May 15th Sermon Components and Questions

Maybe by Mary Oliver


Sweet Jesus, talking

   his melancholy madness,

     stood up in the boat

       and the sea lay down,

silky and sorry.

   So everybody was saved

      that night.

         But you know how it is


when something

    different crosses

       the threshold -- the uncles

          mutter together,


the women walk away,

   the young brother begins

      to sharpen his knife.

         Nobody knows what the soul is.


It comes and goes

   like the wind over the water --

      sometimes, for days,

        you don't think of it.


 Maybe, after the sermon,

   after the multitude was fed,

     one or two of them felt

       the soul slip forth

like a tremor of pure sunlight

   before exhaustion,

      that wants to swallow everything,

         gripped their bones and left them


miserable and sleepy,

    as they are now, forgetting

       how the wind tore at the sails

          before he rose and talked to it --


tender and luminous and demanding

   as he always was --

      a thousand times more frightening

         than the killer storm.



"Nobody knows what the soul is", says Mary Oliver in her poem "Maybe".

"It comes and goes / like wind over the water."  But just as we can name some of the functions of the wind, we can name some of the functions of the soul without presuming to penetrate its mystery (Parker Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness)

The soul wants to keep us rooted in the ground of our own being, resisting the tendency of other faculties, like the intellect and ego, to uproot us from where we are.

The soul wants to keep us connected to the community in which we find life, for it understands that relationships are necessary if we are to find life.

The soul wants to tell us the truth about ourselves, our world, and the relation between the two, whether that truth is easy or hard to hear.

So here are some thinking questions about Grace Church, and your soul:

1.  What makes Grace United Church a safe place for your soul?

2.  What is it about your soul that attracts you here?

3.  What burning questions do you face in your life that touch your soul?

4.   What is it about the Jesus story that captures your imagination? 


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