By Rev. Robert Thompson
Genesis 2: 4-7
Saturday night of the Coffee House, I came early to the event with Norrie, who was volunteering in the kitchen. I didn’t bring anything to read while I was waiting, because I felt there would be people there with whom I could get into a conversation. However, everyone seemed to have a job except me, and so, to be out of the way, I went over to the corner and started looking through the library.
I came across this book by Richard Wagamese. It’s called “Embers: One Ojibway’s Meditations”. I know Richard Wagamese was a writer that Jim Hanna often turned to, but I had only read a couple of chapters from one of his books, that Norrie had.
I started looking through the book, reading some of his musings. And then, at the end of the evening, I took the book home with me. I kept it on my bedside table and read a couple of pages each morning before I got out of bed. After a week, I bought my own copy, so this church copy is back in the library, if you want to look into it.
I want to quote from one of Richard Wagamese’s musings in this book Embers. He writes: “I used to believe my body contained my soul. That was fine for a while. But then I started thinking about oneness with Creator. I came to believe that it’s the other way around. My soul contains my body.
Sit with that for a minute. My body doesn’t contain my soul. My soul contains my body....... who I am is so much bigger than just my body. Or my mind. Who I am is contained by my soul!
And so, I am the delight that I feel when I watch someone like Winter, explore and discover his world, and own it, and delight in sharing that world with all of us. That delight that I feel, comes from my soul.
I am the laughter that comes bubbling out every night at about 5:00 when Mollie sits in front of me, and stares at me. She’s talking to me. She’s saying ‘Hey. Bob. (She knows my name!). Hey. Bob. It’s happy hour! Where’s my treat?’” That laughter, based on the conversation, unspoken, that we have – that laughter that wells up in me every time it happens – that laughter comes from my soul.
I am the sense of the mystery I feel, every time I remember the story that Joan told, of the bee swarm that survives the winter, by 2,000 bees swarming around the queen bee, and murmuring their wings to create the warmth to keep the queen warm until the spring. That story will always stay with me I believe. Science may tell me how and why that happens, but the sense of mystery that comes when I think of a bee hatching from her egg, and knowing instantly, what her role is to be, and filling that role to keep the swarm alive to reproduce again – that sense of mystery comes from my soul.
It is out of the sense of the awe that Mike Schwartzentruber’s soul felt, that he captured this picture (Show picture) of the interrelationship of this bee and this flower. And it is out of that same sense of awe that I saw it. The awe in that, that each of us felt, was soul connecting with soul.
In our Christian tradition, we have a saying that is quite similar to what Richard Wagamese said. Teilhard de Chardin, the famous Jesuit Priest, once said, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” They are basically saying the same thing, but I feel more drawn to Richard Wagamese’s reflection, because I think it connects us more with the creation and the Creator. And I like that.
I am not used to talking about my soul. I’ve not used that term, to talk about myself, for many years. But I feel comfortable using it in the way that Richard Wagamese uses it. I feel comfortable saying I am contained in my soul.
But you may feel a little uncomfortable using that word. And so, if you do, don’t use it. Find your own word. It is only something to describe this experience we are having. But make sure that the word you choose isn’t a scientific word, because science isn’t where laughter and delight and mystery and awe dwell. And make sure that the word you use isn’t a rational, mind word, because that isn’t where you find the soul. Use a heart word. Or a feeling word. Or use no word. That doesn’t matter, as long as you acknowledge that the thing you are unable to name or describe is something real – that you are only able to feel it – to experience it even when you can’t describe it.
All of this draws me to the story in the Hebrew Bible which was our reading for this morning. As you recall, it is from the second creation story in the Book of Genesis. I’ve always liked the imagery of that story – how the Creator took up some dirt and formed it into a clay sculpture. But it was just that – a clay sculpture – a doll. There was no life in that doll, until the Creator breathed into its nostrils. But the Creator didn’t breathe in oxygen to bring the clay being to life. That is the way I have always read the story. But read it again. It says that when the Creator blew into our nostrils, the Creator blew in life! We became a living soul – not just one who was breathing, but one who was feeling love, joy, laughter, connection to the creation, and to each other. We came alive to the creation. That was what that story was saying to us. That is what the Creator is all about. However, we imagine what the Creator is, it’s about giving life.
I want to say one more thing. Just like we have to wake up the body each morning, so we have to wake up the soul, to be alive to all that is around us. If we don’t it will stay asleep all day, as we go about our daily tasks, accomplishing all the things on our daily list, without any awareness of the beauty and majesty, the awe and the joy all around us.
I know that Jim Hannah had a practice of getting up early each morning to meditate. That’s how he awakened his soul. I always admired him for that, but I’m afraid I’m not disciplined enough to maintain something like that. But I don’t think we necessarily need to be that disciplined. We just have to be purposeful. Mike Schwartzentruber writes in his blog, that he doesn’t have a spiritual discipline, except to walk out each morning to the wild flower garden. And with that, he wakens his soul to the beauty that he has captured in the flower and the bee. I don’t even get out of bed to waken my soul. I love to come awake each morning, to the world I see outside my window, as it comes to life. And I am filled with gratitude. Gratitude that I am alive for one more day. Gratitude for the beauty and awe and mystery which surrounds me. And my soul is awake to the day!
Richard Wagamese also said, “Remember to remember. Throughout your day, recall that you’ve taken the time to pray, to give thanks, to ask for a return to humility. Remember to remember that your soul is awake to everyone and everything around you. When you do that, everyone and everything you encounter becomes the beneficiary.”