Sunday, May 23, 2010

How Christianity represents spirit and soul

Ian Kellogg offers his student intern sermons, delivered at Knox United Church in Didsbury, Alberta, including today's "Flames of spirit; embers of soul" on his blog, Sermons from Didsbury 2009-10. In this sermon Kellogg suggests, "When individuals or communities are inspired, the results are not always holy." He talks about spirit and soul and their distinctions according to Thomas Moore. Kellogg writes:
"But even when we in the church get it wrong, God in the form of Spirit, Father, and Christ, offers us what we need to regain our balance. In the church and in our lives we need the power of the Spirit. But the good news is that there are also other elements in our life with God to help keep us balanced.

One way to understand this is with the concept of soul. I used to think that soul and spirit referred to the same thing. But then I read the 1992 best-selling book Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore. Moore makes a distinction between soul and spirit. Spirit, he writes, is connected to consciousness, thinking, idealism, and activism and it is oriented to the future. Soul on the other hand is connected to the body, the unconscious mind, feelings and tradition and it is oriented to the past.

But despite these differences, soul and spirit complement each other. Both can be seen as a kind of fire. Spirit is like an out-of-control flame that signals action, danger and change. Soul is like the glowing embers in a hearth fire; a fire that has burned down, become tame, and which we can rely upon for warmth and comfort.

Spirit without soul can be ungrounded and dangerous. And soul without spirit can be lifeless. But when they work together -- when with Grace, our spirit is grounded in soul and our soul is enlivened by spirit -- then life flourishes."
Kellogg includes, "And so in Christ's church we have idealism and spirit, which is represented by soaring buildings, tall steeples, and ambitious missions to work for the reign of God. And in Christ's church, we also have the comfort and grounding of soul, which is represented by the communion table and the baptismal font. At the Lord's Table we remember the life, death and resurrection of Jesus in a simple meal of bread and wine. And at the font, we are initiated into the Way of the Cross using that most common and essential element, water."