Jun 5th: Jesus as Lord, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.
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Rev. Dr. Steven Koski
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Jun 5th: Jesus as Lord, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.
Place your hand on your heart. Take three deep breaths. Release your shoulders from your ears. Soften your forehead, lacks that space between your eyebrows. Unclench and loosen your jaw. Feel your breath drop from your chest down into your belly about two inches behind your navel. When we’re stressed and anxious, our breath is shallow and tight and gets trapped in the tightness of our chest and shoulders. That’s where fear likes to live in the tension of our shoulders and chest, squeezing our heart, not allowing any space in our heart for love to breathe. Imagine letting go of your anxious thoughts for a moment and finding the quiet, the quiet that sits beneath the chaos and turmoil of life. Take slow, deep breaths and imagine your breath connecting with the spirit of a wisdom greater than your wisdom and a strength greater than your strength, a spirit.
Of strength and wisdom that resides deep within you.
Imagine surrendering your heart to the presence of love that you might become the presence of love in the spaces you inhabit. Howard Thurman said, Sometimes when we can slip beneath the chaos and the turmoil, if we listen, we can hear the whispers in the heart, giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair. It’s so important to give ourselves space, to feel our feelings, to feel the sadness and grief, to allow ourselves to feel anger and rage. But we can’t afford to get discouraged. This world that is in so much turmoil, so much pain, has need of us, has need, has need of our hearts and the fullness of our love. You know, my prayer for us right now is the same prayer that Paul prayed in Ephesians three. I ask God to strengthen you not a brute strength you try to muster on your own, but a glorious inner strength, deeply rooted and grounded in love. Today is the day of Pentecost. It’s the Sunday of the Church year that we celebrate the gift and the presence of God’s Holy Spirit set loose in the world and God’s Holy Spirit that dwells deep within each of us, giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair.
We’re continuing our worship series on freeing Jesus. We’re wanting to free Jesus from the boxes we build, to try to contain Jesus, so that we might follow Jesus in ways that might change us and maybe even change the world. And today we want to free Jesus from an allegiance to ideas about Jesus so that we might surrender our hearts and live with the same spirit of love that was present in Jesus. Imagine for a second. Imagine if the same spirit of love that was in Jesus ruled your heart. What would that look like? The earliest Christians proclaim their faith in three words. Jesus is Lord. These earliest followers of Jesus risk their lives affirming Jesus as Lord because in the days of Jesus, the title Lord was given to the Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Now, at its simplest level, the Greek term curios, meaning Lord, literally meant the one to whom you give your allegiance, the one who has authority over you. So the earliest Christians risked their lives saying Jesus was Lord, not Caesar. It was Jesus to whom they gave their allegiance. It was Jesus who had authority over their lives. It was Jesus that ruled their hearts.
Now, historians say there are two reasons the early Church grew and really literally became a force of goodness in the world. And the first reason was simple. It was the development of roads. You could now travel from town to town and share the story of Jesus. But the other reason the early Church just spread so quickly wasn’t their theology or their doctrine. It wasn’t the ideas they held about Jesus. It was actually because they lived with the same courage, the same passion, the same compassion of Jesus. I mean, they took care of the widows and orphans. They welcomed the marginalized who had no homes or food and shared meals with them. It was a time of a great plague, Ironically, where family members were actually leaving sick family members on the side of the road to die alone. It was the earliest followers of Jesus filled with that same spirit of love that was present in Jesus, who showed up, cared for and loved them at the risk of their own lives. Now, this radical love stood in sharp contrast to the culture around them. Josephus, a first century historian, is recorded saying, People were shocked, never having seen a love like that.
And one phrase that’s actually found in his writings from the first century describing the early Church says, See how they love in the early Church. When they professed Jesus as Lord, they were saying they gave their allegiance to loving the same way that Jesus loved. They surrendered their hearts to be ruled by the spirit of that love. Now, sometime after the fourth century, when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire under Constantine, a shift took place. It became more about giving allegiance to ideas and beliefs about Jesus, then surrendering your heart and trying to live and love with the same courage and compassion of Jesus. Christianity became a status rather than a movement and way of being in the world. Christianity became a declaration of belief rather than the practice of loving your neighbor. To say you are a Christian was to say you gave your allegiance to beliefs and ideas about Jesus instead of seeking more and more to be Christ. Like Dante Stewart said, It’s cool that you know your Bible. It’s cool that you can recite the creeds and profess Jesus as your Lord and Savior. But what I want to know, are you getting better at love?
Are you a more loving person today than you were yesterday? Does love have the rule of your heart or does fear? Does generosity or greed rule your heart? Does empathy or judgment rule your heart? Does forgiveness or resentment rule your heart? Does compassion or self interest rule your heart? Does humility or pride rule your heart? Jesus said, Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and do not allow love to have rule of your heart? It’s impossible these days to not be overwhelmed with grief and sadness and anger and rage, but we can’t afford to give in to despair and be discouraged. The world has need of us. The world has need of us to.
Show up with the fullness of our love.
We need to listen for that spirit that whispers in our hearts, giving strength to weakness, courage to fear, hope to despair. Today is Pentecost. It could be argued that it was Pentecost that changed the followers of Jesus. Pentecost emboldened them to be about changing the world. They became inspired, which literally means to take in breath. Inspired to take breath. The earliest followers of Jesus inhaled God’s breath on that first Pentecost and exhaled the spirit of love into the world. They caught a second wind. I remember when I used to run marathons, those miraculous moments around Mile 23, when you hit a wall and you think you can’t take another step and somehow, somehow you catch a second wind, you find an inner strength you didn’t even know you had to keep going. That’s what we could use in these challenging times when so much trauma has taken our breath away, so much trauma has knocked the wind out of us. We need to catch a second wind. Pentecost was an annual Jewish let me say that correctly. Pentecost was an annual Jewish spring festival. It was always held 50 days after Passover. Now, the book of Acts in chapter two says this.
When the days of Passover came, the followers of Jesus were together in one place. And 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 traditionally celebrate as the birthday of the Church. Just as we took our first breath on the day of our birth, God breathed life and spirit, passion and energy into the earliest followers of Jesus. On that day of Pentecost, there’s an ancient legend that says when Jesus let go of his last breath on the cross willingly, we believe, because of his passionate love for us, a love willing to lay down his very life. The legend says his last breath hovered in the air in front of him in the same way. Genesis one says the spirit hovered over the Earth in the beginning of creation. And then that last breath of Jesus was set loose upon the Earth. And it was such a mysterious and powerful breath, so full of passion and life, so full of love, that it didn’t dissipate, as most breaths do. The last breath of Jesus grew in strength and volume and energy until it was a mighty wind which God sent spinning into an upper room in Jerusalem.
And the Bible says in Acts chapter two, there are about 120 followers of Jesus all moping around. They were huddled together in fear, heartbroken with grief, 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, striking sparks that burst into dancing flames above their heads. And this wind filled their lungs and filled their entire being. Just imagine that for a second. Imagine every one of them filled with God’s own breath, filled with God’s own spirit, filled with God’s love, filled with God’s goodness. Those same followers of Jesus who were despondent, discouraged, didn’t believe they were capable of tying their own sandals without Jesus discovered a spirit and a glorious inner strength within themselves they never knew they had. Pretty soon, when they opened their mouths to speak, they began to sound like Jesus. When they laid their hands upon the sick, it was as if Jesus had touched them. Before long, they were doing things they had never seen anyone do but Jesus. I mean, Jesus had said, you will do greater things than I, and there was no explanation for it except on the day of Pentecost.
They breathe in the same spirit that was in Jesus. And they released the energies of the spirit of that love into the world. God’s own breath entered the followers of Jesus the same way it had entered Mary, the mother of Jesus, for the same purpose. It was time for love to be born again. Not in one body this time, but in a body of believers who would receive the same spirit in the same breath of that love that was in Jesus. It’s time for love to be born again. 245 It says the result of people catching God’s breath is that they loved one another in such a way that there was no one in need. Can you imagine that a spirit and a movement of love so powerful that there’s no one in need? Take a deep breath again. The word for spirit in Hebrew is breath. Imagine for a moment you are breathing in God’s own breath. Imagine for a moment you are breathing in the same spirit of love that was present in Jesus. Imagine allowing that spirit of love to have rule of your heart. Is Pentecost something unexplainable that perhaps happened to some other group of people a long time ago?
Or do we dare to believe even today, even now, God’s breath, we can catch a second wind. Do we dare to believe in a God whose spirit blows through closed doors and sets our hearts and imaginations on fire? Do we dare to believe the very same breath and spirit that was in Jesus is the same spirit God desires to breathe into our lives today, that we might find the courage and strength and hope to release the energies of that love into the world. Pihar Di Shardan wrote, someday, someday after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides of gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And then for a second time in the history of the world, we will have discovered fire. We may be exhausted, I’m exhausted, but we can’t afford to be discouraged. The world has need of you and the unique spirit that you bring to the world. The world has need of your heart and the fullness of your love. So take a deep breath again. Imagine you are breathing in love. Imagine allowing the spirit of love to have rule of your heart. Think about where you live, the people you live with, where you work, the people you work with, your neighbors, your community, the world.
Imagine breathing in love that you might exhale love into the places you inhabit. What would it look like for you to live with the same spirit that was in Jesus so that people are shocked and they say, wow, see how she loves see how he loves spirit of the living God fall afresh upon us. May it be so.