Monday, April 27, 2015

How is Your Soul?

How is Your Soul?

Ever since Backpacking Sunday last August when we brought everyone from the 8:15 service
and everyone from the 10:45 service together I’ve been looking for a Sunday when we could do this again.

When we worship together like this it helps us connect with the whole body of Christ here at Community Lutheran.  It’s good to share our unity in worship together by singing together, and praying together, and confessing our faith together, and hearing God’s word together.
And it’s good just to enjoy being together.  That’s Christian fellowship at its best.

And it’s appropriate that two other things coincide with this day.
First, today is the 4th Sunday of Easter, which is called Good Shepherd Sunday based on our readings today. And second, it just happens that today is our annual Camp Sunday.

I was thinking about this sermon and wondering how all these things tie together and it suddenly came to me on Monday.

I met with my Spiritual Director on Monday morning and he asked me a question that we all need to hear on a regular basis.  He asked me, “Marty, how is your soul?”

Has anyone asked you that question lately?
If not, let me ask you “How is your soul?”

In other words, “Are you experiencing God’s peace in your soul today?
“Are you experiencing the peace that only God can give,
even if the circumstances in your life aren’t peaceful?

The reason this question helped me as I was thinking about this sermon
is because it helped me realize how important it is
that we not only know the Story of God’s love that we’ve been reading together these last 29 weeks, but it’s just as important to know the Story teller.

We need to know the Story but not just the names and places and dates
we need the one who is telling the Story:  the Good Shepherd of our souls.
To know and be known by our Good Shepherd that’s where we find life.
That’s where our souls find rest, and hope, and meaning.

“Apart from me,” Jesus says, “you can do nothing”
Or another way to say that, is, “none of the things we keep ourselves so busy doing, matter,
if we are doing them apart from Jesus, our Good Shepherd.”

Sometimes we need to step back for a moment from the treadmill of life.
Sometimes we need to step back and actually think about the condition of our soul.
Sometimes we’re too busy to even realize that we have grown distant from God
or to realize that our prayers have become shallow or rushed.

And that’s why, as a church, we encourage opportunities
like our Backpacking ministry, or the Men’s Retreat or Women’s Retreat, or any number of ministries that are offered through Lutheran Retreats, Camps, and Conferences.
Because each of these offers the opportunity to step back, and change our routine
and draw closer to the one who created us,
and created the beauty of this world.

There is nothing like climbing up above a lake
in the Emmigrant Wilderness and watching a sunset.
Or looking up on a cloudless night and watching shooting stars streak across the sky.

On a trip like that, you can’t help but reflect back on your life...
and think about the Story of God’s love
and our Good Shepherd who walks with us through not only
the good times,  but also the dark valleys of life.
A trip like that or a retreat, does a lot of good for your soul.

And so does taking some time to serve in a meaningful way.
Like serving as a volunteer for Vacation Bible School.

I wish you could all see the joy on the faces of all the children
who fill this sanctuary during VBS.

Without all the volunteers and the crew leaders
VBS wouldn’t be possible and many of these children would never hear how much God loves them.  Or about Jesus the Good Shepherd who leads them beside still waters
and restores their souls.

Last week I was listening to the News Hour
and I heard about a new book, entitled The Road to Character by David Brooks.
In an interview about the book, Brooks confided,
"I achieved way more career success than I'd ever imagined, and I rediscovered the elemental truth: It doesn't make you happy."

And in the introduction to this book, Brooks disclosed a personal reason for writing it: "I wrote it to save my soul."

Did you hear that?  That’s not the usual motivation for writing a book, but for Brooks, the process of writing this book, became a spiritual journey.
He had found that success, just for the sake of success left him feeling empty.
It didn’t do anything for his soul.
He was hungry for meaning.
And guess where he looked to find meaning?

He started by researching the lives of ten people who radiated joy
And he has a name for their authentic Christian joy.  He calls them "incandescent souls."
And in each of them he found two sets separate sets of virtues
What he calls:  Resume virtues and Eulogy virtues.

Resume virtues are the ones we bring to the marketplace, the skills that make us good at being teachers, or accountants, or whatever field we find ourselves in.

Most people work on polishing their Resume virtues and they spend most of their waking hours developing their skills.

But Eulogy virtues go deeper, says Brooks.
Eulogy virtues speak about our character.
He calls them Eulogy virtues, because these are the things people say about you after you’re dead.  Were you honest?
Were you caring?
Were you courageous?
Were you capable of loving and being loved?

In other words, they are a reflection of who you are at the depths of your soul.
And the deepest part of any soul, is incandescent joy.
Joy is always deeper than happiness.
Joy doesn’t depend on our immediate circumstances.
Joy, ultimately comes from knowing that we are deeply and unconditionally loved.
- that God formed us in our mother’s womb
- and walks with us each day
- forgives our sins
- and knows us like a Good Shepherd knows his sheep and lays down his life for his sheep.

So in the midst of all the other voices in this world
may you take time each day,  
and also when you step away from your regular routine

so that you may listen and hear the voice of your Good Shepherd.  Amen

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