Rev. Dr. Steven Yagerman
The Laboratory of the Soul
In our reading from First Samuel, God tells Samuel to fill his horn with oil for he will anoint a new king of Israel from the children of Jesse. During the process of discernment, God tells Samuel not to look at the outward appearance of Jesse’s sons, but to look and see the way God sees the heart of person.
In our Epistle reading, St. Paul says we no longer know Christ in a human way but now we know him differently. He seems to be saying that at one time we knew him as someone external to ourselves and now we know his spirit as if it is one with our spirit.
As people of faith, it is not just that we believe things that others find impossible, it is that we see things and feel things at a depth that is not defined by appearance or limited by space and time. We are called to be people who live and experience life deeply and in that depth, form different conclusions and achieve different relationships with people and the world. We become a prophetic conscience and compassionate heart for a world that is in desperate need of being humanized.
This different mode of perception and knowing is hard to define and hard to communicate. We find that we don’t blend in to the crowd so much as we create a difference and a reaction that is either welcomed or rejected.
Jesus tells his disciples that they are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. They are to bring a vision with this light to the deeper realms of existence. Once we knew as the world knows, facts and figures, styles and reputations, but now we are called to see the divine within the human heart and to find communion with others who are called by the depths.
Howard Thurman writes about the need to see people outside of their ordinary world of status and party, so that the human in me can meet the human in you. Perhaps this happens best in “situations of intensification.” Meaning, for instance, that when we get stuck in an elevator for 6 hours, we drop our social guards, our pretensions of importance and we begin to see each other anew as fellow travelers that define our world.
The Church is that elevator of intensification. It is in church that we find ourselves with each other and begin the long process of seeing each other’s hearts and the scar tissue that has damaged those hearts. It is in this laboratory of the soul that we allow each other to drop our defenses and find what is truly human, i.e. truly Christ-like in each other.
The scriptures show us ordinary people, in ordinary life who somehow encounter the extraordinary presence of the divine. If we look past the surface of these stories we find pictures of divine wisdom creating human transformation and we are encouraged to continue our adventure of faith and becoming.