Souls and Selves

There is a concept in Christianity that we have to be very careful with—the soul. Here is why we have to be careful: emphasize it too much and we begin to think the only part of us that exists or is important is the ethereal spiritual essence thing that we call the soul, at the cost of our physical being. There is no separation between soul and body, and emphasis on this enforces a notion that the physical world doesn’t matter—only the spiritual. This leads to a theology that says our only job as Christians is “saving souls,” and our bodies don’t matter, the poor don’t matter, and the well being of the world does not matter. This kind of view ignores the biblical witness that begins with God pronouncing the physical creation “good” repeatedly. This kind of view ignores the fact that Jesus spent as much of his time healing people physically as he did healing them spiritually.

All that being said, there is a place for conversation about the soul. It is that part of us that is most truly in touch with God and who God created us to be. It is our true self. It includes physical, as well as spiritual realities.

This Sunday, as part of our Lenten journey of “Leaving it at the Table,” we will be leaving behind our false selves. As with all of our topics, this is not something easily done, and probably not permanently done. However, this is an opportunity for us all to reflect about who we really are when we are most fully living into our calling as children of God. In our Corinthians passage this week, Paul both boasts about himself, and belittles himself. He also focuses in on who he truly is, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain.” The reality is that each of us is not as bad as that nasty little voice in our head sometimes says we are, but we also aren’t quite as amazing as we want everyone else to think we are either—most importantly, God handles us with grace, so that tearing down, and puffing up, is of little consequence for God’s view of us.

The way we get to living more truly as Children of God is by letting go of those under-inflated or over-inflated images of ourselves, and accepting we are who we are by the grace of God.

Before you come to leave a symbol of your false self on the communion table tomorrow, take some time in reflection on who you really are without all that other clutter, and give thanks. By the grace of God you are who you are!

Check it out—Oprah and Richard Rohr agree with the premise for our worship and letting go this week so it must be right…right? Thanks to Carrie Farm for passing this on to me!

Your True Self

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