Here is brief excerpt of a 40-minute sermon that I transcribed recently. The sermon is given on the first day of a men's bible retreat in Texas by an Episcopalian priest. As I was listening to his sermon, I was touched by his directness, sense of humor and honesty and wanted to share some of it with you.
There is also a transcript of a second sermon given on the next day about Soul Gaining. And I'll be posting an excerpt of that as well. If you'd like to read the entire transcript of one or both sermons, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many of us are not able to tell our stories. Really share them, because we don’t even know them. We don’t know our own stories because we do not listen to our lives. Given the pace that many of us live, given the noise level, given all the scripts that many of us carry around in our heads. You know, scripts of being good enough, competent enough, smart enough. It’s hard to listen. And when we do listen when life catches up to us and makes us listen. When we are either sick or depressed, or when our life is not working and we find the side that we have to listen to our lives, we will often not like what we see or what we hear. We are all cracked. We are all fallen. We all make mistakes. We all mess up. We all sometimes lie, cheat, steal, lust, gossip. We all flinch at stuff we know we should do and we can all fall into acting like entitled, spoiled princes. So, there it is. And at some point you either make peace with your mixed up, ambiguous, complex self, or you run away from the truth. By blaming others, or you stop paying attention, or you try to gloss over things by making pretty, or playing a successful, in charge know-it-all.
To have soul you need to descend into the swamps of your life, the dark and murky places. To have soul you need to grow up and stop playing naïve. To have soul you need to accept that without the mercy of God, you are a goner.
We lose soul when we get our lives and our priorities out of alignment. ......We lose soul when we don’t tell the truth about our lives, or when we get our priorities out of alignment. One of the great pieces that I have ever read upon the alignment of our lives comes from the author Oz Guinness who wrote, “The modern world has scrambled things so badly that today we worship our work, we work at our play, and we play at our worship.” That has stayed with me for ten years now.
We worship our work, we work at our play, and we play at our worship. And I have meditated on all those phrases at different points. We worship our work, we work at our play. I’ve had to work on that one; I’ve had five surgeries because I have worked at my play. There’s hardly a piece of my body that hasn’t been cut on. We play at our worship because people say, “Oh, couldn’t you keep it to sixty-one minutes, it’s interrupting my Sunday schedule.” There’s, I’m going to concentrate most on the first phrase. There’s some truth to these words, I think we can all hear them. Many of us do worship our work. It is the place where we give our best selves, our best years, our best efforts. So much so that when we are not working we do not know who we are. You ever gone into work on your day off because you can’t stand being at home? We see this in those guys who when they stop work, they die. Maybe not literal death, but you can tell that they’re slowly dying; the light has gone out of their eyes. They drink too much, they get depressed, they act out in the hope of bringing some spark back to their lives. But face it. Their altar has been at work and they have sacrificed themselves upon it. We lose soul when we try to live alone. When we act self-sufficient, when we are not willing to ask for help, when we refuse to admit our mistakes and weaknesses. We will not say, “I’m sorry.” And we would rather remain lost than ask for directions. ....
We lose soul when we act as a bunch of heroic Lone Rangers. We all need community. Even God does apparently. Not even God could remain alone. That is the reason, one of it, it seems, one of them it seems why God is three persons. And not even the three persons of God were enough for God. So He made us to be in relationship with Him. We were made for company, for sharing, for doing things, thinking things and speaking things with each other. Jesus lived that way. Sure He went into the darkness to pray all by Himself, but He didn’t live that way. What we see in Scripture is that He lived a three-year camping trip. And it wasn’t at ___________ Lodge.