Tumbling in the Sand
Texts: Psalm 42, Mark 12:29-30, The Nicene Creed
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. – Psalm 42:2a
‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ – Mark 12:29-30
Love the Lord your God with all your Soul.
So, when we think of soul we tend to think about this part of us that has nothing to do with our bodies; rather, it is this thing that hangs out inside our bodies until we die and then it goes to be with God in heaven.
But that is not really what a soul is—at least I’m pretty sure it’s not that. After all, soul—in the Greek it is ψυχῆς: psuche, psyche. It means your whole inner self, your soul, your being. Soul is not a part that can be separated from another part of you because well, all of you makes up your soul, your being.
To use a formula suggested by Wendell Berry based on his reading of Genesis: dust plus breath of God equals soul, being, self.
In other words, our soul is dusty.
But perhaps more important than making that clear — than understanding what exactly the soul is — is the question about why one would distinguish the soul at all — why point it out as distinct from loving God with your heart, mind, and strength? I mean, don’t those things about cover it?
How would you exercise your soul muscle separate from those things, if it even could get separated?
Upon reflection of exactly that question, I concluded that pointing out the soul does something important for us
—it reminds us that we are not the sum of our parts
—it reminds us that we are not the sum of our experiences
—it reminds us that we are not the sum of our relationships
we are somehow more than that
there is some mystery to us
and to all human beings
and to all life
and all creation
there is something mysterious and holy…
And to love the Lord your God with all your soul may be a way of reminding us to live in that holiness, that mysteriousness: to rest in it.
It is so easy to get caught up in the here and the now: the everydayness of life, and to think only logically and simply about what is around us. And then we forget that even that everydayness of things contains, whispers, is coated like dust with the holy, the mysterious…
The Creed—especially the memorized Creed, the oft repeated Creed—can be helpful for us to remind us of this mystery that surrounds us, that is so much bigger than us.
Phrases like “all that is, seen and unseen.” call us out of what we know and make us wonder what might be unseen around us.
Beautiful, mysterious language about Jesus:
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
Remind us that not a single word or phrase can describe this relationship of the Father to the Son. We are left stumbling over words and beautiful images. We are left lost in them, admitting the mystery we claim to believe overwhelms us.
Other phrases pointing to place—but not quite place—like:
he ascended into heaven
… and his kingdom will have no end.
Remind us that this is the world God loves, but there is something not quite in our grasp here. That there is something beyond us and around us and above and below us—that reaches forever beyond our understanding, beyond our grasp.
And finally, the last statements give us comfort and assurance as we dwell in the mystery:
who has spoken through the prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.
That no matter how big the mystery, how amazing the holy, how unknowable it all is,
that God speaks to us
that the holy lives with us and with all those we love
and that we are promised that it will never fail us
and that the holy, mysterious, beauty of the living God will grasp us and we will rise in wonder at at the face of God. Amen.
This is the second sermon in a four part series. The first sermon is available here: Nicene Creed: Heart Words
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