God equips us to love others as God loves, as others want to be loved says Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi

Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi delivers her sermon “The Declaration of Independence: We are Free from Grandma’s Context” during the morning worship service.
Dave Munch / Photo Editor
Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi delivers her sermon “The Declaration of Independence: We are Free from Grandma’s Context” during the morning worship service.

“We are called by God to freedom, and it would be a cruel god who would call us and not equip us with an answer,” said Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi at the 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning worship service in the Amphitheater.

Her sermon title was “Declaration of Independence: We are Free to Love,” and the scripture text was Galatians 5:13-15.

“Now that we are free — so what? Being in bondage takes up time and energy. Being free gives us back time and energy,” she said. “So, what do we do to fill the space?” 

The answer is simple. 

“We love,” she said.

 She quoted I Corinthians 13, often called the “love chapter” — “Love is kind, patient, and rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, endures all things, believes all things, hopes all things. Love never ends.”

“You know what love is, but how do we love?” she asked. 

The New Revised Standard Updated Version Bible says that through love “we are enslaved to one another.” 

“As an African American woman, that wording is problematic for me,” she said. “In my context, I would say that through love we decenter ourselves.”

To decenter, she told the congregation, means that your context might not be the best; your perspective is not the only one; somebody else could teach you to see the reflection of the image of God that you need to see. 

In Galatians, Paul quoted Jesus, who quoted Leviticus 19:18, to love our neighbor as ourselves. 

“As a psychologist, I have a problem with that,” Moore-Koikoi said. “In our Western culture, if we treated our neighbors as we treat our bodies or our environment, the world would be horrible.”

She suggested that a better analogy would be to love our neighbors as God would want us to love and how our neighbors would want to be loved. 

“As we get to know our neighbors better, when we are in a relationship, we will probably not like them as much,” she said. “But because God called us to a ministry of freedom, God will equip us to love even though we may not like the others.”

Moore-Koikoi continued, “Maybe if we learn to love, we might learn to like our neighbors, to see in them the image of God. Our freedom gives us more time and energy and equips us to love.”

As a demonstration of how much Moore-Koikoi loved the congregation, she tried an experiment. Even though she is not sure about AI, “I am in bondage to my context, but I used ChatGPT 3.5 to generate a sermon. You get to know people by stepping into their world, so I decided to live into my discomfort.” 

Moore-Koikoi read the following sermon from ChatGPT.

Quote — “Good morning, beloved congregation. Today, I want to talk to you about the beautiful and powerful concept of being free to love. In a world that often seems filled with hate, division, and fear, it is more important than ever that we embrace love as our guiding principle.

“In Galatians 5:13-14, the apostle Paul writes, ‘For you were called to freedom. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’

“These words remind us that true freedom is not about doing whatever we want, but about using our freedom to serve others in love. 

“We are called to love one another, just as God has loved us. And in that love, we find true fulfillment and purpose.

“But in order to truly love, we must first be free. 

“Free from the constraints of judgment, free from the fear of rejection, and free from the limitations we place on ourselves. 

“We must be free to love unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. 

“We must be free to love without reservation, without holding back any part of ourselves.

“When we are free to love, we are able to see the beauty in all people, regardless of their differences. 

“We are able to show compassion and kindness to those who are hurting or in need. 

“We are able to forgive those who have wronged us, and to seek reconciliation and peace.

“So I urge you, dear siblings, to embrace the freedom to love. 

“Let love be your guide in all that you do, and let it be the light that shines through you to others. 

“Love without fear, love without reservation, and love without limits. 

“For it is in love that we find true freedom, and it is in love that we find God. May we all be free to love, now and always. Amen.” —End Quote.

When Moore-Koikoi prepares to write a sermon, she asks God to prepare her to preach what God wants people to hear through her. 

“I believe I am actually open to God, and God’s Holy spirit answers that prayer,” she said.

She continued, “So I have to ask, can the Holy Spirit influence ChatGPT? Does the faith and power of the cross through the Holy Spirit influence chatbots, or is it governed by rules of the universe that God will not break, like gravity or changing a banana into an apple?”

If God through the Holy Spirit does not influence what a preacher writes, then the Holy Spirit will not influence what the congregation hears or experiences.

She asked the preachers in the congregation, “How many of you have preached a sermon that you thought was OK and someone came after the service and said, ‘I was really moved by what you preached’?” A voice in the Amp called out: “Every Sunday.” 

Moore-Koikoi laughed and said, “We have to talk about your preaching.”

She continued, “That is the Holy Spirit at work. Now, chatbots can free a pastor to spend more time loving the people; or is it a step backwards in relationships? I don’t know the answers but because I am free to love the generation behind me, who are already free from grandma’s context and church, I am willing to be uncomfortable and preach with chatbots at Chautauqua.”

Moore-Koikoi said she is willing to wrestle with the question because every sermon this week “has been self-centered, about us and our freedom from bondage. If we do this step together, then we are freed to do the next step of work. We are free to be uncomfortable and go to places we have never been. We will learn how God wants us to love somebody else, because God loves all things, even AI.”

The Rev. John Morgan, pastor of the Williamsburg, Virginia, Presbyterian Church, presided. The Rev. Barbara Williams, coordinator of Unity ministry activities at Chautauqua, read the scripture. The prelude was Sonata in C Minor, first movement, “Largo,” and fourth movement, “Allegro,” by Georg Philipp Telemann. Willie La Favor, piano; Barbara Hois, flute; and Maura Giannini, violin, members of the Motet Consort, performed the prelude. The Motet Choir sang “if ye love me,” music by Philip Wilby and text from John 14:15-18. Joshua Stafford, director of sacred music and the Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist, directed the choir and Owen Reyda, 2024 organ scholar, provided accompaniment on the Massey Memorial Organ. Stafford played “Allegro ben ritmato e deciso” from Three Preludes by George Gershwin, on the Massey Organ. Support for this week’s services and chaplaincy is provided by the Geraldine M. and Frank E. McElree, Jr. Chaplaincy Fund.

Tags : AIartificial intelligenceChatGPTCynthia Moore-KoikoiDeclaration of Independence: We are Free to Lovemorning worshipreligion

The author Mary Lee Talbot

Mary Lee Talbot writes the recap of the morning worship service. A life-long Chautauquan, she is a Presbyterian minister, author of Chautauqua’s Heart: 100 Years of Beauty and a history of the Chapel of the Good Shepherd. She edited The Streets Where We Live and Shalom Chautauqua. She lives in Chautauqua year-round with her Stabyhoun, Sammi.