This week is the 15th anniversary of the first time I ever preached. The lectionary texts are up this week. Here it is, my first ever sermon (back when I tried to combine all the lectionary texts into one sermon. What was I thinking?!)
All that you have is your soul
This year at school, I was fortunate enough to become involved with an exciting and fulfilling group on campus, the United Methodist Student Movement. We met once a week to plan, fellowship, work, or worship. One particular evening we were joined by the university chaplain, and he led us in a worship service to help us center and focus for the exams and papers that were coming in the week ahead. With the lights out and candles lit, we sat in a circle on the floor, and the chaplain shared with us an early Methodist tradition.
in the first years of the Methodist Movement, developed many instructions and
disciplines for spiritual growth among his followers. One of these practices
was to open each meeting of the gathered Christians with the following
question: is it well with your soul? In other words, how are you doing - are
things right in your heart? This inquiry
would set the tone for the rest of the meeting.
After relating this to us, the chaplain asked each of us that same
question - ‘Is it well with your soul?’
For the next two hours students shared tears, smiles, laughter, and
quiet reflections in answering the question for themselves. As each of us
thought of our gains, and losses of the past weeks, it became clear that those
had nothing to do with the question at all. What mattered, what determined our
personal answer to the question was the shape that our relationship with God
was in right then. Nothing else
had so great an impact on the state of our souls. One student could have aced
all his midterms; another might have been accepted at the grad school of her
choice - these accomplishments couldn’t do a thing for their soul when push
came to shove. Likewise, the student who
was having roommate problems, or the one who couldn’t make ends meet
financially - these hard times had little to do with the students’ standing
with God. This morning I ask us to
struggle with this question too - how is it with our soul? Where do we stand?
Does God have claim on our possessions - our time, our talents, our
accomplishments, our resources? Does God have claim on our very soul? In this
morning’s reading from Ecclesiastes, we get a taste of the frustration felt by
one who realizes the vanity of working for the gain of possessions. The man, identified as a preacher, poses this
soul-searching question: ‘What do mortals get from all the toil and strain with
which they toil under the sun?’ Quite a
difficult question to answer. This preacher was led to despair because he felt
that all his hard work was for nothing.
He knew that he couldn’t take his success with him beyond his days on
earth, and he despaired in the thought of some one else enjoying the fruits of
his labor. Seeing no solution to these problems, only futile human actions,
this man was left hopeless. We, however, do not have to settle for
hopelessness. As Christians, we are
raised up with John Wesley Christ in a new life. We are a people of hope. God requires of us
only one thing - our soul. Amidst all of
our other possessions and priorities that we have in our lives, it would seem
that giving our soul is a small sacrifice in the scheme of things. After all,
what is a soul in comparison with leisure time?
With paychecks? With popularity?
With success? With power?
Please pray with me: Awesome God, we know that we can never truly experience contentment outside of your will and your love. Help us to be prepared to give you our all - our very souls - that we might know real happiness in the safety of your loving arms. In
name we pray, Amen.