3/19/2000, Lent 2 Year B
14 year old boy put his soul up for sale on eBay, the Internet's largest auction site, and the winning bid was 5 bucks. The media never followed up on how the young man shipped his soul to the winner: Maybe UPS, or Priority Mail. Or, perhaps the young man was attempting a joke, or it could be he did not even believe that he had a soul to sell.
Contemporary life has resurrected the use of the concept of soul. It's the kind of thing we know that we have. Our innate emotional inner-self knows the definition of the word soul. Sometimes we call it spirit, but the word "soul" seems to somehow fit better.
The popular author and former monk, Thomas Moore, in his best seller, Care of the Soul, sees soul as the element that connects us to God and to our inner selves. "The cure for materialism, then, would be to find concrete ways of getting soul back into our spiritual practices, our intellectual lives, and our emotional and physical engagements with the world." (p.232, Harper, 1992). Nobody is truly fulfilled until their body and soul are in union with the divine, who wants to re-create our lives.
The ultra popular series, Chicken Soup for the Soul, which later compiled "soulful" short stories for "the teenager's soul," and about everybody else's soul, have gone a long way in reviving the ancient word and concept of soul. Compilers Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, seem to define "soul" as that emotional heartstring that vibrates in tune to God and especially to stories that tug on the feeling level self.
It is interesting that the ancient King James Version of 1611 selected the word "soul" in verse 36, "For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Both the American Standard of 1903, and the Revised Standard of 1946, use the word "life." However, the more contemporary translations: The New Testament in Modern English, translated by J.B. Phillips (1958), and The Living Bible (1971), resurrect use of the word "soul." The words Soul and Spirit are generally defined as being synonymous in our society, but sometimes we see a fine line that points to the Soul as the deeper and eternal union with God that we can know. I think of it as a personal assurance of the spiritual that comes as a byproduct of many years of walking with God and living in union with Him.
My former parishioner, Dr. Tom Stanley, author of the best selling book, The Millionaire Next Door, which has spawned the popular television series, "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" utilizes the New Testament notion that our lives are a combination of Body, Spirit and Soul. In lectures that he gives to major groups all over the world, he repeats that although making a lot of money can enhance the physical life and body, the eternal element of life is the Spirit and the Soul which lives forever. He defines Spirit as a kind of psychological and emotional self, but the Soul is the deeper inner life we have with God.
Jesus' dying words were, "Father into your hands I commend my spirit." This fits our contemporary understanding of, Body, Spirit, and Soul; for only his body was dying, but his spirit and soul were going to sit at the right hand of the Father. Soul and spirit live on, but the body remains.
My graveside committal is, "Forasmuch as the spirit of the departed have entered into the life immortal, we tenderly commit his/her body to its resting place, but his/her spirit we commend to God, remembering how Jesus said upon the cross, 'Father, into your hands I commend my spirit."
A critical point in Jesus' life was the decision that the time was right to carry out God's Plan. The three most similar chronicles of Jesus' life; books named for their Apostolic authorship: Matthew, Mark and Luke, include the event in our text when Jesus began to openly explain how he must soon suffer death and be raised on the third day. Up until this point he was concerned with keeping his divinity and destiny a secret.
Peter, had just been praised by Jesus because of his dramatic confession saying, "You are the Christ!" (see Matt. 16: 16; Mark 8: 29; Luke 9: 20). However, when Jesus began to reveal quite openly what was going to happen when they arrived at Jerusalem, Peter rebuked Jesus. This tempestuous, emotionally charged, personality was characteristic of Peter during his early stages of spiritual development. Jesus also had an emotional nature; he returned the rebuke to Peter, in front all of the disciples, by saying, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things." (see Mark 8:33; Matt. 16:23)
When sorrow comes, when accidents happen, when events threaten to undo our physical lives, the only thing that can help is to know that somehow the God who has never failed us will not fail us now and will provide an eternal place for our souls. God is able to calm our souls with peace and acceptance amid the storms of life. Peter's problem was that he was looking at the situation that faced them from a human, physical, bodily perspective only, and not through eternal eyes that see beyond the shadow of death.
My Dad sang with a Pastors' Quartet when I was a small child. I came to love those men as uncles, and later as spiritual mentors. I have a picture of their happy faces that watches over me in my office. Three of them sang at my Dad's funeral and it meant so much to me. However, today only Melvin, one of the Gentry brothers and the high tenor, remains in this world, as the others have joined the celestial choir. Boyd Kistler, the deep bass, died just last week. A friend wrote me that, "...while he had trouble recognizing people who were visiting him, he continued to give a clear testimony of knowing he would soon see the Master face to face." That's what it profits a person to inherit his eternal soul, but what a loss to miss it!
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor