“Inspire Courage: Love Wins” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

October 15th,2020 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter

Beloved Church,

How is it already October? It feels like Easter was just last month and yet, advent is on the horizon. This year has been challenging to say the least, but we have found ways to survive and thrive together. What a gift this community is. As always, we have much happening in the life of our church. Worship, Bible Study with Park Avenue Synagogue, and Soulfood Fellowship are all happening this Sunday. Then on Monday, mark your calendars for Inspired Dialogue which is always an incredible time. All are welcome and as always if you have any questions please feel free to reach out to one of your Pastors.

This week’s scripture is a doozy. So much is happening within these thirteen verses. Each line a glimpse into the world of the early Jewish people. What they cared about. Who their friends were. What the ruling class thought of them. And in this text, we see a lot of division through labels, socioeconomics, and even gender. I don’t know about you but that resonates with me a lot right now. There is a lot of division in our world. Do you feel it too? Often, I even feel it within myself. See if you also spot the ways people are being divided in this week’s scripture from Exodus.

8 A new Pharaoh—one who did not know Joseph—came to power in Egypt. 9 Pharaoh said to the Egyptians, “Look at how powerful the Israelites have become, and how they outnumber us! 10 We need to deal shrewdly with their increase, against a time of war when they might turn against us and join our enemy, and so escape out of the country.”

11 So they oppressed the Israelites with overseers who put them to forced labor; and with them they built the storage cities of Pitom and Ra’amses. 12 Yet the more the Israelites were oppressed, the more they multiplied and burst forth, until the Egyptians dreaded the Israelites. 13 So they made the Israelites utterly subservient with hard labor, brick-and-mortar work, and every kind of field work. 14 The Egyptians were merciless in subjugating them with crushing labor.

15 Pharaoh spoke to the midwives of the Hebrews —one was Shiphrah, and the other Puah— 16 and said, “When you assist the Hebrew women in childbirth, examine them on the birthing-stool. If the baby is a boy, kill it. If it is a girl, let it live.”

17 But the midwives were God-fearing women, and they ignored the Pharaoh’s instructions, and let the male babies live. 18 So Pharaoh summoned the midwives and asked why they let the male babies live. 19 The midwives responded, “These Hebrew women are different from Egyptian women; they are more robust and deliver even before the midwife arrives.” 20 God rewarded the midwives, and the people increased in numbers and in power. 21 And since the midwives were God-fearing, God gave them families of their own. (Exodus/Éxodo 1:8-21)

Did you sense the division I am talking about? How did that sit with you? What are some times in your life where you have been divided or separated from your community? How did you react? How did you find your way back? Sometimes, keeping yourself separated is an act of self-care especially in oppressive systems. But when division and separation are a product of force and fear as it is in the case with Pharaoh, you can’t help but ask “If he knew God was among them, would Pharaoh have done any differently?”

One would hope, yet historically we know that absolute power corrupts absolutely, as John Dalberg-Acton said, and as we have seen played out in our scriptures and in our world. And as Christians we know this to be true with the exception of one person- Jesus.

So, friends, as followers of Jesus, how are you showing up and centering the lives and voices of those whom our modern Pharaoh’s-and the systems of oppression and power they serve-have subjugated? How are you living into the scriptural call to be the midwife helping birth a new vision of love, equity, and justice into the world? And most of all, what can this community do to help you gain the courage to live into all that God is calling you to? This week’s scripture is filled with spaces of division, but it is also filled with courage, faithfulness, and love. And in the end, we know that love wins. Your love in a community of God’s love, will be the catalyst of liberation for all God’s creation. What a courageous task and what an incredible gift love is.

Shalom Y’all,
Rev. Stephanie

A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, grant me the courage to love boldly and without fear. Amen