“Inspire Imagination: Using Your Power” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

September 10th,2020 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter

Beloved Church,

As I look at the calendar, I am lamenting that we will not be gathered together to celebrate Homecoming this year the way we have done in years past. But as I think more about it, Homecoming signifies a return from being apart and while we are physically scattered, we have had more faithful attendance this summer in worship than in years past, so I suggest that is what we celebrate together this month. There are even new spaces to gather this month listed in the Inspire curriculum so be sure to check that out and mark your calendars!

I will admit it has been a while since I have read this week’s scripture. So, I gave myself 30 minutes with it and nothing else. Meaning, I read nothing but this scripture, changing inflection and cadence, imagining different types of narrators and accents reading the words. Picking a new character to explore and “be” as I read. Have you ever done this? If you haven’t, I highly recommend doing it with this scripture. Turn off the tv and the podcast, silence the phone and get in your favorite reading spot, and just let these words fill your spirit in new ways.

As I read this text, I was struck by one piece of it in a way I didn’t expect. It has to do with the way Joseph’s brothers used their power and power that wasn’t theirs to affect an outcome they had no control over. See if you understand what I am talking about as you read (hopefully for a full 30 minutes!) this week’s text from Genesis 50.

Pondering their father’s death, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph is angry with us and repays us for all the wrong, we did him?” So, they approached Joseph, saying: “Before Jacob died, he said to us, ‘You must say to Joseph: I beg you, please forgive your brothers their crime and their sin and all the wrong they did you.’ Now therefore, we ask you, forgive the crime of us who are faithful to the God of your parents.” Joseph wept when he heard this. Then the brothers wept also, and fell down before him, saying, “We present ourselves before you, as your attendants.”

Joseph replied, “Don’t be afraid; is it for me to put myself in God’s place? You planned evil for me, but God planned it for the good, as it has come to pass this day—to bring about the survival of many people. So, you need not be afraid. I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this manner he assured them with words that touched their hearts. (Genesis 50:15-21)

Joseph’s brothers were scared because they had not been kind to their brother (that is me trying to put it nicely). I mean we need to be honest; his brothers were awful. And then when they became scared they used the power of Jacob and his relationship to their faith to hopefully influence Joseph. Now, we as people of faith use God’s power all the time. In fact, I did a digital wedding this weekend where I said, “By the power vested in me by the state of New York and the God of all blessings great and small, I pronounce you married and partners for life.” And we sing about God’s almighty power weekly hoping to imbue our community with a life force from the Holy Spirit anew. So, using the power of God for the betterment of community is a part of our faith practice. But what we shouldn’t do, is use God’s power to manipulate an outcome for our own personal gain. That is the power in faith communities that has viciously permeated society and “Christians” to cast out Jesus’s faithful followers when they challenge authority. And using the power of God in that way is sinful y’all.

This month we are exploring our prophetic imagination. That includes talking with God and sharing what God has placed on your heart and in your life that makes you and your relationship to creation stronger. But what we must always ask ourselves is, is this our power to use?

Friends, this is an especially important question for kindom building work that includes people of all faiths and no faith alike. We must never use God’s power as a weapon or for our own personal gain. Not in our homes, in our churches, or in our communities. But we must use our own personal power- power gifted to us from God through scripture, prayer, and relationships- to build a just and loving world for all creation. Every day.

Shalom Y’all,
Rev. Stephanie

A quick prayer for your week: O Lord, help me know my power and how to use it for your good work. Amen