“Inspire Joy: Names” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

August 20th,2020 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter
Beloved Church,We are excited to have with us The Rev. Cara Gilger offering our sermon this week. Rev. Gilger has been leading our children’s worship this summer and we are so excited to hear the good news she has to bring to our community. I assure you this is a Sunday you won’t want to miss! In addition to worship we continue to gather together for YASS Happy Hour, Inspired Dialogue, and Soulfood Fellowship. So, keep an eye on our socials and join us for any (or all!) of the incredible ministries continuing to grow here at The Park.

I was one of 6 people with the name “Stephanie” in my 6th grade class. It was a very popular girls name in the early 80’s. Which isn’t that surprising as names come in waves and cycles. I am sure you have had some version of this conversation: Question “What are you naming your baby?” Answer, “Well we really liked this name, but we decided not to go with it because I knew another person by that name, and they are not who I want to name my baby after.” Most of us recognize that conversation in one way or another and it’s a faithful conversation to have. Because like it or not, our names and our identities have power.

This week’s scripture is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian because it literally asks the question, “Who are you?” It brings up points about our identity (our names, social location, families, etc). But it also asks how others perceive us. And while they are both important questions to wrestle with and have answers to, understanding how others perceive us is a necessary part of a conversation about our Christian identity. So, as we read together these verses from Matthew 16, keep in mind why what others say about Jesus is so important.

When Jesus came to the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, he asked the disciples this question: “What do people say about who the Chosen One is?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptizer, others say Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

 “And you,” he said, “who do you say that I am?”

 “You are the Messiah,” Simon Peter answered, “the Firstborn of the Living God!”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon ben-Jonah! No mere mortal has revealed this to you, but my Abba God in heaven. I also tell you this: your name now is ‘Rock,’ and on bedrock like this I will build my community, and the jaws of death will not prevail against it.

 “Here—I’ll give you the keys to the reign of heaven:

whatever you declare bound on earth

will be bound in heaven,

and whatever you declare loosed on earth

will be loosed in heaven.”

Then Jesus strictly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
(Matthew 16:13-20)

Jesus asks the disciples, “who do you say that I am?” and many answers are given but one is preferred. Why do you think that is? For me, I think it is just another way in which Jesus is calling us to action. Jesus could have easily said “I am the only begotten child of God.” But would people have believed him? Maybe/Maybe not. People generally need to see actions to our words in order to believe what they hear. You can preach and teach justice until your very last breath, but if you don’t act on it – if you don’t put your money, privilege, time, etc. where your values are- then people won’t believe who you say you are.

So, friends, who do you say you are, and is that how others perceive you? Ask your friends but be willing to hear with they say. Self-reflection is vulnerable and can be challenging, but when done with care and grace, it can help you align your values, your actions, and who God created you to be. And may that be so for all of us.

Shalom Y’all,
Rev. Stephanie

A quick prayer for your week: O Lord help people see you at work in me. Amen