Jan 14th: We are Born Spiritual, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.
A Part of the Series:
We are Born Spiritual with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: The Awkened Brain A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Matthew 3:16-17.
Join us this Sunday as Rev. Dr. Steven Koski discusses finding grit and perseverance by remembering God’s unconditional love and the story of Jesus’ baptism as told in Matthew.
[Rev. Dr. Steven Koski]: There’s a true story that came from the New England Journal of Medicine. A parent’s who had a four year old daughter who gave birth to a baby boy. When they brought the baby home from the hospital. This is a little sister insisted on spending time alone with her baby brother. The parents thought it odd but decided it would be okay as long as they stood outside the bedroom and listened in on the baby monitor. They heard the daughter move closer to the crib. They couldn’t believe their ears. When they heard her say to her baby brother.
Tell me about God. I’m beginning to forget. We come from love. We are made by love. We are here to love. One day we will return to the source of all love. But we forget. In fact, trauma experts tell us that that the fear and trauma that we experience in life has a way of making us forget who we are. And now more than ever, we need to be reminded. Maybe the one thing that might make the biggest difference in the new year is to remember who we are. And who’s we are. Father, Greg Boyle works to help rehabilitate violent gang members in Los Angeles. And Father Boyle said I’ve met many people who’ve heard others who’ve done evil things. But I’ve never met an evil person.
Neuroscientists have proven that if you consistently contemplate a God of unconditional love, and you remind yourself that you are a reflection of that love. It actually awakens activates, strengthens the part of your brain connected to empathy. In other words, a simple daily spiritual practice of remembering that you came from love, you’re made by love, you’re here to love that literally awakens a part of your brain that helps you become a more empathetic person, you become more loving. I mean, how cool is that? It’s almost as if a God of love designed our brains to work this way. And I can’t think of anything more urgent in the world right now.
Than to focus our energies in becoming more loving. It’s popular to choose a word for the year as a spiritual practice and you carry that word with you. The word I’ve chosen for 2024 I invite you to consider is grit.
Grit is defined as the passion and perseverance to keep pursuing what’s possible, especially when it seems impossible. Grit is the stamina to show up. Keep showing up when you want to hide. Grit is holding fast to hope when the circumstances suggest it’s hopeless and fighting to change those circumstances.
At a comparative religions conference scholars were debating about what is unique about Christianity. Some suggested incarnation God becoming flesh, others suggested death on the cross, others resurrection. Scholars pointed to examples and other religions of each of the He’s CS Lewis walked in the room late and asked what all the fuss was about.
Christianity uniquely claims God’s love is ever present in unconditional, comes free of charge, no strings attached. Lewis said, what makes Christian faith unique, not better. But unique is that it doesn’t begin with what is demanded of us. It doesn’t begin with what’s required of us.
It always begins first, in what is offered to us the gift of this amazing, unconditional love revealed in Jesus that we call grace, a love that is present closer to us than our own breath. You know, there is no doubt we need an extra dose of grit these days.
But grit is grounded in grace. Grit arrives unexpectedly. When we awaken to the love that is already ours. Grit arrives unexpectedly when we get a glimpse of our own goodness. You know, I’m reminded this weekend of the grit of Martin Luther King Jr.
Thurman was asked by a reporter where he, where do you find the grit, the fight injustice? Where do you find the grit to look evil in the eye and to face hate and cruelty and violence every day? And Thurman said, Well, every day my mama told me to remember my baptism. To remember, I came from love, I was made by love and that I was loved with the love. No one could take away from me, a love stronger than evil, love stronger than hate.
We traditionally begin the new year remembering the baptism of Jesus. Jesus was 30 years old when he was baptized. We know little about Jesus from infancy and intelli is about 30. And the ministry of Jesus begins the day he walks out of Nazareth away from his father’s carpentry shop. He walks a few miles into the countryside, to hear a preacher by the name of John who’s a distant relative. Now John, the Baptist preaching is fiery and compelling. You know, like the legendary prophets, Amos and Micah. And John’s message is strong. Repent, which literally means turn, change direction.
Devote yourself wholly to God, begin a new life, walk into the river and be baptized. Let the water wash the old way emerge a new person, a person who knows who and whose you are. You know, I’m curious how the story of the baptism of Jesus God in the Bible. There are no disciples yet to see and remember it. And I wonder if it’s there, because it was a defining moment for Jesus a transformative moment.
As soon as Jesus was baptized, he came up out of the water. And at that moment heaven was opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, This is my beloved child, whom I love with him, I am well pleased.
When Jesus was knee deep in the river, Jordan, you know, in my imagination, I can see Jesus eating with the disciples sharing some wine and, and one of the disciples asked Jesus, when did the journey start for you? You know, how do you get up in the morning? How do you how do you face these, these crowds where there’s so much pain and suffering? How do you deal with the religious leaders always plotting against you? Jesus, how do you stay so calm? And on purpose, when we don’t even know where our next meal is gonna come from? Jesus, where do you get your strength? And resilience? And where do you get your grit? To keep on this path of love, knowing it may cost you your life.
Friends as we embark on a new year, and no doubt, there will be difficult days ahead. There. There is so much work to be done to repair and to restore and heal this broken world where there’s so much pain, so much suffering. Where will we find the grit? We need you and I remember when my son was little, he loved he loved to climb up on things. And I wanted to support his adventurous spirit. So I’d let him climb.
But I would hold his hand and he was little so I knew he would always remember he wouldn’t always remember to hold my head. And he did go and even when he let go of my hand 100 times I would never let Go have him this is how it is with God.