Nov 12th: Celebrating the Present, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.
A Part of the Series:
Celebrating the Present with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: All In A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: John 1.14; 1 Corinthians 12.27; Thessalonians 5.21.
You’re invited to join us this Sunday as we explore how to make God’s invisible love visible in the world. Through stories, scripture, and prayer we’ll reflect on living as the hands and feet of Christ. Our speaker Rev. Dr. Steven Koski will share how even small acts of kindness can transform communities and make people feel truly seen and cared for. Whether you’re new to faith or a lifelong believer, you’ll be encouraged to look for ways to spread hope through compassion this week. We hope to see you there!
When I lived in Australia, I was invited to speak and lead workshops to many businesses and corporations on and what I called the the spirituality of service, creating value added relationships. Another focus was on making the intangible spiritual quality of service and relationships that you can’t see making that visible. So the focus was on making the invisible, visible, because value is, is really only value when it’s perceived as value. Let me explain I did, I did team building and customer service training with with an auto repair business. Now, when you take your car in to get serviced, you don’t necessarily see the results of your oil being changed or the engine being tuned. And the average person won’t notice any improvement in the way the engine runs. Those working on your car may think they’ve given you superior service and added great value. But do you perceive that value? Yeah, probably not. So I worked with his auto repair shop on ways to make the invisible, visible. They started a practice that before they would return the car to you. They’d vacuum the interior, and they’d washed the car. You may not even notice the engine running differently. But you drive out of the parking lot smiling because your car is shiny and clean. And they introduced a policy where the mechanic who worked on your car called you would say, hey, Steven, I’m the guy who worked on your car. And I’m just checking to make sure you’re happy and pleased with the service. And by the way, have you noticed any improvement in your gas mileage? And you’re thinking hmm, I hadn’t really thought about it. But you know, come to think of it, I think I have noticed an improvement. They have made something invisible, visible. Now this idea of making the invisible visible. This idea is actually at the very heart of our Christian faith. We use a fancy theological word to describe it. Incarnation. The Gospel of John 114 says the Word became flesh and lived among us full of grace and truth. The Word became enfleshed. incarnated. God’s incomprehensible, unimaginable unbounded, unconditional, infinite, eternal, invisible love became visible in the person of Jesus. At the heart of our faith, is the belief that Jesus showed us what God’s nature God’s heart God’s love. Looks like. Jesus is God’s love made visible. We see Jesus welcoming little children into his arms. We see Jesus reaching out, touching a leper affirming his worth. When everyone else deemed him unworthy, we see Jesus tell a woman overwhelmed with shame that he doesn’t condemn her, but loves her. We see Jesus feeding the hungry. We see Jesus including the excluded we see Jesus welcoming to his table, the misfits, the broken, the unwanted, the unwelcome. We see Jesus reaching out to the most vulnerable and marginalized. We see Jesus on the side of the last the last the least. We see Jesus, not just telling us to forgive our enemies, but actually looking into the eyes of those who put the nail in his hands, saying, Father, forgive them. We see Jesus and we see what God’s incomprehensible love looks like Jesus and fleshed, incarnated God’s love, Jesus made the invisible visible. Incarnation, however, is not a one time event that happened a long time ago. It continues it’s our job, our holy task as people of faith to continue the incarnation to continue making the invisible, visible. When people see us us, the hope is that they see something of Jesus. The hope is that they see and experience God’s love in a way that’s visible, tangible, real. I mean, I can tell a hungry person, that God loves you, God loves you. But that love becomes visible and real and life changing in the form of a loaf of bread, or seeds to grow their own food. The apostle Paul said, You are the body of Christ. And each one of you, each and every one of you, is a part of it. We are the hands, feet, eyes, heart of Christ, called to show up in the world in such a way that we make the invisible, visible. And you know, the beautiful thing. The beautiful thing is that as we seek to make the love of God visible to others, that very loud becomes more visible to us that very love deepens within us. I was working with the grocery store on the spirituality of service, making the invisible visible. And this particular store store partnered with with an organization that that help those with special needs. Get employment. There was a young man named Johnny 19 years old who lived with Down syndrome. Johnny’s job was at the checkout line, putting the groceries in the grocery bags for the customers. Now Johnny seemed to grasp what I was talking about. Johnny seemed to grasp this idea of making the invisible visible before anyone else. He decided to come up with a positive motivational quote, every single day. He said that he noticed people at the grocery store just seemed unhappy. They rarely smiled. And he wanted to encourage them. So Johnny chose a quote he liked, and his dad helped him print multiple copies of the quote, and Johnny would cut out each quote, and on the back, he’d sign. I love you, Johnny. And Johnny took the quotes to work each day. And he put a quote in the grocery bag for each customer. And he would tell every shopper with a big smile on his face. I love you. Thanks for shopping with us. Now Johnny’s efforts making the invisible visible actually really started to make a difference. After a couple of weeks, the store manager noticed Johnny’s checkout line was three times longer than anyone elses. The manager quickly called more cashiers to the front and asked him to open more lanes open more lanes. Then the store manager tried to get people to change lanes. But no one would budge. They told the manager you know, it’s okay. We we want to be in Johnny’s lane. We We look forward to his positive quote for the day. And some with tears, said what a difference it made to them to hear that they are loved. turned out there was something really contagious about Johnny’s efforts because similar things started happening all around the store. As people began to think about how they can make the invisible visible. If a broken flower or an unused corsage was found in the florist department, the floral clerk would search the store for an elderly person or, or a child to give the flower to the person in charge of retrieving the grocery carts in the parking lot actually began to look for people who might be struggling to get their groceries into their car. And he would offer to help them the butcher inspired by Johnny started handing out his favorite grilling recipes. And with every meet order, he encouraged people to invite those who are lonely over for a barbecue and then come back and tell him about it. And they did. The environment in that grocery store completely changed not only for the customers, but also for the employees As people became aware of and focused on the little things they could do to make the invisible, visible. They’ll stories like this won’t make the headlines. But those small things that that seem insignificant, those small things add up and have the potential to be transformational. Mother Teresa said you may not be able to do great things. But you can do small things with great love. As I often say, we may, we may feel helpless in the face of the overwhelming despair and sorrow in the world. But we are never powerless. We can always choose love. We can always choose to make love visible. Thessalonians 521 says hold fast to that which is good and be of good courage. Don’t even though there is so much discouragement, so much despair. I’m encouraged. I’m encouraged because of the amazing community at Presbyterian. I’m encouraged because of you. I’m encouraged because I see you making love visible every day. I see you creating a sanctuary a safe place where all are welcome always. At a time when many are feeling vulnerable and an unwelcome. I see you tutoring vulnerable students at Bear Creek Elementary every week. I see you making prayer shawls for people in the hospital. quilts for those who experienced disaster wrapping people in God’s grace making God’s love visible when it’s needed. I see you making hundreds and hundreds of hygiene kits for the homeless youth helping them see that someone cares. I see you supporting our children and teenagers at such a difficult time in their in their lives, reminding them of how deeply loved they are. I see you making meals for the homeless at Bethlehem in family kitchen. I see you building homes, smokeless stoves and latrines and Guatemala. I see you helping our bobois friends and Bruun to grow their own food and receive the medical care that they need. I see you sponsoring students in Guatemala in Burundi who wouldn’t have a chance to flourish without your support. I see reaching out to people in times of grief, wrapping your arms around them making a meal, saying without words. I’m with you. I see you standing up for those who are most vulnerable and marginalized. I see you advocating and caring for the earth. I see you trying to build a world where children don’t have to worry about gun violence. I see you helping out with rent food, gas money when these basic essentials are out of reach for so many. I see you making room in our building for those in recovery for people of other faiths. For parents struggling to afford childcare. I see you providing mental health resources. When we are in the midst of a mental health crisis. I see you reaching out to those who are alone. When so many are struggling with loneliness. I am encouraged. Because I see you. I see the goodness in you. I see you trying to live the spacious and radical love of Jesus. I see Christ. In you. I see Christ’s love made visible in in through you. We call this season in the church stewardship season where we asked you to make a financial commitment generously supporting the mission of First Presbyterian next year in 2024. I mean put simply, it’s your generosity that makes it possible for us to make Christ’s love visible when and where it’s needed the most. Our theme is all in because as each person increases their generosity We increase the visibility of Christ’s love. This is a momentous time. When despair, hate, violence are visible. Everywhere you look. We call this our stewardship season. A steward is a caretaker. How will we be stewards, caretakers of this time? This moment. This is a time when each and every one of us is needed to be all in making the invisible, visible, a time to make a commitment that when people see us they might see something of Jesus, to make a commitment to show up in the world in such a way that God’s love is visible, tangible, real, life changing. Take a deep breath. The Hebrew word for breath is Rou Ha, the same word for spirit. Breathe in the breath of God. Breathe in the Spirit of God. Breathe in the love of God in this tumultuous time, take the time to breathe. to center yourself and ground yourself in God’s presence. Be present to the Divine Love that is always present to you. And it’s from this deep, deep place of union with God’s love that we’re ready to do the work of love that is ours to do. We’re ready to partner with God. Continuing the miracle of incarnation making God’s love visible. May it be so