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Jun 16th: The Encounter, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.

Posted: Sun, Jun 16, 2024
The Encounter with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: QUEST: The Awakened Traveler A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: John 4.7-40. Join us Sunday as Rev. Dr. Steven Koski as he discusses a “traveler’s mindset” by deepening relationships through vulnerability, empathy, and unconditional acceptance of others as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well. Might we see beyond surfaces and meet others in heart space?

A Part of the Series:

Rev. Dr. Steven Koski


The Encounter with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski. Series: QUEST: The Awakened Traveler A Spacious Christianity, First Presbyterian Church of Bend, Oregon. Scripture: John 4.7-40.

Join us Sunday as Rev. Dr. Steven Koski as he discusses a “traveler’s mindset” by deepening relationships through vulnerability, empathy, and unconditional acceptance of others as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well. Might we see beyond surfaces and meet others in heart space?


We’re beginning our summer with a worship series called Quest the awakened traveler. You know, maybe you have plans to travel to some of the faraway places, or maybe you’re staying home to explore your local surroundings, as if for the first time. What if we set the intention this summer of being on a quest to a deeper relationship with our neighbors, ourselves and with God. You know, there’s a difference between a traveler and a tourist. A tourist travel to places and enjoy the tourist spots. Take lots and lots of pictures and often return home unchanged. Travelers are always in discovery mode, immersing themselves in the experience, willing to venture off the well worn beaten paths, seeing every encounter as an opportunity to learn and grow. So even if you have no plans to leave town this summer, what if we adopted the traveler’s mindset it embarked on a quest to deepen our faith. You know, one of the things that I love most when I travel is encountering and learning the stories of the people I meet. A traveler’s mindset believes there’s no such thing as a stranger. There are only friends you haven’t taken the time to get to know, and sometimes the strangers we haven’t taken the time to get to really know are people we have known our whole lives. You know, we spend so much time in headspace, you know, keeping things superficial, sharing our opinions or ideas or ideologies, judging those who think differently than we do. Transformation happens in heart space where we meet one another beyond the walls that we put up, where we meet one another in those deep places of vulnerability, where we practice deep listening, deep listening to the stories of others without judgment, Recognizing the one story we all share and live. What if our spiritual practice over the summer was a quest to encounter each other in heart space? You know, I think of my own family of origin. I grew up in a family where, honestly, we never had real conversations. We rarely met in heart space. We rarely met in those places of vulnerability where, well, you really get to know another and where you feel fully known. Now, my parents were amazing. My parents were good and kind and and they worked really hard, wanting the best for their family. But like all of us, they were creatures of the world they were raised in, and they were raised in secretive, emotion, suppressing worlds. So in our family, you know, we talked, but we never had real conversations. They did the best they could with the resources they had, but they didn’t have the resources to create spaces where it was safe to be vulnerable, to be honest. The conflict was avoided. Strong emotions were never expressed, and we did our best to never rock the boat. As a result, I remember, I remember feeling cared for, but never feeling really known. Is it even possible to feel fully loved without feeling fully known. I’m sharing this because if this sounds even remotely like your family, I want you to know that you’re not alone, and it’s not about blaming or fault. We are all creations, in some ways of our family histories, but we can become travelers and learn to travel down new roads. And I be I think that begins in recognizing that everyone, strangers, friends, family members, even enemies. Everyone has a deep need to be seen, to be known. The human soul doesn’t want to be fixed or solved, controlled, saved the human. Soul wants to be seen, heard, accepted, loved, and that’s what this story in John’s gospel I want to share with you today is really, really all about. The Bible says Jesus left Judea and started back to Galilee, but he had to go through Samaria, so he came to a Samaritan, Samaritan city, near the plot of the ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacobs well was there, and Jesus tired out by his journey. Was sitting by the well, and it was about noon, a Samaritan woman came to the well to draw water. So Jesus stops at the well in the heat of the day, he’s tired, he’s wanting a drink, and there’s a woman with a bucket to get water, and Jesus starts to chat with her, a big no no. And not only does he chat with this woman, who is an ethnic outsider, a Samaritan who were hated by the Jews, a bigger No no, but this woman has had five husbands, and there aren’t enough. No’s for that one. And this is, by far, this is by far the longest conversation Jesus has with anyone in all of the Gospels. So let’s take a closer look at the story. It was noon, the middle of the heat of the day. Now, most women would go to the well in the morning to avoid the heat of the day. Maybe this woman went went at noon when she thought she could go unnoticed undisturbed, but the plan of not being seen didn’t work. Jesus notices her, he sees her, and Jesus said to her, give me a drink. And the Samaritan woman said to him, how is it that you a Jew? Ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria. Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans. And Jesus answered her, if you knew the gift of God and who it is that is saying to you, give me a drink, you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. The woman said to him, Sir, Sir, give me this water. Give me this water so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water. You know, what really struck me in the story is what happens next? When the woman says, Give me this living water so that I may not thirst, Jesus goes straight to her place of vulnerability. He asks her about her husband. Jesus is not interested in small talk. He’s seeking a real conversation. Jesus says, Go, call your husband and come back. The woman answered, I have no husband. Jesus says you’re right for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is honest. Now, what Jesus is revealing. You know is probably a source of shame, and maybe why she’s choosing to go to the well at noon in the heat of the day. But yet, there’s no judgment from Jesus. He’s just stating there’s no reason to hide. He knows the truth of her life. Now there are many reasons that she could have had many husbands. Most of the reasons were about how deeply vulnerable women were and how without the economic and physical protection of a husband, they were susceptible to poverty and even death. What Jesus is doing here is meeting this courageous woman at the place of her deepest vulnerability.

You know, maybe you’ve heard. That that water seeks and finds its lowest point, living water. You know, Jesus talked about living water, the acceptance and unconditional love of God finds our lowest point, the living water Jesus is offering finds our lowest point. It flows to our deepest wounds. It finds the places of shame and guilt and inadequacy we spend so much energy trying to keep hidden Jesus and the Samaritan woman got past all the superficialities, the facades, the roles, the mass we wear all the time, and when they got past all that stuff, she experienced something She had never known before. She experienced what every single one of us wants to experience, and that is someone who sees us really knows us and accepts and loves us. Theologian James Allison describes faith not as intellectually agreeing with a set of theological propositions, but he describes faith as relaxing, relaxing in the love and the presence of God. You know, the way we relax in the presence of someone we’re certain is fond of us. You know someone we’re we’re sure cares for us and wants only the best for us. When we are in the presence of someone that we are certain doesn’t judge us, someone who knows us and accepts us, we’re funnier, we’re more spontaneous, we’re we’re softer, less defended. If I know for sure that someone likes and loves me, there is no reason to pretend anything Alison says faith is relaxing. So imagine seeing your faith as not having to prove yourself to God, but relaxing in the presence of unconditional acceptance, where you don’t have to hide. You don’t have to pretend. Imagine your faith as being able to finally exhale. Now imagine if that was the kind of presence we offered one another, a presence where others could relax and exhale in our presence, where it is safe to tell their story, where it’s safe to be vulnerable, where it’s safe to reveal their wounds, knowing there would be no judgment, only acceptance I think that’s what’s happened to the woman at the well. I think the living water of Jesus’s love found a crack in her defenses and and trickled down to her lowest point, trickle to her deepest wounds, her greatest need. And for the first time in her life, she finally exhaled. In fact, she relaxed so much she totally left her water jar at the well. Scripture says the woman drops her jar by the well, runs back to town, tells everyone, and because of her, they welcome. Jesus. Do you see how extraordinary This is? The woman wouldn’t even go to the well when everyone else does, because she was not welcome, she feared she would be judged. Now she has something so important to say, she runs back to town to tell everyone. And you know, What’s more amazing, they believe her. Scripture says many Samaritans from that city believed in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony. When someone sees you, listens to you, accepts you, you’ll find a voice to say what you’ve never been able to say, and you didn’t think perhaps that you could ever say in being. Seen being known and fully loved. The Samaritan woman in the story not only found her voice, she found herself. You know what Jesus said, Love your neighbor. I’m thinking he might have skipped a step. Maybe he first should have said, see your neighbor, create a safe space to listen to your neighbor’s story. Be willing to meet your neighbor in their lowest places, in the places of vulnerability, because it’s there that you will really get to know your neighbor, because the loving comes with the knowing. Imagine meeting someone who could tell you everything about yourself. Imagine if that person could see right through you and loved you anyway. What if that person took all your vulnerability, all your flaws, all your secrets, and looked at you with compassion, admiration, acceptance, respect unconditional love, not because of who you are, but because of who he is. That’s the love Jesus has for you and the love we’re called to have for one another. Our souls thirst to be seen, to be known and loved. What if our spiritual practice this summer is the quest to offer one another the living water of unconditional acceptance that is always offered to us, relax, exhale, knowing you are fully known and fully loved, just as you are amen, amen.

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