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Feb 18th: Kindness as a Spiritual Practice, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.

Posted: Sun, Feb 18, 2024
Kindness as a Spiritual Practice with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: Everyday Peacemakers A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Romans 12.21;Galatians 5.22;Colossians 3.12;Matthew 5.9. This Sunday, Rev. Dr. Steven Koski invites us to practice kindness as a spiritual discipline during Lent by clothing ourselves with compassion for others in a divided world.

A Part of the Series:

Rev. Dr. Steven Koski


Kindness as a Spiritual Practice with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: Everyday Peacemakers A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Romans 12.21;Galatians 5.22;Colossians 3.12;Matthew 5.9.

This Sunday, Rev. Dr. Steven Koski invites us to practice kindness as a spiritual discipline during Lent by clothing ourselves with compassion for others in a divided world.


Steven: We recently opened our church doors as an emergency warming relief shelter when the temperatures dropped below zero, and our homeless neighbors were in danger of freezing to death. And we allowed we allowed them to bring their pets with them. And I was I was deeply moved by the, by the tender care our guests gave their pets and actually the affection and loyalty their pets, extended them to extend it to them. It reminded me of this picture. This picture I saw of Jennifer, a nurse in New York, who learned one of her patients John, who was homeless, was forced to give up his dog Boomer to the local shelter. When he was hospitalized. Jennifer went to the animal shelter, and adopted her patients dog so that she could bring him to visit while John completed his rehabilitation in the hospital. Jennifer said there, there are just so many worries in the world right now. That’s the least I can do. I can’t cure diseases. I’m not a miracle worker, I can’t fix the world. But I can care for John’s dog. As long as he needs me to. I can choose to be kind. You know, I wonder if that kind of kindness is what the kingdom of God looks like. At a time when there is so much cruelty in humanity, ugliness. The gift we can offer the world is the best of our humanity. That part of our humanity that is a reflection of God’s goodness, the medicine the world needs is to believe in the power of kindness. John Rodale is a poet who wrote when the world goes mad, be wildly kind to everyone, everyone, everyone. You can’t control much. But you can control how you treat others. In these breaking news, heartbreaking times when nothing feels certain. Let your raw kindness, be a certainty. Allow your compassion to become a North Star stamped up in the sky for others to follow back home. The apostle Paul said Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil, with goodness and kindness. I mean this. This is our marching orders as people of faith to be to be a steady and reliable force for goodness and kindness in a world gone mad. It says in Galatians 522 that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit. In other words, there’s something of God and every act of kindness, every act of kindness reflects the same spirit that was in Jesus. I know we think we think faith and our spiritual life should somehow somehow be more sophisticated than that. But honestly, to be faithful, is to be kind. Our acts of kindness are the portal that allows a little more of the mercy and tenderness of God into the world. Kindness is actually a spiritual practice. And kindness is a spiritual practice I encourage all of us to commit to and to work on during the season of Lent. The apostle Paul encourages us in the Book of Colossians. Therefore as God’s chosen people holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with kindness. What if after, after brushing our teeth and after showering? What if we imagined clothing ourselves with kindness? trying the best we can to to have kindness be our default for every situation that we find ourselves in. This weekend is the first weekend of the season of Lent. Now lent in the church is a season of reflection, repentance, renewal, leading to the celebration of Easter. Now, repentance for me, the word repentance, for many is a scary word, a scary church word. The word repentance actually mean just simply to turn to turn around. It actually means to rethink things. So the season of Lent leading up to Easter is a time to intense Leave, reflect and rethink how we are showing up in the world to rethink how we live, and how we love. When we wake up on Easter morning, how will we be different? What new resurrection will we have experienced? How will our relationship with God with ourselves with others be different? How can we make make more room in our hearts and in our lives? For the love that changes everything? So how will we be different on Easter? And what are our plans for the next 40 days? To prepare for that? What is the spiritual work that we need to do? So that God can do what God does? Our theme for Lent is every day, peacemakers. Jesus said, Blessed are the peacemakers into a harsh world ugly with violence and hate. Jesus sends us as peacemakers. So during this season of Lent, we’re going to focus on what does it mean to follow the peacemaking way of Jesus, the conflict polarization, hate, that is saturating our world right now is actually likely to escalate and get worse in this election year. I’ve been saying these past few weeks that, that our spiritual work for 2024 is to develop the capacity for a spiritual response to life, grounding from grounded from a deep place of peace, compassion, kindness, wisdom, so to respond to life from our spiritual core, and not react to life from fear, anger, judgment, anxiety. And this season of Lent is a time to really focus on that spiritual work. You know, it’s a common practice to, to give something up for Lent. A one year I gave up chocolate, caffeine, and alcohol, the trifecta. I was, I was actually tempted to give up swearing as well, but decided that was actually more than I could handle. And I’m embarrassed to admit the result of this exercise and self discipline was that I found myself constantly thinking about myself. I mean, how I was feeling how hard it was, how I how I felt deprived. I mean, whenever anyone asked me, well, what are you giving up for Lent I, I boasted like, I should receive the gold star for letting discipline. I realized that my Lenten practice, was stroking my ego. Rather than surrendering my ego. I was so focused, leaving very little room for God to to find some space. Now I lost five pounds, but I I certainly wasn’t any closer to God. I didn’t experience a spiritual renewal. I didn’t become a more loving person. So rather than giving something up for Lent, what if we took on something mean? What if we practiced becoming everyday peacemakers? In this harsh world where there’s so much hostility? What if we intentionally each day, clothed ourselves with kindness? What if we actually took up kindness as a spiritual practice for Lent? In others something of God. In every act of kindness, every act of kindness brings that same spirit that was in Jesus into the world. Did you see the incredible Performance at the Grammy Awards of of Tracy Chapman singing the song fast car that she first released in 1988 with country star Luke combs. It was so uplifting, so inspiring, so incredible to people, to people who couldn’t be any more different.

Tracy Chapman, a queer, older, black woman, Luke combs, a straight young white male country singer. And there they were are united in song united in spirit. As I was watching this performance, there were tears in my eyes. Here was a black woman and a white man singing together, about people down on their luck dreaming a better lives dreaming of a better world singing about a fast car fast enough so they can fly away. Just for a moment in that song and these two artists singing together, and the obvious respect, you could see it in their eyes that they extended to each other. Just for a moment. The politics the hate the divisions faded away. And we got a glimpse of the more beautiful world that our hearts know as possible. There are two forces at work in the world. The forces of integration joining us together and the forces of disintegration pulling us apart. That moment of Tracy Chapman and Luke combs singing together was such a beautiful example of the forces of integration. I mean, music uniting two disparate people, bringing them together and inspiring all of us. That a different way a different world is possible. We need more of those moments. There are definitely forces of disintegration at work in the world, you know, grabbing us by the lapels demanding our attention. We need to turn our attention we need to turn our hearts to the forces of integration. kindness. Kindness as a daily spiritual practice, is a force of integration. In a world trying to pull us apart a genre Dell said when the world goes mad, be wildly kind to everyone. Everyone. Someone shared with me recently that she was as she was driving to work, she was following a car that had a sign in the back window that said, learning to drive a stick shift. Sorry for any delay. My friend said knowing this information, she actually then became very patient, be patient with their slow shifting and their their stops and starts. And she said they’re actually doing pretty well for just learning. But then she asked herself a tough question. Would I have been just as patient in kind if the sign hadn’t been there in the back window of the car? And she said I can almost definitely say no, no, I probably wouldn’t have been very patient or kind. We really don’t know what people are going through in life. And everyone and I mean, everyone is going through something. We don’t wear signs that illustrate our personal struggles. You know, you don’t see signs taped to people’s shirts that say, going through a divorce or lost a child or struggling with depression or are diagnosed with cancer. If we could read visually, what those around us are going through the burdens, they’re carrying the grief, they’re holding the wounds that aren’t healed. If we could read that visually, I’m sure we would definitely be more patient in kind. But we shouldn’t have to see signs. We shouldn’t have to have a reason to treat strangers or or even friends and family members with an extra dose of kindness. We should be kind whether we know what’s going on or not whether they deserve it or not. Kindness you know kindness that the word it seems like a soft word a word maybe reserved for Hallmark cards or Disney movies. Certainly not a word that belongs in the harsh realities of this world. But in a world that lives like a clenched fist kindness is the courage to walk in this world. With a tender heart and an open hand. There is something of God In every act of kindness, every act of kindness brings that same spirit that was in Jesus into the world. To follow the peacemaking way of Jesus is to practice kindness. I want to finish with one more. John ngModel. Paul. Whenever I feel helpless in this overwhelming world, I become a helper. On the days when it feels like I have no power. I serve others with kindness. You see, whenever I wash the world’s feet, my hands, stop shaking. Friends, Blessed are the peacemakers. And blessed are those who join the forces of integration in the world. Blessed are those who clothed themselves with kindness. May it be so

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