Sermon: Proper 15 RCL C – “Soul Care”

Thibodeaux had a momma horse that gave birth to twins. The two colts looked so much alike that he could never tell them apart, so he called up his good buddy Boudreaux to come and have a look.

“It’s uncanary how much they look alike,” Bou said. “Same eyes, same nose, same ears, even the same teeth, but I have a solution. You cut the tail hairs short on one and leave the other’s long.”

Thib thought that was a grand idea, and it worked for a while until the other twin got its tail caught in the bob-wire fence and pulled out all the hairs. So, he resigned himself to not being able to tell.

Months later, Boudreaux showed up again and asked if Thib was able to solve the problem.

“Sho nuff,” Thib’s said, “once they started growing. Now the white one’s two inches taller than the brown un.”

I’m not sure how those two boys manage to stay alive.

I hope we are as thick-headed as they are, but there are times when we can become so focused on a problem or so convinced of an answer that we become blind to other possibilities.

During World War II, the allied forces suffered heavy losses of bombers flying missions over Germany. They knew that they needed to add armor plating to the planes to make them more secure, but the problem with more armor and adding weight makes a plane slower and less maneuverable, so the armor had to be added in the most strategic places. With this in mind, they brought on some talented individuals to solve the problem, and through the study of the planes that were returning, they discovered a pattern of where the aircraft were being shot most often. You’ve got a picture of those results on the front of your bulletin.

Once identified, it was agreed that the places with the most holes were the places that required additional armor but then along came Abraham Wald.

Wald was Jewish, and as the Nazis came to power, he and his family were forced to flee Germany and immigrate to the United States. As a brilliant mathematician, he was brought into the military service, and the above problem with the planes and the solution were placed before him. He looked at the patterns of holes and said, ‘You’ve got it all wrong.’ The aircraft you are looking at are the ones that survived, demonstrating that a plane can be hit in the places indicated and still return home. Where there are no holes is where additional armor is required. Airplanes being hit in those areas are the planes that are not returning. He was right. They armored up the aircraft in those areas without holes, and afterward, many more planes returned home.

Jesus said, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you immediately say, ‘It is going to rain’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?”

“You are properly seeing all the holes in the airplane, but you do not know how to interpret what they mean.”

Harvard biologist and writer E.O.Wilson said, “We are drowning in information while starving for wisdom.”

If we imagine our society or world as one of those airplanes, we could have fun going around the room and naming all the holes we see: the injustices, the wars, the oppression, the _____. But just like the airplanes, those holes aren’t the real problem. They are indicators that we are in a battle, but they are not what will destroy us. What destroys us, our society, and the world is the place where we are most vulnerable: our soul. Our soul and our collective soul, for “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” Even though we know this, those holes do distract us.

Most of you know that I like to write, and this summer, I’ve been working on the second Father Anthony mystery: The Marble Finger. I aim to complete the first draft by the end of the month, and after this weekend… almost there.

The story takes place in the same cathedral as the last book, and many characters are the same—Detective Stavlo, Miss Avery, Canon Bob. I can walk you through that cathedral, which doesn’t even exist. As I’m writing the dialogue, I’ve no idea what they will say. I just let them loose in my head and let them run around. Same with the events. Many writers will, but I’m not one for writing out a detailed outline. For me, everyone is going along, doing their thing, then out of nowhere, they do or say something I was not expecting. I become the voices of all these imaginary characters that exist in my imaginary place. The point is—I should be locked up somewhere. No! The point is, if that is one of the holes in the plane, then I’ve become so focused on it that, at that moment, I couldn’t tell you what time it was or even if I was hungry or thirsty. I’m sure we’ve all got hobbies like this that we can become so consumed with.

The hobbies and all are not a problem, just an example of how we can become so absorbed in one thing that we no longer properly interpret the world around us. Those holes in the plane do the same thing. We can become so fascinated and concerned with them or just one of them that we leave the aircraft itself in grave danger. We can become so consumed with issues and concerns that our souls are left unprotected. When this happens, not only does it affect the individual, but it affects us all. Therefore, before we can address the issues and concerns, we must care for the safety of our souls and the safety of the souls around us, and it is this care of souls that brings the division that Jesus spoke of:

Father against sonand son against father,
mother against daughter and daughter against mother,
mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.

And it is not just among family members that the divisions will come. In speaking of families, Jesus was telling us how severe the divisions will be, and those divisions come when we, as God’s people, declare that each person was made in the image of God and, therefore, each and every person—regardless of race or creed or religion—is deserving of love and respect. We bring division when we say God, His Kingdom, and His People are our greatest concern because we are all of one body, one soul. That does not go over well with those driven by power, wealth, and above all else, self. Therefore, it falls to us as a Christian people and followers of Jesus to care not just for our souls but also for the souls of those around us.

This is what Jesus was speaking about when he said, “Whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.” (Matthew 16:25-27)

As we move into this new school year and activities begin to pick up around the church, let’s continue to be a Body of Christ that looks in and cares for our soul but also continues to look out into our community and discover more ways we can care for the soul of us all.

Let us pray:
We pray You,
O almighty and eternal God!
Who through Jesus Christ
hast revealed Your glory to all nations,
to preserve the works of Your mercy, that Your Church,
being spread through the whole world,
may continue with unchanging faith
in the confession of your name.

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