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May 12th: The Quality of Life Equals the Quality of Our Relationships, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.

Posted: Sun, May 12, 2024
The Quality of Life Equals the Quality of Our Relationships with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: What Makes For A Good Life? A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. Join us Sunday when Rev. Dr. Steven Koski discusses the importance of love and acceptance in relationships and how one might embrace others’ imperfections with patience, kindness, and grace.

A Part of the Series:

Rev. Dr. Steven Koski


The Quality of Life Equals the Quality of Our Relationships with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: What Makes For A Good Life? A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: 1 Corinthians 13:1-13.

Join us Sunday when Rev. Dr. Steven Koski discusses the importance of love and acceptance in relationships and how one might embrace others’ imperfections with patience, kindness, and grace.


What makes a good life? Researchers at Harvard University have tried to answer that question. They conducted the longest study of happiness and wellbeing ever undertaken. They track the lives of nearly 800 people and their children and grandchildren for the past 80 years. And their research revealed that the number one factor that makes for a good life is the quality of our relationships. The quality of our relationships equals the quality of our lives. You know, I have the sacred privilege of spending time with people at the end of their lives. And I’ve never heard anyone say in their deathbed, you know, I wish I could go back to work and finish that one project or I, I wish I could have one more vacation or I wish I could clean my house or I wish I could check my bank balance.

What I hear expressed is gratitude for the relationships in their lives. Gratitude for who they love and, and who loves them. If there are regrets, it’s usually regretting not tending to those relationships. not forgiving more easily, not being more generous, and accepting of others. Not loving well enough. We’ve been taught to view love, as mostly a feeling. Relationships have depth, texture, resilience. Understand that love is most importantly a choice. A daily commitment to the to do the hard and, and messy work of caring for one another. Often in spite of how we are feeling. LIFE GIVING relationships are not grounded in how we feel. LIFE GIVING relationships are grounded in the commitment to choose love, and extend grace, in spite of how we might be feeling.

Michael Lynnville writes about his experience of being a pastor in a small town in Minnesota, and in a wonderful piece called our organist. He tells about being a guest supply preacher for a tiny church in Carthage Lake Minnesota. Now, Carthage Lake hasn’t had a minister of its own since 1939. But a handful of people hold on, and they gather one Sunday a month at noon, for worship with whatever preacher they can convince to come to Carthage Lake.

The clerk of the congregation, Lloyd Larson tells pastor Lynnville that there are only 11 members, but they will all be there. And he promised an organist, the same organist Carthage Lake has been promising guests preachers for 60 years. Lloyd sister in law, Agnes Reese dead.

The Sunday of being a guest preacher arrived. There were 12 worshipers including a young man scattered throughout the sanctuary sitting in their customary pews. Lloyd explained there was no bulletin, and the preacher just announces the hymns. Michael nodded to the organist with her with her wigs slightly askew, who responded with a broad smile. Worship began, Michael announced the opening hymn number 224 Spirit of God descend upon my heart.

Ignis the organist smiled and, and played what a friend we have in Jesus.

The 11 elderly members saying by memory, only the young man used to him though.

Following the sermon, Michael announced the next him, love divine all loves excelling. He looked directly at Agnes who smiled and played. I love to tell the story. After the prayer and offering, Miko walked over to the origin, whispered Agnes. What are we going to sing? She smiled and began to play Amazing Grace.

After worship, Agnes shook his hand. But she didn’t say a word. Lloyd sheepishly explained. Yeah, forgot to tell you about Agnes. She only knows these three hymns. So that’s what we sing.

Good grief. Lloyd. You mean to tell me you’ve been singing the same three hymns for 60 years? And Lloyd said, Well, we liked those hymns well enough and we know them by heart and, and she’s, she’s our organist. Later met Michael met the young man Neil Larsen, who was actually Lloyd’s grandson, who explained to him Agnes. Agnes is my late grandmother’s little sister.

Lloyd’s, my grandfather’s sister in law. And Agnes has never been quite right. She never says more than a few words.

But she learned to play those three hymns. In one week, 60 years ago, when the organist got sick. Anyway, she hasn’t been able to learn one since.

But playing the organ this one Sunday a month means the world to her.

You know, sometimes I think mostly, it’s mostly for her that they keep the church open. Agnes honestly on Agnes lives for the first Sunday of the month.

writing to the church at Corinth, the apostle Paul wrote these words, I will show you a better way.

You know, this church at Corinth, they were not acting like a church was, was really supposed to act which means, which means they were acting like a church often acts. They were arguing, judging, gossiping, being petty and insisting on being right, assuming the worst, not the best in one another.

So the apostle Paul wrote, If I spoke with tongues of angels, but if I had not love, I’m a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, I can have faith strong enough to move mountains. But if I have not love, it means nothing.

You know, this is one of the most most famous passages in the whole Bible read at countless number of weddings, I’m sure you’ve heard it at a wedding.

But the words were actually never meant to be about romantic love are sentimental love, or they were never meant to be about the emotions of love.

Paul is actually talking about the kind of the kind of love that is gritty, resilient, the kind of love that can endure all things. The Greek word used here for that kind of love is agape, the kind of love revealed in Jesus.

And this is how Paul describes agape love. He said Love is patient, and kind.

Love is not envious or boastful, arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way.

Love is not irritable, keeps no score of wrongs. Love does not rejoice and wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, love believes all things, hopes all things. Love endures all things.

Now Paul is describing a way, a way of being in relationship that is reflected, reflective of the love of Jesus. He’s not describing feelings or, or emotions, but choices you make, in spite of how you might be feeling you what I noticed in this description.

Did you notice there’s a generosity of spirit. There’s a grace.

The words seem to invite us to assume the best and not the worst and others.

Paul says Love does not insist on its own way.

Now imagine a love that that accepts you for who you are.

Imagine a love that that makes room for your flaws and imperfections. Imagine a love that that actually gives you the benefit of the doubt.

Imagine a love that easily forgives in his generous. You know, I like to tell people who are new to First Presbyterian, that at some point, this church and the pastor’s will let you down.

It’s a given that we will say or do something stupid and disappoint you. It’s a given.

Because we’re human and imperfect.

Your expectations will not be met.

But I encourage you to decide now before that happens to stick around after it happens.

Because if you leave you’ll miss the way God’s grace comes in and fills the cracks left behind In by our brokenness What if conflict and disappointment didn’t have to be the end of a relationship? But was actually the beginning of a deeper a more authentic relationship? What if we actually learn to accept one another? As we are human imperfect? Rather than insisting people be who we think they should be? What if we were patient and kind and gave each other space to be imperfect? What if we always, always erred? On the side of grace and abundance of grace? You know, Jesus never insisted people change in order to be loved.

Jesus loved people in their humaneness in their brokenness. He welcomed love accepted people, as they were. And as they experienced the depth of that kind of love, it changed them.

Do remember the story about the church in Carthage Lake. After greeting the 11 worshipers including Lloyd Larson and his sister in law, Agnes, the organist, Michael, the guest pastor and the lone young man, they lingered for a while.

And this young man said, on Agnes lives for the first Sunday of the month.

I think it’s mostly for her, that they keep the church open. And then the young man went on to say, they actually asked me to play the organ, of course. I mean, they had to ask, but grandpa knew I’d say no. I remember how he sighed with a relief when I did say no. Then he slapped me on the back. You’re an organist? The preacher asked.

Yeah, Eastman School of Music class of 84. I’ve had some really big church jobs.

The last one was down in Texas. It was a really large church, brand new Oregon, for services a Sunday. Then I got sick.

I’ve been HIV positive for six years.

The Personnel Committee of the church figured it out. The weight loss all the sick days not married. They told me it would be best if I moved on. My parents live in St. Paul. But my father and I haven’t spoken since I was 19.

I’m not sick enough to to be in the hospital yet. And I’m just too tired most of the time.

I really had nowhere else to go.

My grandfather Lloyd said I can move in with him and Acas.

You know, to tell the truth. I feel right at home in this quirky town of, of 80 year olds.

I feel welcomed, accepted, loved.

And then these young men paused and then he went on. He said they keep a Agnes and they took me in.

And since I moved here most every night Lloyd or old men angstrom from down the road.

They open up the church for me.

If it’s cold, they lay a fire in the woodstove. And then most evenings I play the organ.

It’s actually a sweet little instrument, believe it or not Lloyd’s kept it up.

And these last few weeks, it’s been almost warm in the evening. So they they leave all of the church doors and the windows open.

And everybody sits out on their front porch. As they listen to me play Bach, Beethoven Veeder all the stuff that I love and they clap from their porches.

II even a Agnes claps I must say it’s a good life.

The apostle Paul said Love bears all things, believes all things hopes all things. Love endures all things. Faith, hope and love abide these three and the greatest of these is love.


Related Ministries:

Online and Television Services, A Spacious Christianity
The special beauty about a virtual service? You can sing as loud as you want without care or worry. God loves a joyous worship - anywhere you are, at home…