Nazareth].”
“Why are we having all these people from [Nazareth] countries come here?”
“We cannot take a chance that the people coming over here are going to be [Nazareth]-affiliated.”

I don’t know about you, but these sentences which originally used words that described different groups of people, seem to be speaking about just one person, Jesus. When our leaders and law makers start to classify people into subgroups (and subparts), they attempt to distance us from the root of our creation: the love of God. Last week Pastor Kaji reminded us that when we deport people like Jean Montrevil and Ravi Ragbir, we are deporting Jesus. The same goes for when we use words to divide, hurt, and malign the character of the “other.”The “other” will always be Jesus.

Shalom Y’all.
Rev. Stephanie