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May 5th: Practicing Resurrection, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.

Posted: Sun, May 5, 2024
Practicing Resurrection with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: Ruckus for Good 2024 A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Hebrews 13:3, Luke 15. Join us this Sunday as Rev. Dr. Steven Koski discusses how one might show empathy, compassion, and inclusion for those experiencing homelessness by feeling their pain and making them feel like celebrated members of the community.

A Part of the Series:

Rev. Dr. Steven Koski


Practicing Resurrection with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: Ruckus for Good 2024 A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: Hebrews 13:3, Luke 15.

Join us this Sunday as Rev. Dr. Steven Koski discusses how one might show empathy, compassion, and inclusion for those experiencing homelessness by feeling their pain and making them feel like celebrated members of the community.


There’s a lot of concern these days about finding good solutions for those who find themselves homeless. Now we need to have vigorous discussions about the best solutions for our homeless neighbors, and for our community. There are no easy solutions. Everyone, however, everyone deserves to be treated with dignity. I mean, no one should have to prove that they deserve a warm and safe place to sleep. The truest measure of our compassion is not in finding solutions for the homeless, but in our willingness to feel their pain, as if it’s our own pain, and to see ourselves in kinship with them. Father, Greg Boyle said, here’s the kind of compassion we seek a compassion that can stand in awe at the weight the poor have to carry, rather than standing in judgment at how they carry it. That is called empathy. Mean empathy is the answer empathy, empathy is always the answer. And as a country, we seem to have lost the capacity to ask a fundamental question that’s at the heart of empathy. What is it like to be someone else? What would it be like to to live their story? There’s a Native American proverb that says before you judge and criticize someone, make sure you walk a mile in their moccasins. People often ask, what do we do about the homeless, as if there are there a stain to be removed or a problem to be solved. And not human beings who deserve love and respect. There’s an underlying assumption that some people choose to be homeless. No one chooses to be homeless. roughly 90% of those considered homeless find themselves in that situation due to unforeseen life circumstances. They are homeless for less than a year, needing support to get back on their feet. They certainly don’t choose to be homeless, roughly 10% are called the chronic homeless. Now the chronic homeless are often judged and talked about in in really dehumanizing ways. Many, many are living with a mental illness. A person struggling with schizophrenia, for example, doesn’t choose to live with that illness, and deserves our compassion, not our judgment. Many who are chronically homeless, suffer from Post Traumatic Stress because of repeated traumatic events in their lives. Trauma is not a choice. Substance abuse is often a factor. And some will argue that’s a choice. But substance abuse is often an attempt to cope with devastating mental illness or trauma, in dealing with mental health issues, or sobriety are hard enough when you’re not living on the streets. And next to impossible, when you’re constantly looked down upon judged, and you lack support, stability, and resources.

And some may experience shame, because they would love to make other choices. But they’re caught in a cycle of poverty that keeps them trapped.

So the answer to the question of what to do about those who choose to be homeless, is easy, and nothing. Because being homeless rarely, if ever, is about choice. And now the answer to what to do? What do we do about those experiencing homelessness? Is we love them. And the best way to express love is through empathy. You know, Christianity makes any sense at all. It’s not whether we believe the right things or how we confidently can affirm the lines of a creed. But it’s really how we treat and care for the most vulnerable among us. If our faith is to make any sense at all, it’s about whether we have have heartspace to feel the pain of others and respond with mercy and, and tenderness instead of judgment. What is empathy? And how is empathy different from sympathy? Well, empathy is feeling with someone and requires vulnerability creates connection. They’re paying pain becomes your pay. Now sympathy is feeling for someone, you might feel sorry for them, where you can actually keep a safe distance. And it doesn’t require vulnerability. The letter of Hebrews 13 Three says, Remember those who are mistreated, as do as though you yourself are being mistreated and can feel their pain.

We’re not just to feel sorry for those in need. Were to feel with them as if their pain is actually our pain. Now that’s a Jesus shaped love. The Gospel of Luke chapter 15 begins this way. Now the tax collectors and sinners. We’re all gathered around to hear Jesus.

Now in the time of Jesus, the word the word sinner did not mean specific behavior. The word sinner referred to people who are considered unclean, unacceptable, not welcome. They were the outsiders who weren’t welcomed in the temple. So Luke 15, says, the Pharisees and teachers of the law, they murdered this man, Jesus, He welcomes sinners. He welcomes the unclean and unacceptable. And he sits down and eats with them. The religious leaders grumbled. They were offended that Jesus, Jesus actually welcomed the outsiders. He welcomed them to sit at the table with him. And instead of debating the issue, Jesus did what Jesus always did. He told the story. Jesus told them this parable. Suppose one of you has 100 sheep, and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it. And when the lost sheep is found he he joyfully puts the sheep on his shoulders and returns home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, Rejoice with me. What was lost, is now found. I tell you in the same way, there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous persons who feel they do not need to repent. Now, the word repent. The word repent in Greek actually simply means to turn or it means to return. Now, is it possible Jesus is saying in this parable, there’ll be more rejoicing in heaven over one person, one person who has been previously excluded one person who finds themselves on the outside, who feels lost. Because they’ve been told maybe they’ve been told all their lives that they don’t matter, that they don’t belong. Who returns and is now welcomed into community. There’ll be more rejoicing for that one person than over 99, self righteous persons who don’t even realize they’re the ones who are lost because they lack empathy. Whenever Jesus told a parable, there was always more than one meaning. Now, one focus of the story could very well be on the one who is lost. And the celebration that takes place in the heart of God. When someone who feels lost returns, returns to a sense of belonging and understanding of themselves as God’s beloved. You know, for God, it’s not enough to be welcomed. It’s not enough to be included. God desires for every person to feel celebrated, to know that their lives are worthy of Salah. Britain to know that their lives matter. Imagine what might shift if our approach wasn’t simply to find good solutions for those who find themselves homeless. But what would happen if our approach was to create the kind of community where those who are homeless might feel like they actually belong, where they don’t feel like a nuisance or a stain to be removed.

But they feel like their lives matter. And their lives are celebrated. So yes, this this parable is about the one who finds themselves lost, excluded, and a relentless love that searches until they are found and celebrated. Is it possible this parable is also about the 99? Could this parable also be about about us? Now remember, Jesus was responding to religious leaders who were complaining about who Jesus welcomed? They were complaining about who Jesus included? And is it possible that Jesus was also suggesting to the 99 righteous, that there’s something missing for us as a community. Without the presence of the one who finds themselves outside the community, we cannot be whole as a community. Without the one who is missing. We cannot be fully who God intends us to be as a community. When there are homeless neighbors, who feel like they don’t matter, who feel like they don’t really belong. And the invitation in the story is not to simply welcome and include. But to make sure those who feel lost to our community to make sure they feel seen and make sure they feel affirmed, to make sure they feel celebrated. Tom long is a respected theologian, and a writer who taught for many, many years at at Princeton seminary. And one Sunday, he preached at Nassau Presbyterian Church in Princeton, and then attended the luncheon afterwards. He sat down at one of the tables and it began chatting with the man next to him and the man. The band said to Tom, you know, I’ve been a member of this church my whole life, and I’m pretty sure that I’m the last nun until intellectual left in the church at Tom said, is that right? And the man said, it’s true. I haven’t understood a sermon preached in this church for 25 years. And Tom look puzzled, stated the obvious. But you’re still here. Oh, I’d never leave the man said. Every Monday night, a group of us serve a meal for those who are homeless. I take the time to sit down and listen to their stories. Their stories break my heart. I want them to know that they’re not an issue or a nuisance or an irritation. I want each and every one of them to know that they are a child of God. Dr. Long he said I don’t see Jesus very often.

But when I do it’s mostly on those Monday nights sharing a meal with these homeless folks. I consider family friends rarely, if ever do people choose their pain and suffering? And even what looks like a choice is usually not a choice. But we we always have the chance to choose to choose love. And in choosing love. We just might find that we are the ones who are filed. May it be so

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