Posted by Nancy Steele

 

The following poem is a lightly edited version of the homily I gave in church on Sunday, January 29, 2017. I took as my inspiration the end (or goal) of ensuring the continuity of our church through generosity and good stewardship.

 

Body and Soul

Wednesday morning when I walked up the rise back to our house

I felt a chill wind on my already cold face, pushing against me.

It was a slight breeze, not strong enough even to move twigs,

But it was unpleasant.

At night, I expect to feel the sundowner breeze

As the cool air flows down the mountain

Into the sun-warmed valleys.

But that morning, I expected the wind to be at my back,

Pushing me up the mountain.

This early morning, down-mountain wind caught me by surprise.

 

It’s an upside-down time right now

Not just in the larger world

But even personally in my own life.

This time reminds me of memories of childhood,

Perplexed by much of what was happening to me and why,

Experiences washed over me, none the less.

A lot of life is like that.

We just live, day to day, unaware of the deep currents beneath

Pushing us in directions we don’t expect.

Or the winds that blow the wrong way.

Later we struggle to understand

Why we are, who we are

What happened to that bright-eyed child, that confident woman?

 

Why, for example, do I care so much about giving away my money?

I should want to hold on to money tight, especially now

When my income has been reduced.

Once you spend money, it is gone.

Money in the bank or under the mattress is good.

Before my mother died she confided in me from her hospital bed

That I would find money under her pillows.

Ok Mom, I said, and went to look.

I was surprised to find she had been sleeping on over $10,000 cash.

That must have felt good to her!

Money in hand represents security, for paying the bills, for retirement,

For keeping together body and soul.

 

Now where did that come from?

Body, yes, but soul?

 

What does money have to do with soul?

I don’t believe in the afterlife or a soul that outlives us.

Yet in the last couple of years, I seem to have become a believer in soul,

If I count the number of times I’ve referred to “keeping body and soul together.”

I was searching around the internet and found this quote by Maya Angelou:

“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”

That sounds good.

I want my soul to be liberated.

Even if I don’t know what soul is.

 

But for me, “keeping body and soul together,” speaks of nourishment,

Not only of my physical self, but my spiritual self,

And that brings me to community,

For it is in community that “body and soul” merge:

Spirit, love, service, and community.

 

I want my community to be here to nourish me and my family.

One must take care of a community,

Be a part of its formation and continuation:

That’s called Stewardship.

 

My community is broad and includes:

Museums and public radio stations I have joined,

Gardens I walk in and parks I camp in,

Our own camp in the mountains,

The local land trust,

And this church community –

Especially this church community –

Because this church community,

Helps me to keep body and soul together.

 

Here’s another quote; this one from some students of psychology, who concluded:

“….we find a positive association between levels of life satisfaction and individuals’ acts of giving to charitable organizations. However, when we disaggregate donations into religious versus secular donations, we find that only giving to religious charitable organizations [is] significantly associated with higher levels of life satisfaction.” [1]

 

So, there you go. Give money to your church and feel better, live better.

How wonderful that an action so simple as transferring

Some of what you have accumulated to someone else,

To an institution that you believe in,

Improves your life, inside and out.

 

In this topsy-turvy world

when up is down and red is white,

Where our commander in chief may believe “six impossible things before breakfast,” [2]

What I can hold onto are my values and beliefs:

That giving is good for my soul.

That this church, this community, nourishes me, spiritually,

And I can co-create community, with you, through giving.

Keeping body and soul together.

 

-Nancy Steele, President, Board of Trustees

 

[1] https://philanthropy.iupui.edu/files/event_resources/lifesatisfactiondonations14112.pdf

[2] Carroll, Lewis, 1871. Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There