Oct 16th, The Joy of Purpose, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski
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Rev. Dr. Steven Koski
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Oct 16th: The Joy of Purpose, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.
This is the time of year when we focus on the spiritual practice of Jesus generosity. We are called to expand our generosity to meet the needs of others. And we can only do that if we’re growing in generosity. Are you a more generous person today than you were 1212 months ago? Are you investing more of yourself in the purposes of God that you were a year ago?
Are you risking risking more of yourself for the sake of love than you were a year ago? Are you living from a place of faith and trust in God’s abundance? Or are you living from a place of fear and sense of scarcity?
This is the time of year every year that we ask ourselves, are we living like this or are we living like this? No, try it. Try it. Feel the difference. Feel the difference between this and this.
What is your posture in life? Parker palmer asks. Is the life you are living the same life that seeks to live in and flow through you? Our annual giving campaign is really an invitation. An invitation to loosen the grip that fear has on our hearts and on our life.
And an invitation to release the gifts, the energy, the resources, the generosity and faith that will free the life of Christ that seeks to live in and through us.
Do you remember the study conducted at the University of Wisconsin where a thousand people over the age of 90 were? They were all asked one question if you had to live your life over again, what would you do differently? How would you answer that? Here were their top three answers. Now, the third most popular response was, if I had to live my life over again, I would live less cautiously and conservatively and I would take more risks.
Helen Keller said, life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. Would you describe your life as a daring adventure? Would you describe your faith as a daring adventure? We often misinterpret the faith journey as trying to arrive at a place where there is security, where there’s comfort, where there’s certainty. What if the invitation of faith is actually being willing to leave our places of comfort?
Leave that sense of security and certainty to follow Jesus in the risky way of living with a spacious and radical love? You know, the greatest risk is not to risk. Something in us dies. The light within us dims when fear and selfpreservation rule our lives. And the second most popular response to that question, they said, I would focus more on my relationships.
I would focus more if I had to do it all over again. I would focus more on loving. Well, people don’t talk about what they accumulated or what they accomplished on their deathbed. They actually don’t talk about their cars, their houses, their dream vacations.
Almost without exception, when people are on their deathbed, they talk about who they love. And who loves them. And if there are any regrets, it’s that they didn’t forgive easily enough or love as extravagantly as they wish they would have. And finally, the most frequent response in that study asking people over 90, if you could live your life over again, what would you do differently? Was this more people than any others said, I would spend less energy building a world for myself and more energy building a world where my grandchildren and great grandchildren and those less fortunate than I am might flourish.
They said I would concern myself less with success and more with significance. I would focus less on the elusive happy life and more on what it means to live a meaningful life. In other words, I would live my life in service to others.
You know, looking at this study, it would seem that the wisdom acquired by the time you reach the age of 90 is that the purpose of life is a life of purpose. George Bernard Shaw said it so beautifully. He said, the true joy in life is when your life is used for a purpose greater than yourself, being a force for good. Instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. He said, my life my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live, it’s my privilege to do for others what I can.
Jesus said the same thing, probably more simply. Jesus said, those trying to preserve their lives will lose it will lose a sense of meaning and purpose of life. Those willing to give their lives away for the sake of love will find life.
Jesus also said, those desiring to be great must be willing to be the servant of others. You know, our society and our culture really encourages us to live like this, to live for ourselves, to live for self satisfaction and self preservation. The true the true joy in life is to live like this, using our gifts, our passion, our time, our energy, our resources, loving others so that all all might flourish. You know, it’s fascinating. One of the areas in the world where people live the longest with a high degree of life satisfaction and well being is Okinawa, Japan.
In Okinawa, there there is one word, one word that’s central, one word that weaves its way through one’s entire lifespan. And that word is ikagai. Ikagai. Now, ikagai is roughly translated as the reason you wake up in the morning. I mean, why did you get up this morning?
One woman in Okinawa who’s 102 years old, in an interview, she said her eco guy, her reason for waking up in the morning is to hold her great great granddaughter and sing to her so that her great great granddaughter might find the song in her own heart. She said, when I’m holding and singing with my granddaughter, my heart bursts with joy. Isn’t that beautiful? You know, everyone, whether you’re twelve or 102, everyone needs a reason, needs a purpose greater than ourselves and our ailments and our grievances to wake us up in the morning.
I’m often asked, how do you spell Presbyterian? But after that question, I’m often asked, what does it mean? What does it really mean to be a Presbyterian? There are two things. First, grace.
The love of God revealed to us in and through Jesus is unconditional. And second, each, each and every person is called by God to be a unique expression of that love in the world. It’s not just the pastor or other leaders or some category of special people who are called by God.
Everyone is called by God.
You, you are called by God. You are called by God to be a unique expression of God’s love in the world. You know, there are different kinds of voices calling out to us all the time, calling out to us to do and to be all sorts of things. There are different kinds of voices calling us to invest our lives, to invest our hearts in all sorts of ways.
The challenge is to discern which is the voice of God, which is the voice of God that speaks deep within our hearts rather than those other voices of society, or the voice of our ego, or the voice of selfinterest, or that loud voice of fear.
Our faith says that there is a divine voice amidst all the other voices that clamor for our attention. There is a divine voice that speaks deep within our hearts, calling us, summoning us, calling us to a life larger than ourselves, calling us to a life big enough for our souls, calling us to life.
For the next several weeks, we’re going to invite you to think about how God might be calling you, calling you to move from living from living like this to living like this.
As we try to discern God’s call to us as individuals and as a church, our theme for the next several weeks, we’ll focus on a quote by Frederick Beekner the peace God calls you is where your heart’s deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.
So listening for God’s call involves both a look inward and a look outward. And your heart’s deep gladness is not merely selfinterest. It’s not self ambition. It’s actually something much deeper than that. Something sacred, something holy.
It’s something that’s a part of who you are created to be. Jesus said, I’ve come that you might have life, and that you might have life in all its fullness, that you might have life in all its gladness. There’s so much in this world that promises life but ends up stealing our joy, robbing us of gladness. God desires for us to experience a deep gladness. And Beecher says to discern our heart’s deep gladness, we need to listen to our lives, pay attention.
Where are your moments of deep joy?
Where are the moments that make your heart sing? Where are those moments of just happy tears? Where are the moments of surprise laughter? Where are those moments, you know, where everything is aligned and your life feels on purpose? Those moments where it feels like what you’re doing is what you’re meant to do.
Those moments are telling you something, telling you something deeply, deeply important about yourself. Those moments are whispering something about where God might be calling you.
But we can’t just look inward. We can’t just look inward to discern God’s call to us. I mean, looking inward is only half the equation. Beekner said if you come alive when you use your gifts, you’ve presumably met requirement A.
But if your gift is writing and you’re using your gift to write cigarette ads, the chances are that you’ve missed requirement B and God’s calling.
So after looking inward and reflecting on our earth deep gladness, we need to look outward. We need to look at the world and all its pain and anguish and deep hunger. We need to look at the world and think about, well, what breaks my heart and ask, how can my heart’s deep gladness touch this? How can I use the gifts, the passions, the skills that make me feel most alive to heal the brokenness of this world?
Healing and transformation happen for ourselves. Healing and transformation happens for others when our Earth deep gladness meet the world’s deep pain and need.
You know, I remember visiting Jean Dillard, one of the saints of the church, who now lives with the great company of the saints and God’s eternal love. At the time that I visited her, jean was feeling really despondent because she wasn’t able to participate in church life. She wasn’t able to participate in the mission of the church in the way that she had before because of her health, for health reasons. She was essentially bedridden in our conversation, I asked Jean what she missed most and what she cared most deeply about, and she said she missed encouraging people. She missed encouraging people who are struggling.
She said she always felt needed and useful when she could reach out and support others. And she hadn’t been able to attend worship in some time. And she said she really missed seeing the children and the youth in our church because they’re so, so vitally important and they need our support, is what she told me.
I told Jean she had a real gift for making other people feel valued, other people feel important. And, you know, she really did. So I suggested to Jean, you know, that she might consider writing notes and cards of encouragement to our youth, especially letting them know they’re loved and that you were praying for them. I told her that we could easily provide the names and the addresses of the youth of our church who are part of our community.
Jean only had the energy to write one note of encouragement a day. But when she no longer had the energy even to do that, this practice became so important to her that she would dictate and have someone write the note for her.
She said to me not long before she transitioned from this life to more life, she said, I loved knowing that God still had a purpose for my life. Even being stuck in this bed writing these notes has brought me so much joy.
As for the cards, my son got one of those cards when he was a teenager going through a tough period. I clearly remember him saying, wow, this woman I don’t even know said she believed in me and that God loves me. That’s pretty cool.
Did that card make a difference? I don’t know.
I do know that a woman’s deep gladness met a teenager’s deep need.
When that happens, God’s love is present and anything’s possible.
God is calling you. God is calling you to move from living like this to living like this. I am really, really excited for the next few weeks as we pay attention and listen for God’s call in our lives.
The place God is calling you is where your heart’s deep gladness meets to the world’s deep need.
May we listen, may we respond, may it be so. Amen.