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These summer days give us an opportunity to sit back and reflect on life. Today we have a treat. Veteran singer/song writers Jim and Jean Strathdee will lead music in their joyous and soulful way, and following a parable of Jesus, we will have a conversation with our soul.
Reflection: “Radical Idea #6: Oh my soul.” Rev. Will Sparks
Oh my soul. Why do you wander like you do
Oh my soul, You got nothing left to prove
Oh my soul, Let me get out of your way
Oh my soul, Wake up and seize the day
That is the latest song out by Joseph Martyn, the Welsh singer song writer whose lyrics I just find haunting. And he sings a lot about the soul. When people talk about the soul, not that that happens a lot, but when we do, what do you think we are talking about?
Jesus talked about the soul. We sang that great teaching- the great commandment: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.”
Well I think we understand loving God with our heart: loving God from the place where our passion and our compassion reside. So many commitments of the heart have such a sacred component to them, don’t they. It’s easy to come up with examples of loving the divine with your whole heart.
And I think we have a pretty good sense of loving God with our mind: our thinking capacity. Paul says that we must take on the mind of Christ, which means think like Christ, weigh what we see and do like Christ would have us. Practice the way of thinking, perceiving and deciding like Christ. I think of people who are doing research to solve illnesses or find clean energy, or relieve suffering, or teach children. So many examples of people using our mind to love.
And I think we even have a sense of loving God with our body, our strength. Using our power to love God’s people, God’s creation. I have good friends who had a baby on Thursday night. First child. First time either of them had been so close to the process of giving birth. Here’s what Scott texted me about his beloved and how she did.
“She did great,” he said. “ I have never heard her pray out loud so much, but wisely chose not to raise it as a point of interest during labour J. In truth, it was inspiring. And not just the prayer. Self-giving love was fully on display. Her whole self given for the sake of one completely vulnerable. I’d have probably described childbirth in this way before but living it (even from the male point of view) gives a whole new kind of knowledge.” Loving God with our whole strength, with your body.
And so we have the soul- loving God with our soul. What is that and how do we do that? When the gambler in the country song makes a bet with the devil for his soul, what is he actually putting on the table? Or when people talk about soul music, what is that actually? And when the character in Jesus’ parable has a conversation with his soul and says, “Soul, it is time to be comfortable- time for some R & R,” what exactly is he in conversation with?
It’s a really interesting story, especially in light of the theme we have been exploring all summer, “Jesus the radical.” And at first glance, the radical thing about this scripture is what he is saying about wealth right. “Today your life will be asked of you.” What good is all you have accumulated to you now? Rather, how about accumulating credit where it really counts- spiritual credit- riches in the store house of the divine. It is a great message in a fearful culture so focused on the threat of scarcity in which the solution is to accumulate more, and in an economy based on capital accumulation. Oxfam released a report earlier this year comparing the richest people in the world with the poorest. Did you know that the richest 26 people, 26 individuals have accumulated the same wealth as the poorest 50% of the world’s population? Isn’t that a stunning stat.?
So yes, radical Jesus has a thing or two to say about economics. In fact Jesus had more to say about the accumulation of money and its effects on the soul and the community than he had to say about anything else. Radical Jesus was all about re-balancing the economic power within the world. That’s what his vision of the Kingdom of God was all about.
But radical Jesus also has a lot to say about how that whole economic thing is reflective of what is going on in the soul, and in this parable this excessively rich person addresses his soul. “Soul,” he says proudly. Look what I have done. I have accumulated more wealth than I will ever need. Time to relax. But his maker calls him a fool. He has spent his life accumulating things and now he is bragging to his soul as if his soul cared about things. “You are speaking to your soul in a language that the soul does not understand. You are proudly claiming material success to your soul. How foolish! Don’t you know the soul doesn’t give a hoot about material success?”
When Jesus talks about the soul, he is talking about something absolutely precious at the core of a person’s life. Of infinite value, priceless. The soul is the thing that makes us who we are- our essence. When you look at me and as you get to know me, hopefully you come to see the real Will, and that is made up of many things. What you see is family of origin and genetics, and values, and peculiarities that all come together to express “Will.” Nobody else. Just me. But at the root of that, underneath it all, there is a given self, a divine self. The true me. And throughout our life, as we are becoming more and more ourselves, the soul- that true me is the medium of God’s great handiwork in our lives.
But the soul does not easily or readily reveal itself. I mean, how many people would you say you have let see your truest self? Your real self. I mean, how well do we know that true self even ourselves.
Peter Short talks about the soul as a wild animal that you have to befriend gently or it will fade into the forest of life. But know it is a sturdy thing, a wise thing. Not a think that is patient with idle chatter. But if we sit with our soul long enough, it will reveal its wisdom to us- wisdom about the life to which we are called. The particular life that we are created for. Not that it is fragile or scared but know that the soul deals only in life that really is life. It doesn’t mess around with stuff, with the accumulation of belongings. The soul is like the dalai lama of your life, the you that cares about life’s depth dimension.
When was the last time you sat with your soul, had a conversation with your soul? Not a foolish one like the guy in the parable who thought the soul cared about how much stuff he had and how satisfied his appetites were, but a real conversation about your life, about the things you really love. That is what the soul cares about. And the soul, the one that you have within you, that has safely brought you to this moment now, has a lot to teach you about fulfilling your life. It is the very best self-help guide you will ever find.
Last week in our series on the radical Jesus, Jesus at the root of things, we talked about prayer as coming to God on God’s own terms. Well this week we discover that the divine is not far away at all. The depth dimension in life can be found in your own life, built into your very essence. So the radical Jesus idea for this week is the idea of soul, or the essence of God which is, as he put it, within you. He said the kingdom of God is at hand. At another time he said, the kingdom of God is within you. And finally he said, “what does it profit a person if they gain or accumulate the whole world but in the process, forfeit their soul. What could they possibly give in exchange for their soul?” What could be give in exchange for that divine essence that is already in them?
Love the Lord your God with all your soul. There is no better way to love God than to become our true self. It is who we were created to be. Have a conversation with your soul about that. Amen.
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