Wednesday, May 1, 2013

God’s Got Soul

Jeremiah 32:36-44
There are a number of places in scripture where God is spoken of in nearly human terms. Phrases referring to “the hand of God” can be found throughout scripture (e.g. Isaiah 5:25) as can those about God’s arm (e.g. Exodus 6:6). There are references to “the apple of [God’s] eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10, Zechariah 2:8) and the call for God to “give ear” to prayer (Psalm 84:8). Perhaps we should not be surprised then by the Old Testament passage for today which includes God’s words, “I will rejoice in doing good to them, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul” (Jeremiah 32:41).

When we use the term “heart and soul” we are usually referring to the entirety of a person, or at least his or her full attention which is undoubtedly what is meant in Jeremiah. God will be completely devoted to meeting the needs of the people, says the prophet, and will be fully engaged in that work. It is, of course, a promise that God is uniquely qualified to make. Few of us have the ability to remain totally absorbed by an activity for a prolonged period of time, but God can and does, throughout history and in countless ways. God focuses all the divine will on creation, on the long process of redemption as fulfilled in Jesus Christ, on emboldening the early church on Pentecost and sustaining it across centuries. Human thoughts wander, interests wane, attention levels fall. New fads rise with disturbing regularity and new ideas clamor for our endorsement. But God remains firmly rooted in the divine work and sees it though to completion. In other words, God has always put heart and soul into the care of humanity.

Then again, the word soul is also used to speak of the intangible nature of an individual, that which makes a man or woman unique in essence and intellect, the creative side of who they are and the very deepest expression of themselves. It also refers to a type of art or music that expresses an authentic humanity, that nearly lives and breaths with pathos. To say that God has soul, then, might be to claim that God knows or experiences the human essence at a truly authentic level, that God understands what it means to be us. And why not? God did create woman and man in the divine image. The fact that we have a soul may simply reflect the fact that God had one to begin with.

Whatever the case, God is in tune with humanity in ways that we cannot fully appreciate or understand, in ways that boggle the imagination and exhaust the mind’s capacity to comprehend. God is with us, heart and soul, guiding us on toward the coming reign, holding us accountable as we stumble, lifting us up when we fall, step by step for as long as we live. Yes, God has soul.

Prayer: God of all, walk with us as we journey toward you so that we may arrive at your new creation and stand in your eternal light. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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