Oct 10th, 2021, What Do You Need? with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.
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Oct 10th, What Do You Need? with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. – powered by Happy Scribe
I absolutely love the fall season, not just because of pumpkin lattes. You know, my soul comes alive with just the brilliance of color in the the crispness of the air. The season of autumn invites us to take a journey inward.
It can be actually a time of deep reflection.
As we watch the leaves change color and and fall from the trees, we’re reminded, there is so much in the world right now that is changing. There is so much in the world that that seems to be falling, decaying, even dying. The season of autumn reminds us that that as the trees let go of their leaves and the leaves fall and die at the same time, hidden beneath the surface, seeds are being planted. Leads are being composted and new life is being prepared. You know, do I dare trust that something infinitely richer is being planted in the soil of our souls?
You know, even now, as we endure this this painful season of our life.
Together we forget the beautiful mystery that the new life of spring always begins in the death and decay of fall. In Parker Palmer wrote, Faced with inevitable winter, what does nature do in autumn? It scatters the seeds that will bring new growth in the spring and scatters them with amazing abandon, he said. As I explore the paradox of dying and seating in autumn, I realize how I can get fixated on surface appearances in my own life, where there is decline, decay and even death. And yet if I look more deeply, I may see the myriad of possibilities being planned in to bear fruit in some season, yet to come on the surface, he said, it seemed like life was lessening but silently and lavishly the seeds of new life.
We’re always being sown friends. How important it is to remember a spring always has its beginnings in the death and decay of fall. You know, when we’re weighed down by all that is causing us to spare and there’s plenty. Can we remember that hidden beneath the surface, seeds are being planted, leads are being composted. New life is being prepared.
We forget this mystery of despair giving way to hope of death, giving away the life is the very heart of our faith. And we see it in the Book of Genesis, where it says in the beginning, when God created the heavens and the Earth, there was night and then there was morning. Now we would normally say there was morning and then night. But that’s not what the poet who wrote The Creation Poma Genesis once said. He said there was night and then morning, suggesting that built into the very fabric of existence is the mystery that beyond the night, no matter how dark and long the night might seem, morning always comes beyond the decay of fall and the bareness of winter.
Spring always comes beyond death. There is life, more life. We’re also reminded of this mystery in the birth of Jesus. You know, we forget sometimes at the Christian story begins in dark, difficult, lonely, hopeless circumstances. I mean, Mary and Joseph were far from home and and they lived in the midst of the uncertainty of cruel political oppression and military occupation. Marie gives birth to Jesus in a dark cave used for animals. The word became flesh and came among us. And the cows feed box called a manger the very first to hear this good news of great joy.
We’re lowly shepherds who were considered the lowest of the low in society.
You know, it’s an amazing story.
Reminding us light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it. At the heart of our faith is the mystery of resurrection, reminding us of a love that refuses to be defeated. That the very worst thing will never be the last thing, that nothing is lost and gone, that cannot rise into something new. So when we’re weighed down by by all that is causing us to spare, can we look to the leaves falling from the trees and remember that hidden beneath the surface, new seeds are being planted.
Leaves are being composted. New life is being prepared. The new life of spring always has its beginnings in the death and decay of fall.
We’re concluding our sermon series today on the questions I’ve been meaning to ask in today’s question, what do you need? I mean, what a powerful question, because what we think we need on the service may not be what we deep down really need. Psychologists will talk about the difference between the presenting problem and the underlying problem. The problem that people will initially present is rarely ever the real problem. A couple comes in for counseling and and he says, you know, she’s always telling me that I watch too much sports on television and I spend too much time fishing.
She says he never communicates. Now the underlying problem might be, Do I still matter to you? Do you care? Do you still love me? And you might think the need in this situation is just to improve and have better communication skills where the real deeper need is to be seen and the assurance of being loved. I was recently having a conversation with someone who’s really disappointed. We haven’t resumed in person worship. We really need to be worshiping in person. This person kept repeating. I still get that.
Believe me, I can’t wait to return in person worship and trust me, we are vigorously looking at how to do that safely as soon as possible. But I also wondered whether returning to in person worship was the presenting problem and not the underlying deeper need, because honestly, there won’t be a returning to worship in the way that it was. Things have changed and we really don’t know yet how our worship life will be different. We don’t know what seeds a new life had been planted in this time when everything we we once news seems to have fallen away.
So I wonder if I asked this person, what do you really need? If the answer might have been something like, I need to know that I’m not alone. I need to know that that God is with me, that I am loved. I need to know that God is at work bringing forth something new as we enter the season of autumn and the leaves fall from the tree. You know, our hope is not found trying to glue the leaves back to the branches, returning to the way things were.
Our hope is trusting that hidden beneath the surface, new seeds are being planted. New life is being prepared. This beautiful book was recently given to me as a gift. It’s called The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and A Horse by Charlie Mckery.
I highly recommend it. It’s such a beautiful book and it’s actually a great book to read with children.
What’s the best thing you’ve learned about storms?
Asked the boy.
That they end, said the horse.
I love the story from Mark’s Gospel. Where Jesus calms the storm. Here it is. Jesus was in a boat with the disciples. A furious storm comes up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples welcome in Set teacher peace. Don’t you care if we drown? Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the way it’s quiet, be still. The wind ran out of breath and the sea became smooth as glass.
Jesus said to the disciples, Why are you so afraid? Where is your faith? The disciples were in awe saying, who is this? Even in the wind, even the wind and the waves obey him. Okay, so they’re in a boat in the middle of a storm, in danger of drowning. And the disciples freak out and Jesus calms the storm and ask them where their faith is. You know, I need to confess. The store used to really bother me. I thought it was actually pretty unfair of Jesus.
In fact, I thought Jesus was being kind of a jerk to question their faith because they were in real danger of sinking. I mean, not imagine danger like we sometimes create for ourselves, but they were in real danger. The boat was literally filling up with water threatening to sink it. So if the disciples were freaking out, it wasn’t because they were weak or or worried too much. Or they had an anxiety disorder. They were freaking out because they were in danger and they feared the storm would overwhelm them.
You know, I get that.
You know, there are days. It feels like the storms we’re living through right now, you know, just threatened overwhelm us. And many of those threats are very real. I just can’t imagine Jesus ridiculing the disciples for not having enough faith. Imagine if you were in the midst of a crisis, a crisis that you feared would sink you and I came along and said, oh, come on.
Where’s your faith?
You just need to have more faith. I’m guessing that’s not what you would need. It wouldn’t be helpful. And it would leave you feeling worse and feeling judged.
Maybe maybe when Jesus called the storm and asked, Where is your faith? Maybe it wasn’t an accusation or judgment. What if it was an invitation? What if it was an invitation to now reflect on what it means to be still standing and still breathing on the other side of a situation we thought would overwhelm us? Do you remember those words of Parker Palmer reflecting on the season the bottom where he said on the surface, on the surface, it seemed like life was lessening. But as I look deeper at those things that threatened, overwhelmed silently and lavishly the seeds of new life, we’re always being sewn.
You know, maybe it’s a divorce, an illness, the death of someone you love.
The loss of a job.
Fractured relationships, depression, children, leaving home, racial injustice, a pandemic. All those things we think at the time are going to sync us overwhelm us, destroy us. But if it doesn’t sink or destroy us in the way we feared, then maybe we get to ask questions. Like, Where was my be or what would faith look like in that situation? What did I fear? Where were those seeds of new life being planted that I couldn’t see at the time? You know, being people of faith doesn’t give a special disposition for an easier storm free life.
You know, we’re often told, if you just have faith, be positive, everything will be okay. Life doesn’t work that way. Life isn’t fair. Bad things, terrific things, terrifying things happen to all people. The kind of religion that suggests storms happen because we didn’t have enough faith or the right kind of faith. Or we didn’t think about positive thoughts is naive at best, harmful at worst, and always unhelpful. So maybe Jesus wasn’t accusing the disciples of not having enough faith in the midst of the store, suggesting somehow, if they had enough faith, the storms wouldn’t have happened.
Maybe Jesus was inviting a different kind of faith, the kind of faith that’s able to find meaning in life where storms are inevitable, the kind of faith that Truss storms will end and something new will emerge, the kind of faith that assures us we are never alone in the storms. You know, I remember a couple of years ago when Lori was when Laurie was so sick and in the ICU on a ventilator for a month. I was scared. I was so scared. Honestly, it was a storm that that threatened overwhelmed me.
To sink me, to destroy me. You didn’t tell me to have more faith. You knew what I needed. You showed up in so many beautiful and fierce ways as the presence of God’s love in the midst of that store assuring me that I wasn’t alone. That’s that’s what I needed. You know, I can see now what I couldn’t see then. That even there in that ICU when the storm threatened to sink me, even their seeds were being planted. New life was starting because new life always begins in the dark.
I hope someday to get to the point where I can trust God in the moment, even when I can’t see any evidence of how hard God is working in the dark. Friends, in the coming week, I encourage you to find a leaf that has fallen on the ground and allow just contemplating on this leaf to be your spiritual practice. And when life threatens to sink you to overwhelm you remember, hidden beneath the surface, new seeds are being planted. New life is beginning. Do we dare trust that something infinitely richer is being planted in the soil of our soul?