HOW IS IT WITH YOUR SOUL?

Rev. Phil Dieke
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How many times have you shared a similar exchange not particularly thinking about your response, much less sharing how you really are doing? Countless times, I’m sure. When I was in college, intentionality, especially intentional listening, became a big topic in our campus ministry. I made it my personal goal to move beyond the unintentional “Hey how are you?” as I quickly walked by someone, not actually willing to give them the time to respond. I thought, if I was going to be a good Christian I needed to be intentional and actually care about my neighbor’s wellbeing.
Thus, to remedy this burden of unintentionality, I decided anytime I was walking across campus and somebody in passing said, “Hey Phil, how are you?” I would respond, “Oh ya know, tired, irritable, a little gassy.” And I’d stop and wait for their response. Many never broke stride. They were so expectant to hear the rote, “Good, how are you?” they never actually heard my response. Some, on the other hand, stopped in their tracks, turned around, typically with a strange smirk or look of confusion on their face, and with a gentle, confused laugh would respond something like, “Ok?” To which I would reply, “Just kidding, I’m better now thanks for asking. Have a good day.” And off we’d go to our respective classes. 
Ok, so my corny… childish… response did not solve the problem of intentionality and actually listening to people. But I like to think it at least broke people free from the monotony of polite, yet unintentional, greetings. Or, at least brought a little laugh to people’s day.
Though I was unaware then, in the late 18th century John Wesley went on a similar crusade. Unsurprisingly, his tactics were a bit less crude and way more effective. As the Methodist movement - a revivalist movement within the Anglican church - began to grow, Wesley insisted the members of this movement meet together in Classes. These Classes were similar to modern day small groups. Typically there would be about twelve people, one person being the class leader, who would meet weekly to intentionally and honestly discuss how their lives were growing closer to the image of Christ. Each class meeting revolved heavily around one main question:
How is it with your soul?
This question may come across as a bit odd to our modern ears. Conversations around the soul are none too common these days. Questions of the existence of a soul surely outweigh conversations of the wellbeing of the soul. In this very moment you may be pondering, “What exactly is the soul?” “Is the soul the same thing as my spirit?” “...Do I have a soul?” And while all are valid questions, allow me stick to the topic at hand by offering a simple comparison (you’re welcome to email me your soul questions pdieke@wrumc.org):
Think for a moment about what it means to “bare your soul with another person.” 
It may be common for you to share your feelings, or to express your momentary emotions, with someone. Baring your soul to another may not be quite as common.  This is why a breakup is so painful and why Taylor Swift continues to write songs that capture us. To bare the soul to another is to reveal the essence beneath the layers. It is deeply personal and intimate.

Thus, to answer the question, “How is it with your soul?” requires some deep introspective work. It is more than simply analyzing your current emotions. Those emotions play a role, but what is beneath those surface level emotions?
Wesley often used the metaphor of a tree when it came to analyzing the wellbeing of the soul. The brilliance of this metaphor is we are invited to not only take a deep look at the roots of our tree, but also the fruits the tree is producing. To answer the question then is to be aware of your current emotions, to take into account the actions and effects from your experiences, especially your experiences with God (however you might define that), and finally, to take stock of how those emotions and experiences are influencing you to act – what fruit your tree is producing.

To help analyze the fruits of our soul, Wesley used The General Rules as a guide. 
Are you:

1. Doing no harm?
2. Doing all the good you can?
3. Attending upon all the ordinance of God (worship, scripture reading, and other spiritual practices)?


HOW ARE YOU?
VS.
HOW IS IT WITH YOUR SOUL?


Do you see why the latter is an invitation into something much deeper than a polite greeting?
As we enter into Unfold: A Year of Discovering Story this is the invitation before you. Each week you will be invited to answer the question, “How is it with your soul?” It may feel a bit strange or unfamiliar at first. However, as you continue to analyze the tree of your soul, we are confident you will become more familiar with the wellbeing of that tree, from the roots to the fruit. 
This invitation is for you, but it isn’t for you to do alone. In the early Methodist movement this question was answered in a weekly Class meeting. In no way are we requiring you to join a Class meeting (though Wesley did!), but the invitation is there. Specifically, if you are looking for an opportunity to connect with others in our community, if you feel you are in need of that accountability, or if you are simply up for trying something new, we invite you to fill out this form and we will get you connected with others in our community also on this journey. There are a variety of ways to connect. 
God’s story is unfolding all around us. We play an important role in this story, both individually and as a community. The first step in understanding our role is answering the question:

HOW IS IT WITH YOUR SOUL?

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