Today's Lectionary Text
Matthew 16:24-26Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives?
One of the great preachers, Peter Marshall, told this story: There once was a town high in the Alps that straddled the banks of a beautiful stream. The stream was fed by springs that were old as the earth and deep as the sea. The water was clear like crystal. Children laughed and played beside it; swans and geese swam on it. You could see the rocks and the sand and the rainbow trout that swarmed at the bottom of the stream. High in the hills, far beyond anyone’s sight, lived an old man who served as “Keeper of the Springs.” He had been hired so long ago that now no one could remember a time when he wasn’t there. He would travel from one spring to another in the hills, removing branches or fallen leaves or debris that might pollute the water. But his work was unseen.
One year the town council decided they had better things to do with their money. No one supervised the old man anyway. They had roads to repair and taxes to collect and services to offer and giving money to an unseen stream-cleaner had become a luxury they could no longer afford.
So, the old man left his post. High in the mountains, the springs went untended; twigs and branches and worse muddied the liquid flow. Mud and silt compacted the creek bed; farm wastes turned parts of the stream into stagnant bogs. For a time, no one in the village noticed. But after a while, the water was not the same. It began to look brackish. The swans flew away to live elsewhere. The water no longer had a crisp scent that drew children to play in it. Some people in town began to grow ill. All noticed the loss of sparkling beauty that used to flow between the banks of the streams that fed the town. The life of the village depended on the streams, and the life of the stream depended on the keeper.
The city council reconvened, the money was found, the old man was rehired. After yet another time, the springs were cleaned, the stream was pure, children played again on the bank’s illness was replaced by health, the swans came home, and the village came back to life. The life of the village depended on the health of the stream.
My question for us today is “how is it with your soul?” In our Scripture, Jesus asked the all-important question: why would people gain the whole world but lose their souls (lives)? One look at the nightly local and national news, and I question, what has happened to people? We are living in a soul-challenged world! The world says do whatever it takes to be No. 1, to be the one on top, to be the best, to own the best.
If our soul is the core of who we are, it is extremely important what seeds we sow in our lives. Soul keeping calls us to be intentional about how we live, how we order our lives. Our souls need tending, just like the stream in our story from Peter Marshall. Soul work is hard work.
--Rev. Hollie TapleyOriginally published Oct. 4, 2019
Disaster Response Coordinator
Prayer for Reflection
God speak to us from the deepest part of Your being, Your Soul, to the deepest part of our being, our soul. Help us to boldly proclaim, when peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul. Amen.
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