“Rooted in Discernment: Hometowns” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

January 27th,2022 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter
“Downtown Martinez HDR” by Calmuziclover is licensed underCC BY 2.0

Beloved Friends,

I hope this week you are surrounded by God’s loving embrace (and hopefully a good jacket) as the chill of winter continues to surround us. This Saturday we are so excited to celebrate the Ordination of our very own Meghan Janssen! While of course we all wish to be there in person, for the health and safety of everyone involved this will be a virtual event. But as we know, nothing can separate us from the love of God, and God definitely can’t be stopped when it comes to this ordination. Y’all truly, what a joyous day for Meghan, The Park, the Church, and God. We hope you will join us Saturday at 5pm for this incredible moment in the life of God’s church. Then we turn around and worship God again on Sunday at 11am where we will continue to sing, commune, learn, and grow together as beloved community.

What do Joe DiMaggio, Myself, and the Martini have in common? They are all things born in Martinez, CA! My hometown is a small county seat in the Bay Area, where I lived with my family until I graduated high school. My dad was born there, my family still lives there, and my niece is now running around town with wide-eyed wonder at the mountains and the bay, the way I used to. Growing up in the town your parent did had its benefits. Such as everyone always had a story to tell me about my dad when he was younger. “Oh you’re Roger’s daughter? Let me tell you about the time-“…only to have my dad either cut the story off or finish it himself. But growing up in the same town as your parent also had its challenges. Such as everyone always had a story to tell my parents about me! “I saw your daughter last week-“…you know how it goes 😉

Nothing goes unnoticed in a small town. And while nothing seemed to go unnoticed, there are definitely things that no one sees coming. My becoming a pastor is definitely something no one but God saw coming. So, when I get back to Martinez it can be a challenge for people to see not the little girl they always knew and instead see the woman that I am.  I imagine this liminal feeling of being both then and now, the adult filled with childhood memories, is in part what Jesus and the Disciples were feeling as they began to share their stories. “Oh, you’re Joseph’s kid?” could not have been easy to hear (and let’s not mention James who I am sure heard “Oh you’re Jesus’s brother?” more times than he cared to count!). Which is why Jesus reminds them not to worry too much about leading in their hometowns. Their charge is to keep moving, keep spreading the good news, keep building community outside of the spaces you have already called home. Lets read together this story together from Luke Chapter 4:

Then he began to speak to them, saying, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” And all bore witness to him and marveled at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”
Then Jesus said to them, “Of course you all will quote me this proverb, ‘
Doctor, cure yourself!’ And you all will say, ‘The things we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown.’” And Jesus said, “Truly I tell you; no prophet is accepted in their hometown. But I speak truth to you all, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were closed three years and six months, and there was a severe famine over all the land. Yet, Elijah was sent to none of them, rather to Zarephath in Sidon, to a widow woman. And there were also many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed except Naaman the Syrian.”

Luke 4:21-27 (Year W)

What are the stories of your hometown? Did the ones you hear shape your understanding of the place you lived? If you go back, do people see your growth, your changes, the new things that God is doing with you? Or is your hometown a place where you can let the day-to-day things go, and slip into old habits of a more carefree youth? Maybe you still live in your hometown or maybe you never want to go back. With the amount of followers Jesus had even in our scripture stories, I am sure the feelings about hometowns varied like they do for us. And not only is that okay, but it’s sacred- holy. To know where you can be valued and seen for who you are now and who God is calling you to be is a gift.

These more seemingly blanket statements from Jesus can be misleading. Which is why it is always important to read scripture at least twice in one setting. Once to read what was said. Once to read what they mean. I’m sure if we asked Jesus, he would assure us that,” Of course some prophets are accepted in their hometowns.” Because in fact more likely what he meant was, “This work is hard, and it will change the way some people experience you. Invest in this work with people that can hear what you have to say.” My whole life I have walked past street preachers holding their megaphones- yelling in my ear about needing to know Jesus – and I walked by them with no interest at all -but twenty-seven years later- one invitation by a stranger to help them wrap presents for unhoused kids in a church basement – had me asking, “So tell me about your Jesus.” And because of that, now many from my hometown join us at The Park every Sunday. I’m still always going to be known as “Roger and Drue’s daughter” but that’s okay by me, because that is how I know they can accept and hear me in my hometown.

Shalom Y’all
Rev. Stephanie

Simple Prayer: O Holy One, show us what it means to be home. Amen.