8-2-15 ser Nurturing Soul: An Undivided Life

“Like a wild animal, the soul is tough, resilient, resourceful, savvy, and self-sufficient: it knows how to survive in hard places. I learned about these qualities during my bouts with depression. In that deadly darkness, the faculties I had always depended on collapsed. My intellect was useless; my emotions were dead; my will was impotent; my ego was shattered. But from time to time, deep in the thickets of my inner wilderness, I could sense the presence of something that knew how to stay alive even when the rest of me wanted to die. That something was my tough and tenacious soul.” 

― Parker J. Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life

For several weeks, we have focused on the topic of nurturing our souls. Today, I want to be a little clearer about what we mean by soul and how we can nurture soul. I am using a book by Parker Palmer as a guide to thinking about these important ideas. He wrote the book, A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life in 2004.

Ephesians  4:1-16 I plead with you, then, in the name of our Redeemer, to lead a life worthy of your calling. Treat one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called into, one hope when you were called. There is one Savior, one faith, one baptism, one God and Creator of all, who is over all, who works through all and is within all. Each of us has received God’s grace in the measure in which Christ has bestowed it. Thus you find scripture saying,  “you ascended on high, leading captives in your train, and giving gifts to people.” “You ascended”—what does this mean but that Christ first descended into the lower regions of the earth? The One who descended is the very One who ascended high above the heavens in order to fill the whole universe. And to some, the gift they were given is that they should be apostles; to some, prophets; to some, evangelists; to some, pastors and teachers. These gifts were given to equip fully the holy ones for the work of service, and to build up the body of Christ— until we all attain unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Only Begotten of God, until we become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Let us then be children no longer, tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine, or by human trickery or crafty, deceitful schemes.  Rather, let us speak the truth in love, and grow to the full maturity of Christ, the head. Through Christ, the whole body grows. With the proper functioning of each member, firmly joined together by each supporting ligament, the body builds itself up in love.

August 2, 2015

Nurturing Soul: An Undivided Life

Here’s where we’re going today. I want us to notice how God is working in our lives to put broken lives back together, to unite us with the body of Christ. That’s the good news from Ephesians today. To get there we have to notice how our lives get broken or in Parker Palmer’s words, how our lives get divided.

Think about someone you know who is living without division in their life, who has no divided loyalties. Little children are our best example, aren’t they? They not only have nothing to hide, they hardly know about hiding. We talked about that a couple weeks ago, about children learning through hide and seek and other hiding games.

As we grow up, we start to feel pressure to hide parts of ourselves, to hide how we feel, to hide part of who we are, to divide ourselves into who we show to others and who we are in private, with our dog or cat or journal. I remember that divided self most clearly from Junior High School, those middle school grades. I was feeling pressure to be a certain kind of guy. It seemed like everybody appreciated an outgoing guy who was good at sports with a clever sense of humor.

I remember trying to be funny but having it mostly come out being kind of goofy instead of witty and clever, and being good at sports just wasn’t in the cards. I started to feel awkwardly lonely in middle school and tried not to show it. And that’s just the beginning of a divided life.

As we grow up, we feel pressure to live one kind of life in our job and one at home, one at church, and one in school. The divided life can get reinforced in us as we become adults in various ways and for various reasons -

Some of us work at jobs that contradict our values and we feel like we just have to hold our nose and do it.

Some of us live in situations that are deadly to our spirits, but we don’t see any way around it, so we let a part of ourselves die or go numb just to survive.

Another way we find ourselves divided is by having secrets or feeling like we have to hide our personal beliefs for fear of being contradicted or challenged or abused.

 

Divided-ness starts as a personal problem, but it becomes a much bigger problem in our society when we have teachers who are doing a job, but don’t really care about what they’re teaching; when we have doctors who are more about protecting their salary than caring for their patients; when we have police acting out their personal prejudice through their jobs, when we have pastors who going through the motions, but not investing themselves in their congregations.

You can probably think about examples of people around you who are “phoning it in,” or just acting the part. And you can probably, if you are honest about it, think about ways in which you are living a divided life – ways in which you have learned to compromise and cut corners and hide parts of who you are.

 

Parker Palmer calls this a problem of the soul, a need for wholeness. The writer of the letter to Ephesians is addressing a similar problem, saying, “I plead with you, then, in the name of our Redeemer, to lead a life worthy of your calling. Treat one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the peace that binds you together. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called into, one hope when you were called.”

Let me give you just a few of Palmer’s insights into soul and we can talk about it some more next week. Soul, Parker Palmer says, wants to keep us grounded in the ground of our own being, our own family, our own relationships. Soul wants to give us life and life abundantly. Soul wants to tell us the truth.

Why did you come here today? I suggest that you came here today because on some level you expected something special to happen. Something special is about to happen. In this meal our soul is nurtured, knit back together after the troubles and divisions of the week. In this circle of trust, our family comes back together, sisters and brothers in community who renew our promise to stick by either other. This is a special meal. This is God’s good news.

Communion hymn: 3093 Fill My Cup, Lord