Rhythms of Risk, Practices for a Jesus-Centered Love with Rev Dr. Steven Koski
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Rhythms of Risk, Practices for a Jesus-Centered Love with Rev Dr. Steven Koski
Being by the river near the mountains inspires me, the word inspire comes from the Latin spiri. Tist, which literally means to breathe in as I breathe in. My energy is is changed. What spirit, what what energy do you bring into the world? Do you bring a spirit of fear or a spirit of courage? Do you bring a spirit that gives or a spirit that takes? Do you bring a spirit of hope?
Or a spirit of despair, you know, as we inch closer to the light beyond a pandemic. How might we be inspired? Inspired to bring energy that’s that’s healing and hope for. In this time, a bitter divisiveness. How might we bring the energy that that builds community? Jesus said, blessed are the peacemakers. In a world where there is so much conflict, how might our energy make peace? You know, there’s a sign that greets you as you enter the Indiana University Health Center, it says, Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into the space.
Your words matter, your behaviors matter. Our patients and our teams matter. Take a slow, deep breath and make sure your energy is in check before entering. Thank you. Just imagine. Imagine a more and more people took responsibility. For the energy they bring into the world, you know, one way to think about it and understand our spiritual life is the spirit and the energy we bring into the world. The invitation is to center and to align ourselves with God’s spirit that we might bring the life giving energies of divine love into the world.
Today’s Pentecost Sunday, a day we remember when the earliest followers of Jesus became filled with the spirit of God. They became filled with with the energies of God. They became inspired, inspired to bring the the love of Jesus into the world. They inhaled, if you like. They inhale. They breathed in God’s breath on that first Pentecost and they exhaled the spirit and the energies of love into the world. Now, Pentecost was an annual Jewish festival that was always held 50 days after Passover.
It was too dangerous for these early followers of Jesus to be recognized as followers of that of the rabbi, that rabble rousing rabbi from Nazareth. So the disciples were found huddled in fear behind locked doors. When the unexpected happens, the Book of Acts, Chapter two says when the day of Pentecost came, the followers of Jesus were together in one place. And suddenly, suddenly, there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind and this mighty wind filled the entire house where they were sitting.
Now, Pentecost is the day we we traditionally celebrate as as the birthday of the church. You know, just as we took our very first breath on the day of our birth, God breathed life and spirit and passion and courage into the earliest followers of Jesus on that day of Pentecost. They were filled with God’s spirit and they discovered that their mission was to release God’s spirit into the world through the boldness of their love. The Bible says in acts Chapter two that there are about a hundred and twenty followers of Jesus all moping around, huddled in fear, wondering what they were going to do without Jesus.
When they heard a holy hurricane headed their way and that mighty wind blew through the entire house, and it says that sparks were struck, that burst into dancing flames above their heads and they were filled with the spirit. Imagine that every one of them filled with God’s own breath, every one of them filled with God’s own spirit, filled with with divine energy, divine passion.
With Divine Love. Now, that’s how it’s described, you know, it’s really hard to know what, in fact happened versus what in faith happened. But here’s what we know, they were changed. Those same followers of Jesus who moments earlier were huddled in fear. Became inspired. They became emboldened and from that moment on. They began to love with the same boldness, the same inclusiveness, the same passion they had witnessed in Jesus. After that Pentecost day.
They brought a different energy into the world. They caught something and it was contagious. And there was no explanation for it except on that day of Pentecost. They breathed in. And they were filled with the same spirit that was in Jesus, and they released that spirit into the world and acts two forty five, it says the result of people being filled with with the spirit is that they loved one another in such a way that there was no one in need.
Can you imagine that? Can you imagine a love so powerful, a spirit of movement, so powerful that we love one another in such a way that there is no one in need? May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Imagine if we brought that kind of energy into the world. The kind of energy. Where no one had to struggle alone, the kind of energy. Where everyone has the support they need. We may be able to take off our masks and.
But I worry about the pain people will continue to mask. After a year that has taken a toll on everyone’s well-being. What if we brought the kind of energy, the kind of spirit into our community? Where people didn’t feel ashamed of their mental and emotional struggles. And instead receive kindness. And mercy. I mean, how might our energy. How might the spirit we bring into our life together? Create a space. That is able to hold people’s pain until it’s healed.
So here’s today’s question. Is Pentecost something that that happened as some other group of people a long, long time ago, or do we still believe in a spirit of love? That’s stronger than hate, a spirit of hope, that’s stronger than despair, a spirit of goodness, that is stronger than evil, spirit of life. That is stronger than death. Do we still believe in a God who spirit and energy is present in our world today, a God whose spirit blows through closed doors, a God whose spirit sets our hearts and and imaginations on fire?
Do we believe the very same breath? The very same spirit that was in Jesus. Is the same spirit God desires to breathe into our lives today. Do we trust those words from the second book of Timothy, chapter one, verse seven, where Paul says. God is not giving you a spirit of timidity and fear. God has given you. A spirit of power and love. This past year has been has been so hard, has been so really hard in so many ways on so many levels, you know, it’s almost like we’ve been, you know, punched in the stomach, you know, when you’re punched in the stomach and and the wind gets knocked out of you not just once, but this past year, it seems to have been happening again and again and again like the wind is taken out of us.
The promise of Pentecost. Is that God desires to breathe life into us. God desires to renew our spirits. That we that we might breathe life into others. Having to close our building this past year had being displaced from our sanctuary. I think it’s forced us to ask ourselves, what does it really mean to be the church? In Isaiah 43, 19, God says, behold, I’m doing a new thing even now, even now, it’s brings forth, can you see it?
I’m making pathways in the wilderness, creating rivers in the desert and wasteland. Is it possible? But the winds of god’s spirit. Are moving through this time and that God desires to breathe, to breathe life into us as a church. We often say, you know, I’m going to church and going to church usually means going to a particular building at a particular address and attending a particular worship service. What if church means something else? What if a church isn’t a noun, but a verb, what if a church isn’t something some place that you go to.
But something we do, a spirit, a spirit with which we live. What if a church is actually an energy. The energy of Jesus we bring to the world. What if we emerged from this pandemic? With a new idea of church defined more as living in the spirit of Jesus. Breathing life, where there is death breathing hope, where there is despair, breathing, breathing, love, where there is fear and hate. I remember when we open our doors as a as a smoke relief shelter and in a winter warming shelter for the homeless, I mean, there are a thousand there are a thousand different barriers and rules and regulations standing in the way of doing this.
There are a thousand reasons why it shouldn’t be done and it couldn’t be done, particularly as quickly as it needed to be done instead of a negative energy in a spirit of fear and a spirit of timidity. We centered ourselves in a spirit of love, the kind of love that could be seen in Jesus and the winds of that love blew, all of the obstacles out of the way. And I remember someone, someone who seeing all of the tents in the commons and the tents that were set up through in the sanctuary for our homeless guests.
And this person said to me, you know, I’m not a religious person at all, but there’s a certain spirit in this place. I mean, you can feel it. And he said, I would consider joining a church that that puts up tents in their sanctuary for the homeless. I’ve always loved the story Tony Campolo tells of speaking at a conference in Honolulu. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t sleep when he arrived, so he found a diner that was open, kind of one of those Dive restaurants, a diner open at three a.m. near his hotel.
And he’s having some eggs and a cup of coffee when at three thirty in walks a group of loud, boisterous prostitutes just finished with their night’s work. They plop themselves down at the counter, kind of surrounding Tony. Tony gulps of coffee and just kind of looking for a quick getaway. And the woman next to Tony says to her friend, tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be thirty nine. Her friend says sarcastically, So what do you want, a cake or something?
And the first woman says, you know, you don’t have to be so mean. I don’t want anything. I’ve never, never had a cake my my whole life. Why would I want one now? When Tony heard that. He said the spirit got hold of this. He waited until the woman left and he asked the guy behind the counter, whose name was Harry. Do these women come here every night? Does the woman who was sitting next next to me?
Does she come every night? And Harry said, yep, yep, yep, that’s that’s Agnes, she’s she’s here every night. Why do you want to know? And Tony said she said tomorrow’s her birthday.
You know, this may sound crazy. But I think we should throw her a birthday party right here in the diner and Harry had never heard an idea so crazy. But that’s the funny thing about God’s spirit. It leads you to do unexpected things. And it’s contagious. Tony said he’d be back at two a.m. the next morning with decorations. And Harry, believe it or not, said he’ll make a cake so at two the next morning, Tony’s back all sorts of decorations for the entire diner and a sign made out of a large cardboard that says, Happy birthday, Agnes.
And they decorated the place Harry had put out the word on the street about the party and by three a.m. every prostitute in Honolulu and every person who calls the street home was in that diner. And at three thirty on the dot, the door swings open and in walks Agnes and her friend. Everyone shout Surprise and they start singing Happy Birthday. Agnes’s stunned. Her mouth falls open, her knees buckle. She kind of loses balance, tears streaming down her face and when the birthday cake.
With thirty nine candles as carried out, she begins sobbing. Harry, wiping a tear from his own eyes, gruffly, mumbles, Blow out the candles, Agnes, cut the cake. Agnes looks down at the cake. Without taking her eyes off the cake. Slowly and softly, she said. You know, Harry. Is that right? I mean I mean, is it a right, you mind? Do you mind if we don’t eat the cake right away?
Can I just hold the cake a little while? I’ve never had a cake before. Harry, not knowing what to say, said sure. Yeah, of course, keep the cake, take it home. Agnes holds the cake like she’s holding. The Holy Grail, no one knows what to do, Tony says, Do you mind if we pray? Do you mind if we pray together? And right there in that hole in the Wall Diner, half the prostitutes in Honolulu at three thirty in the morning.
We’re listening to Tony Campolo as he prayed for Agnes. Praying that she might come to know how much God loves her as gospel lovechild. Praying that she might begin to see herself as God sees her. Tony prayed for every single person in that diner, praying that they might experience a spirit of love like they’ve never experienced before, a love that cherishes them, a love that believes in them.
Where anything’s possible. When he finished praying, Harry, Harry leaned over and with a trace of hostility in his voice, said, Hey, you never told me you was a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to anyway? And in one of those moments when when just the right words came. Tony answers and quietly, I belong to a church so filled with God’s spirit that they throw birthday parties for prostitutes at three thirty in the morning. Here he thinks for a moment and says, no way, no, you don’t.
There ain’t no church like that. If there was, I join it. Yeah, I join a church like that. Friends of the Promise of Pentecost. Is that there is a spirit of love stronger than hate, a spirit of hope that is stronger than despair, a spirit, a spirit of goodness, that is stronger than evil, a spirit of life that is stronger than death. The promise of Pentecost. Is that spirit is closer than your own breath?
And the invitation of Pentecost this morning. It’s to breathe in that spirit that we might release the energies of Divine Love into the world because when that happens. Anything’s possible. Spirit of the Living God. All afresh on us. May it be so.