Postures for a Christ-Centered Life: Mirroring Each Other’s Goodness with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: Postures for a Christ-Centered Life A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Psalm 46.10; Romans 8.37-39.
How we might let go of shame and find peace in God’s unconditional love and acceptance of our goodness and worthiness.
One of my favorite poems is called the a vowel by Denise Levertov. It goes like this, as swimmers dare to lie face to the sky, and water bears them, as hawks rest upon air, and air sustains them. So what I learned to attain freefall and float into creator spirits, deep embrace, knowing no effort earns that all surrounding grace. If we only understood that last phrase at at a deep, deep level, no effort earns that all surrounding grace.
No effort earns God’s unbounded and unconditional love. You know the spiritual path is not about working hard scrambling, trying to do the right things believe the right things to earn God’s love.
The spiritual path is the unfolding discovery that you are loved unconditionally.
The unfolding discovery that you are created in the image of God’s goodness. You know, the spiritual path is not learning what might be necessary to to achieve being worthy and loved. The spiritual path is unlearning everything that is taught you otherwise.
Discovering no effort earns that all surrounding grace. Psalm 46 says, Be still and know that I am God.
A more accurate translation of the Hebrew would be striving, stop grasping Stop, stop trying so hard. The invitation is to Cease striving to stop struggling and grasping to earn God’s love. And simply rest in the assurance that the love you seek is already yours.
The psalmist says Be still and know.
Now the Hebrew translated as no doesn’t mean head knowledge. But heart knowledge, the deep inner knowing of being held in God’s love.
In other words, stop working so hard to prove that you are worthy and loved.
And rest in the love closer to you than your own breath.
A prayer in Ephesians three expresses this beautifully. I pray that you will be grounded in love. And grasp how long and high and wide and deep is the love of Christ.
And that you will know the love that surpasses knowledge that you might be filled with all of the fullness of God. There’s a wonderful old rabbinic saying that tells us every human being is preceded by a legion of angels announcing make way for here comes the very image of God’s goodness. Father Greg Boyle, who founded Homeboy Industries. The largest gang rehabilitation center in the world based in Los Angeles, said this. He said one doesn’t become good. We locate our goodness.
The gang members I devote my life to loving, haven’t forgotten their original goodness. They’ve never been properly introduced.
They assume a truth of being damaged on redeemable unworthy. They aren’t evil.
They are just strangers to their own goodness. And our goal is not to give them dignity. But in a relationship of unconditional Christ like love. Be the mirror where they can see their own goodness.
Resilient resiliency set arrives unexpectedly when we consider our own unshakeable goodness. Take a breath for a second now another one And another one.
And imagine that the first, last, and best thing that can be said about you is that you are loved and deserving of that love. You are worthy.
And you are good.
Suicide rates are rising dramatically, especially among young people.
Nearly half of America reports experiencing depression and anxiety. I can’t think of a more urgent mission for the church than reflecting unconditional Christ like love, and finding ways to be the mirror where people might, might be able to see their own goodness. Because once you have once you have a glimpse of your own, unshakable goodness, you can’t help but embody that goodness in the world. September is mental health awareness and suicide National Suicide Prevention Month.
Now, I’ve been very open about my my own struggles with depression. Throughout my life.
I attempted to take my own life when I was 19.
I thank God every single day that I wasn’t successful.
At the time, I couldn’t see beyond the horizon of my own despair.
I couldn’t see my own my own goodness, I couldn’t see the world of hope that was on the other side of the mountain of pain I was experiencing.
I couldn’t see that I would be graced really with an incredible life, a beautiful family, and the privilege of having this platform to remind you that you are a child of God, that you are created in the image of God’s own goodness.
I couldn’t see when I was 19.
That pain and suffering and darkness do not have the last word God does.
And God’s word is always of a light stronger than the darkness.
You know, a beauty beyond the brokenness and a love from which we can never be separated.
So honestly, this is the sermon I wish I would have heard when I was 19. And I pray this sermon might be a mirror to help you see your own goodness.
It is so important to talk openly and honestly about mental health and to say the word suicide out loud in church. Now, I’m guessing there’s a chance you’ve never heard a sermon preached on suicide because we don’t talk about it.
But we need to.
It impacts every single one of us directly or indirectly. You know, talking about suicide is so important. How we talk about suicide is equally important.
You know people often use the phrase committing suicide. We commit crimes.
To say someone committed suicide can actually be really hurtful.
It’s better to say died by suicide.
We don’t talk openly about suicide or, or how the pain of life can feel at times so unbearable. Because there’s shame attached to it.
You know, it was acceptable. It was acceptable for me to talk about the ruptured disc in my back. And how that pain believe me was was unbearable. The pain was so bad. I couldn’t think straight but I wasn’t embarrassed or ashamed. It was actually okay to admit I was in so much pain that I that I was struggling coping. I was encouraged Just go to the doctor encouraged to ask for help. I can actually talk to people about the kind of treatment that I was receiving. And I received all kinds of support. People regularly asked me and still asked me today, are you okay? How’s your back? But somehow it’s not okay.
And there’s shame attached to letting people know that our life hurts that our life hurts so bad, that it’s unbearable, and we can’t think straight. And we just want relief.
Admitting we can’t cope with emotional pain is shrouded in shame.
That needs to change.
Suicide is tragic on every level.
But it is not shameful.
It’s born of hopelessness, that that can’t imagine any other way out.
You know, it’s this this thick, Pitch Black haze that that prevents you from seeing any light.
Now, people say suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
And there is truth to that.
But those who find themselves in the darkest places, they can’t see that from there.
When someone takes their own life, when someone dies by suicide, it’s a profound, unimaginable tragedy for their loved ones.
It’s a reason to mourn the loss of a precious, beautiful life. We can be really angry at the senselessness of the loss. But there should never be shame.
We do our worst thinking.
When we’re walking in the shadows of despair, where it feels like there’s no hope it’s not going to get any better. Our thinking can be so irrational.
We’re convinced taking our own lives would actually be better. For those we love.
We’re not able to see the ripples of pain and grief that will go on for years.
My goal in talking about suicide, especially in church is to remove the shame and stigma.
To acknowledge there aren’t easy answers. But there is help.
If you’re struggling, you are not alone.
And this will not go on forever.
You know I believe what we share most in common is not our strength.
But our vulnerability, our tears sometimes life hurts, in unbearable ways for all of us.
To help people experience their own goodness. We need to remove any shame it’s impossible to ask for help in an environment of shame.
Romans eight says there is nothing there is nothing in all creation there is nothing in life or death that can ever separate us from the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
What that means is that we are never, ever lost to love.
Sometimes we are just strangers to that love and strangers to our own goodness.
Remember when you meet another person? I think for all of us.
There are scars that don’t show their hidden wounds that aren’t healed their silence screams that aren’t heard and battles that continue to be fought in the soul. If you yourself are suffering from depression or have a desire to self harm or, or have suicidal thoughts. Please, please, talk to someone there is no shame you matter your life matters.
You are not alone.
For the rest of us be a soft place to land for those falling off the edge. Ask Are you okay? And wait long enough to actually listen for the answer.
Don’t force people into your light.
Be willing to crawl into the darkness and just sit beside those who are hurting without judgment without the need to advise fix or save.
Just love some people, a lot of people are barely hanging on by a thread.
Be that thread.
Be the mirror that helps them see their own goodness be the love that helps them experience God’s unconditional love. We are all broken.
And we are all beautiful, worthy, loved and good.
Take a breath and another one.
And another one.
Remember, no effort earns that all surrounding grace.
Imagine the first, the last. The best thing that can be said about you is that you are loved and deserving of that love. You are worthy and you are good.