“What is in a Life?” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell
This coming Sunday will be incredibly special. Not only do we get to hear an incredible word from our beloved Pastor Kaji, and experience week two of “Examining Your Wallet” with Rev. Mieke, but we also get to gather after our worship service at 2 pm this week to share and remember the life of our beloved brother in Christ, Frank Tyson. It is going to be a week filled with love and support and I hope to see you there.
There was an article this week on Buzzfeed that examined the life of a community of people in a place called “Slab City” in California. Slab City is a place where people truly live “off the grid,” from society. As you wander the area, it pulls at everything in our consumer society that says, “this is not how someone should live.” Yet, this place exists as community in its truest form. There is love, dependency, and support from those living in Slab City because it is the only way a community like this can work. And I am not pulling from the article at this point, for I actually visited Slab City in 2009 while on a trip with my friends to the Salton Sea, Slab City, and Salvation Mountain. It was a place that I felt comfortably-uncomfortable. The energy of this sacred space felt strange yet still familiar. I tried not to stare, yet when I did, I was met with smiles and “hello’s.” I heard stories, laughter, and tears. People spoke openly of their journeys with culture, family, and God. I was reminded of this community when I read this week’s scripture from 1 John, that calls us to remember our covenant as created people building a community in Christ’s name.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ died for us. And we, too, ought to lay down our lives for our sisters and brothers. If you have more than enough material possessions and see your neighbors in need, yet close your hearts to them, how can the love of God be living in you? My children, our love must not be simply words or mere talk-it must be true love, which shows itself in action and truth. This, then, is how we’ll know we belong to the truth; this is how we’ll be confident in God’s presence, even if our consciences condemn us. We know that God is greater than our consciences and that God knows everything. And if our consciences do not condemn us, my friends, then we have the confidence before God, and we will receive whatever we ask from God’s hand-because we keep the commandments and do what is pleasing in God’s site. The Commandments are these: that we believe in the name of God’s own Jesus Christ, and that’s what we love one another as we were told to do. Those who keep these Commandments live in God and God lives in them. We know that God lives in us by the spirit given to us.
(1 John 3:16-24 ILB)
Loving one another is hard y’all. It’s not that we can’t love, it’s that loving like Christ – profoundly unconditional – is a real challenge. The most challenging part is that through my own gaze as a white woman, I have been conditioned in this world to see things a certain way. I see need where others see stability. I see hope where others see fear. A community like Slab City, brought my gaze into focus. It made me see God where I saw the disenfranchised. It made me see home where I used to see only shelter. Our own gaze limits our ability to see the expansive nature of God. But this text gives us a God gaze. And with a God gaze we experience through the people we meet and the places we go, a God is bigger than anything we can imagine. And a God at work in the places we think are forgotten. God is at work beyond life and death, beyond love and despair. Faith in this knowledge helps open ourselves up, to truly living a life that keeps the commandment to love our neighbor. Because living in community, living amongst the created beauty gifted to us by our God, is what turns living… into life.
Church, we have been gifted the grace of God’s love and guidance in unimaginable ways. My hope for you this week is that you breathe deep in the knowledge that God is at work, and may your feet be firmly planted in a life that deconstructs your own gaze to see everyone in the image of God.