“Rooted in History: Friends” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

February 17th,2022 Categories: Stephanie Kendell Letters, Weekly Letter

Beloved Friends,

I hope that this week finds you warm, rested, and cared for. With all that is happening in our lives, communities, and around the world it is important to take care of yourself in ways that are meaningful to you. We often suggest care that is meaningful for us without asking if that is meaningful to others. So, this week I invite you to be in conversation with those you love and care for about the ways they care for themselves and how you might be an accountability partner to their rest and renewal. Being a part of beloved community means that we ask and share as we can – offering the reciprocity of care to those whom we are in community with. It is a beautiful honor to be able to ask and share in this way and the many ways we at The Park engage and deepen our relationships to each other. We hope that you will join us for Bible Study and worship this Sunday and that you will join us for Rooted in Conversation this Tuesday at 7pm.

This past week I had the honor of bringing the stories of Chaplains to the General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), one of our two denominations. And a big thank you to Janet Martin who helped lead the weekend with scripture, prayer, and study. We began our time together by asking about the ways we talk about who we are as individual people of faith and as a denomination. A thing that was noticed was how all the ways we talk about ourselves, often left many people out. This was not an intentional or malicious act. On the contrary, how people talked about their faith and denomination was deeply tied to relationship, community, and love. We just use different words and definitions to describe who we are and how God is at work in our lives. It was a great exercise in answering the question Jesus poses to his Disciples in Matthew 16, “Who do you say that I am?”

We all have different ways of answering that question of who Jesus is and who Jesus is to us, yet, the question remains, how do we give a singular identity to a group?  Well as the Spirit does, our scripture this week from Luke 7, continues that work by inviting us into this conversation in a new way by asking us to reflect on where we see ourselves in community, and what wisdom do we glean from our faith and relationships to each other? As we read together this scripture, I invite you to reflect on the character you most identify with in this text and what that might say about how you define and talk about your faith and beloved community.

“To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children in the marketplace sitting and calling to one another,
‘We played the flute for you all, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you all did not weep.’
For John the Baptizer has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you all say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Woman has come eating and drinking, and you all say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet Wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”

Luke 7:31-35 (Year W)

Where did you see yourself in this story?  Or maybe I should ask, did you see yourself? Maybe you saw yourself in multiple people- perhaps from different seasons of life? That was how it was for me. This week when I read it – and it is embarrassing to admit- but I most saw myself in the one who is judgmental about The Son of Woman’s friends. What a vulnerable space it is, to write that out for you to see. I don’t like to see my brokenness in print, yet if we can’t be honest in church – what are we even doing?

In the past few years, the divisiveness of our world has often been a challenge to navigate and with our primary space of community being a digital one, my ordinary practice of accepting friend requests only when I have physically met the person has had to be relaxed. So, I tend to use our “shared friends” to see who a person is and if we should become digital (if not actual) friends. Most of the time, I accept with no problem, but other times, if we have no mutual friends, I will wait until we connect in a different way. And I will admit that sometimes I have gotten it wrong and regret not accepting a friend request sooner. But alas, that part of me felt uncomfortably seen in today’s scripture. However, as scripture also says, wisdom is vindicated by all her children, or in other words, when you know better you can do better.

Using shared friends is a way of seeing if someone is a safe digital friend for me, but it is not the way, in the same way that describing Jesus as a friend to tax collectors is a way to describe Jesus but definitely not the way most of us describe him.

How we talk about ourselves, our community, and our God matters. The words we use, the actions we take, the relationships we build all say something about the Kindom of God we seek to come to fruition. Hopefully what we say and what we do speaks to the expansiveness of God’s creation, and when we find ourselves with a narrow lens through which to define our relationships, may we look to scripture and remember that there is always another way to describe Jesus and always another opportunity to know better and then do better.

Friends, may we all take a step back and widen the scope of definition; so, that the most inclusive and expansive understanding of beloved community is always seen and valued as part of the wholeness of who we say God is.

Shalom Y’all
Rev. Stephanie

Simple Prayer: O Holy One, May I do better when wisdom comes, and I know better. Amen.