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“Human Sight/ Divine Vision” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

Beloved Church,

I hope this newsletter finds you well on this journey of Lent. I know this time of year can be challenging but together we can be a space of support, inspiration, and love. This Sunday we will gather at 11 am for service which will be followed by Soulfood Fellowship. I hope to see you there!

“I can’t believe it!”

This phrase has been a staple in my vocabulary since I was small. Sometimes it has taken a more sarcastic tone and sometimes it is an earnest statement of amazement. This week I have found myself running the gamut of ways to say it. However, the one that took my breath away was when I heard that lawmakers in Florida, in the presence of students that had survived the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, voted against taking up a bill to ban assault weapons. Although the actions taken by the lawmakers were abhorrent, the “I can’t believe it” moment for me came as the students started to speak out against what had happened. Noah Kaufman, a 16-year-old, was quoted in TIME, “They’re voting to have shootings continually happen. These people who voted down the bill haven’t experienced what we did. I want to say to them, ‘It could be you.”

I can’t believe it because in the wake of this horrific tragedy these kids are building the kin-dom with divine vision. When all the adults in their world are acting and responding to only what is in from of them, reacting with human sight and reason, they are casting life-changing, spirit-healing, kin-dom building vision.

Like in this week’s scripture from Mark these kids are saying to the “Peters” in their lives, “Get behind me, Satan.” And they will not, should not, and cannot stop.

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of God with the holy angels.’ (Mark 8:31-38, NRSV)

I’m realizing that I say, “I can’t believe it,” when a divine vision interrupts my human sight. When something so unexpected cuts into my understanding of the world that I can’t help but be moved. My human sight is no match for divine vision. But it reminds me that I need to think bigger, dream bigger, and expect more. I need to not be my own Peter.

Church, as we journey together this Lent, we are going to come across people, systems, and emotions that we need to address. Let today be a new day. As people of faith, our first response is to react in kin-dom building ways like Jesus. Being hopeful even through the pain. But then we often become our own Peters naysaying our divine vision with human sight and human understanding. We need to get back to the divine vision of kin-doom building. Casting visions of love, justice, and peace that are so holy, that we step back in awe and hope and say “I can believe it.”

Shalom Y’all.
Rev. Stephanie

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“On the Journey” by The Rev. Stephanie Kendell

Beloved Church,


As we start this Lenten journey together I was asked to share my homily from the Ash Wednesday night service.  I hope you enjoy. The scripture it is referencing is Matthew 6:1-6. This Sunday we will be in 1 Peter 3:18-22. I hope that you will sit with this text and listen to the way that God is calling us to love and serve each other. I give thanks for each of you. – Rev. Stephanie

Ash Wednesday – Homily
February 14, 2018, 6 pm
Park Avenue Christian Church
Rev. Stephanie Kendell

I remember the first time I received my ashes.
It was Ash Wednesday of 2011 and I went to the noon service that my church had. It was a rather ordinary service
and I got my ashes and then went back to work.
About an hour into work, someone came by my office and after we were done talking he said, “oh you have a little something right there on your forehead.” I said thanks and wiped my brow without thinking about it…until I thought about it.
My first ashes had lasted on my head…maybe two hours.
And as I realize what I had done, I had this feeling of guilt.
I hadn’t given the ashes the proper time to sink in both physically and emotionally. I felt ill equipped to handle this mark on my head, I had just wiped it off. Was I supposed to do something more with it?
Was there a proper way of cleansing the skin from your ash?
I felt a little helpless.
So, as was my practice for Lent that year. When I felt hopeless, I prayed.
I prayed that I would know what to do with the ash.
I prayed…until I realized, the ash isn’t the point.
The fact that I forgot I had a smudge on my head means nothing in comparison to the fact that I felt lost and turned to god.
It is like this verse from Matthew that we read just a moment ago.
God isn’t looking for these grand gestures.
God is looking for us to connect.
To live in the humility of God’s love and give of yourself to the challenging work of building the kin-dom.
The gift of intimacy with god and with each other, is the reason that we are here, not to receive ash, but to connect to each other in a shared and mindful experience. I rubbed my head at the office because I had forgotten that it was there, because I felt alone in a journey that I was taking.
But here and now, looking around, I remember that I am connected.
I am connected to each of you and through that I am more deeply connected to God.
But aren’t we are always connected to god? I hear you asking?
Yes of course, but there are things that we can do to grow that love by growing closer to each other. Because part of what we are setting ourselves up for, is loss. These forty days lead us to Easter and Jesus’s resurrection, but first we have to go to the cross.
Meaning first we have to be willing to sacrifice a piece of us for the whole of all of us. But this isn’t a sudden shift.
We have been doing this. Protesting at federal plaza saying I stand with Ravi. Asking why there aren’t the same systems of support for different students at the same school. Speaking out against systems of injustice and oppression. Staying silent when you have taken up too much space. Or Giving regularly to organizations that align with your values. All of the things that we as a community are already doing, are great first steps on this Lenten journey.
We are already sacrificing a bit of our power to bring everyone closer to god.  Because this world is broken and part of what Lent calls us to do is grieve the brokenness that is ever so present in the world. Grief that we have to fight to belong in our bodies, in our country, on our families, and in our churches. A grief that calls us to action when our children are being stripped of their healthcare for tax breaks. A grief that seems so far from the hope of Jesus that we aren’t sure where our faith will lead us.

11 years ago, my friend Anna’s dad died. And although she wasn’t someone who regularly prayed, she found herself writing letters to her dad regularly the year after he died. Birthday’s, holidays, good days and bad, she wrote him cards and shared her love with him.
On the year anniversary of his death, she burned the cards on the place where he died and scattered his ashes on the place where he was placed to rest.
Anna’s ashes and our ashes today are not the end of a story but a beginning. So often we think of ash as the end of the fire, but really it is the renewal of our passions. We offer this act as a space of renewal not finality. Our finite beings are incredible not insignificant. When we return to the cosmic dust from that which created us, it is an opportunity to become god’s eternal grace anew. But we also take this time to be mindful about how we are wonderfully created. So often people talk about what they are “giving up” for lent. Or they talk about fasting or systems of abundance. Friends, our Lenten season is a time of reflection and love. It is meant to be challenging but it is also meant to be met with a spirit of care and grace.
There was a twitter thread today about Lenten fasting and anorexia.
It started with a woman saying how she has to learn to fast while also dealing with an eating disorder. She finally shared that her Lenten fasting would mean that she ate three full meals a day. It was a moving reminder that god is calling us to be mindful in this season, but to also be loving towards ourselves… always.
There are many ways to connect with God because there are differences in each of us that connect uniquely to our creator.
Friends, let’s fast…but let’s fast from unkind words toward ourselves and others.
Let’s give up…but let’s give up apathy and complacency and offer more support.
Let’s deny…but let’s deny systems of oppression and injustice.
Let’s pray…and pivot ourselves toward god.
So that all the we do, and all that we know will be met with the grace of god found in each one of us in this time of reflection and renewal.
Friends, from dust we came and to dust we shall return.
We will all pass back into the stardust that made us, but until that time we are called to live.
To live fully.
To live deeply.
To live with each other.
To live and love ourselves.
I leave you with this piece from Mary Oliver.
“The Witchery of living
Is my whole conversation
With you, my darlings.
All I can tell you is what I know.
Look and look again.
This world is not just a little thrill for the eyes.
It’s more than bones.
It’s more than the delicate wrist with its personal pulse.
It’s more than the beating of the single heart.
It’s praising.
It’s giving until the giving feels like receiving.
You have a life-Just imagine that!
You have this day, and maybe another,
and maybe still another.

Church, thanks be for the god of days and dust.

Shalom Y’all.
Rev. Stephanie

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