Oct 8th: The Posture of Curiosity, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.
A Part of the Series:
The Posture of Curiosity with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: Postures for a Christ-Centered Life A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: John 3.1-8.
Rev. Dr. Steven Koski asks can we have an open and curious faith? Exploring the story of Nicodemus meeting with Jesus through questions rather than answers.
Imagine a church that didn’t require professing what you believe, but welcomed your questions. Imagine a church that was a safe and spacious place to, to ask questions to wrestle with your doubts, and confess without fear of judgment, that you’re not really sure what you believe.
But I don’t know how else you can be open. To be led by the movement of God’s Spirit. The famous theologian Howard Thurman would sit down every new year. And he’d read a faith statement expressing as concisely as he possibly could, what he believed about God and His faith and and every new year, he would review what he wrote the year before.
And if his beliefs in God hadn’t changed or been challenged if, if his faith had become stale and static, if his relationship with God hadn’t deepened, he knew it was because he didn’t ask enough questions. He wasn’t curious. You know, her face shouldn’t be the end of a conversation. But the beginning of a conversation, question questions and doubts aren’t the enemy of faith. But the invitation to a deeper, more authentic faith in the spiritual path is moving from, from what I call a second hand religion, mostly based on what what other people have told you to believe, to a personal faith that you can actually claim as your own. And this spiritual path is paved with questions and curiosity. And I truly believe that, that we are much closer to God when we’re asking questions than when we think we have all the answers.
Questions, are invitations to a deeper conversation. You know, in the Gospels, Jesus asked 307 questions, and he would often respond to someone’s question with another question. So before we read our story from the Bible, I want you to imagine if we didn’t turn to the Bible, to end a conversation, because we believe that we found the answer.
I mean, imagine a continuum where on one end, you have people who take every single word of the Bible literally as as coming straight from the mouth of God. And on the other end of the continuum, you have people who see the Bible as primitive and archaic book of fairytales completely irrelevant to our lives. And I suspect, both ends of that continuum. Don’t take the Bible seriously enough.
People at both ends of the continuum, see the Bible through the dualistic lens of right, wrong, true false fact fiction? What if we learn to read the Bible? through the lens of curiosity, and wonder, imagine if we were actually given permission, to wrestle with the Bible to argue with the Bible to explore the Bible with with curiosity and wonder, you know, imagine if we treated the Bible as a prism, turning it, to see it from different angles, trusting that that light can be reflected in more than one way. You know, I’ve certainly discovered that the more I’m willing to wrestle with the Bible, the the more the Bible, wrestles with me, leading to a deeper, richer, more authentic faith. So So it’s with that posture of curiosity and openness. I invite us to engage this this really unusual passage from the Gospel of John. I believe that this this is one of the most misunderstood and misused passages in the entire Bible. It’s about a meeting between a guy named Nicodemus and Jesus.
Nicodemus comes to Jesus in the middle of the night. Nicodemus has a highly respected religious official, you know, someone who has all the answers. He comes to Jesus at night, because he’s not wanting to be seen talking to Jesus, Jesus who was taught to be a heretic and a troublemaker by the religious authorities.
So here’s how the Bible describes their their encounter. There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, who was a member of the Jewish ruling council. He came to Jesus at night and said, Rabbi, Rabbi, note we know you are a teacher who has come from God.
You shouldn’t be surprised at me saying you must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases you hear it sound. But you can’t tell where it comes from or where it’s going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.
And Nicodemus wants to know, what is secret is? I mean, he’s asking Jesus to give him the answer to give him the formula. What are what are the seven habits of a highly spiritual person? You know, we crave answers. We really like certainty. We want an easy formula that we can follow.
I wonder if we can turn if we can kind of turn this passage and look at it from a different angle. Seeing the passage as the start of a conversation, rather the rather than the end of a conversation. Jesus said to Nicodemus, unless you are born again. Now the Greek word translated as born again can also mean born a new what have been born again means being born a new I mean, letting go of all those preconceived ideas and starting all over again, but curiosity and Wonder, moving beyond that Secondhand Religion and discovering a fresh, a personal faith. So poor Nicodemus with all of his theological sophistication and his religious status.
How can anyone be born? After growing old? Can anyone enter a second time into the mother’s womb? That’s the kind of mental gymnastics that are actually necessary. When you take the Bible, literally. Now we at First Presbyterian take the Bible very seriously. We just don’t take it literally.
I mean, how do you explain the full spectrum of color? To someone who’s certain that only black and white exists? Notice that Jesus didn’t say, you know, you must acquire a faith Nicodemus, you must acquire a faith that that has no room for questions, no room for doubts, where you have an answer for every question and a Bible verse for every occasion. Instead, Jesus says something really quite remarkable. You must be born again.
born anew, which means I presume, to have the wide eyed wonder and curiosity of a child. You know, if I was asked to write a faith statement, like I was 36 years ago when I first started ministry, so if I was asked to read a faith statement today, after 36 years of ministry, I wouldn’t start professing what I believe. You know, I’d probably say the more I know, the more I realize how little I know.
And the more I approached life, with wide eyed wonder, and curiosity, the more life changing encounters I have, with the love of God that can never be fully known. I’ve come to realize how important it is. To have safe spaces.
To hold even our firm is convictions with an open hand so that we can be led by God’s spirit to a whole new way of being in the world. Now Nicodemus came to Jesus in the cover of night, looking for answers.
We do know that three years later, when Jesus was crucified, two men with with great courage at great risk, asked to anoint the body of Jesus with precious oils. And then they buried his body in a garden to one of the men was Joseph Aveiro mithya.
Maybe Nicodemus really was born again born anew, because this time he didn’t come to Jesus in the cover of night. He came to Jesus in broad daylight willing to show the world the fullness of His love for Jesus.
Maybe that’s the movement of God’s Spirit. leading people leading you and I People who have opened hands, leading us to a whole new way of being in the world where we’re willing to risk showing the world the fullness of our love.