“Rooted in Authenticity: Together” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

June 9th,2022 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter

(Laying of the hands at my Ordination on June 10)

Beloved Friends,

I hope that you are well and enjoying the summer sun this week. These warm days are such lovely times to take a walk and see God at work in new ways. There is a new playground with a water feature at the end of my street and a little boy in my building has been so excited to play in it. He talked about it all winter and today, I saw him shouting with joy as he ran through the dancing water in his pride “love is love” bathing suit. God is good, friends. All the time. This week is also special as it is my birthday and ordination anniversary on June 10th. I am so grateful to get to live this life and call with our beloved Park community. I hope you will join me this Sunday in worship at 11am and celebrate all that we have been through together and all that God is doing in us now!

This week’s scripture is a little different. It’s an apocryphal text, meaning that it does not appear in our canon but is recognized as part of the Biblical (and sometimes historical) world. This week we are reading from one of my ordination texts called The Acts of Paul and Thecla. This text is about a woman named Thecla who was a first century Christian, colleague of Paul, and has been called throughout the years and in many Christian traditions “apostle and protomartyr among women” and “equal-to-apostles in sanctity.” The text is about a woman who listens to Paul’s teachings and desires to take up a life of teaching and preaching like Paul. Upon hearing this, her mother arranges to have Paul exiled (also referenced in Acts 14:19 and 2 Tim 3:11) and Thecla killed. Facing her end, alone and yet also made a spectacle, Thecla continues to turn to Jesus. Read the text below to find out what happens…

The Acts of Paul and Thecla 34-35, 37-38:

34 Then they threw many animals in, while Thecla stretched out her hands and prayed. Then Thecla turned and saw a trench full of water and said, “Now is the time for me to bathe. And she threw herself in, crying, “In the name of Jesus Christ I baptize myself on my last day.” And seeing, the women and all the crowd cried out, saying, “Do not throw yourself into the water!” so that the governor wept, because the seals intended to eat such beauty. She threw herself into the water in the name of Jesus Christ. The seals floated dead, having seen a flash of lightning. And a cloud of fire surrounded Thecla and the beasts could not touch her, nor could her nakedness be seen.
35 The women wailed when the other fearsome beasts were thrown in, and some threw herbs, others nard, others cassia, others amomum, so that the air was full of the smell of sweet herbs. All the beasts that had been thrown in were held as if by sleep and did not touch her. So, Alexander said to the governor, “I have very fierce bulls—let us bind her to them for the beast- fighting. The governor turned, hating, and said, “Do whatever you wish.” They bound her by her feet between the bulls and under their genitals they put burning irons, so the bulls would kill her since they had been greatly agitated. The bulls leapt about, but the flame, burning all around, burned through the ropes, and it was as if she had not been bound.
37 And the governor called Thecla from the middle of the beasts and said to her, “Who are you, and what is there around you that none of the beasts will touch you?” And she answered, “I [serve] the living God. And as to what is around me, God is well-pleased with whomever believes in [God’s] son. Because of him, none of the beasts touched me. For he alone is the aim of salvation and the ground of hope for eternal life. For he becomes refuge for the tempest-tossed, remission for the oppressed, shelter for the hopeless, and once and for all, whoever does not believe in him will not live forever but die instead.”
38 And after [The Governor] heard these things, [he] commanded that her clothing be brought, and he said, “Put on your clothes.” But Thecla said, “[God] who clothed me when I was naked with the beasts will clothe me with salvation on the day of judgment.” After she received her clothes, she put them on. And the Governor sent an edict immediately, saying, “I release the God-fearing Thecla, [servant] of God, to you.” All the women cried out in a loud voice and with one mouth gave praise to God, saying, “There is one God, the God who saved Thecla,” so that by their voices the entire city shook. 

  • What are stories (or music/ poetry/etc.) in your life that are not from the Bible but have helped you understand God better?
  • Is there a limit to what you can do, if you do it with the help of God?
  • Who are the women (and other marginalized people) that have come before you and make your call in this life possible?
  • Do you consider modern stories-maybe even your own-as a part of the Biblical narrative that we are called to study and share? Why or why not?

Friends, this week I hope in all you do, be it big or small, easy or challenging, you know that your Park community is here for you and that God is always with you.

Shalom Y’all
Rev. Stephanie

Simple Prayer: I will with the help of God.  Amen