“The Elixir of Life”
For more than 4,000 years, on three different continents, many of the smartest people in
the world pursued a dream. They yearned to turn ordinary junk into treasure. It was
the dream of alchemy. Through a combination of research, magic, and laboratory trial-
and-error, alchemists in China, India, the Middle East, and medieval Europe searched
for the mythical “philosopher’s stone”- a substance that could transmute ordinary metals
like lead into an endless supply of precious metals like silver and gold.
No one knew exactly what the philosopher’s stone looked like. It was rumored to be
orange and exceedingly heavy. When ground it was supposed to yield a fine red powder
that could dissolve in any liquid and withstand the heat of any furnace.
Everyone agreed that when they finally found the stone, it would prove to be the
the ultimate key to human joy.
The stone was also called “the elixir of life” because it would be able to heal every human
disease and grant immortality. Common salt crystals would be transmuted into
diamonds, and (interestingly) the stone would somehow generate perfect
representations, or clones of the one who possessed it.
The stakes were high. The rewards unimaginable. Many of history’s brightest minds
devoted their best years to pursuing the Magnum Opus (“great work”) of finding the
philosopher’s stone. Sir Isaac Newton-arguably the smartest guy who has ever lived-
spent more time researching alchemy than either physics or optics. Sir Robert Boyle,
one of Newton’s contemporaries and widely regarded as the father of modern chemistry
was first and foremost an alchemist.
Note that the root Chem (a Greek word that connotes “the art of alloying metals”) is at
the heart of both chemistry and alchemy. Contemporary scientists assure us that the
philosopher’s stone does not exist. It never did. There’s no magical “something” that
can change the ordinary into the extraordinary. But of course, that claim is at the heart
of Christian spirituality.
The Apostle Paul insists that those who follow Jesus “are being transformed into his
image with ever increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit”
(2 Corinthians 3:18). The Spirit slowly but surely “transmutes” our thoughts, attitudes,
and actions into those who honor God. What might that look like?
You encounter some resident here at Westminster Village that has invaded your space,
seems arrogant and self-serving and maybe said things to others that put you in a bad
light. When others speak out behind this person’s back you remember Jesus is your
Master. Strengthened by the Spirit, you choose not to pour abuse on the person and
work toward a relationship with the person that can bring healing.
You flip on the TV and that politician you cannot stand is getting more national
exposure. You can’t even hear the politician’s voice without cringing. You choose to
pray that God will bless this person and you choose the path of love.
You encounter people that always seem to be on the outs-maybe it’s the hygiene or
behavior or even a race different than yours. Rather than put up walls remember Jesus
calls us to love people the way he loves people. And so you make an effort to get to know
these people who are different by paying attention to their needs. We see this in Muncie
today with the immigrants from Afghanistan who have moved into our community,
We can learn much from each other and that is the Christian response.
For four millennia, people all over the world cherished the dream of alchemy. Surely
some kind of exotic chemistry could be found to transform everyday junk into gold. But
no one ever succeeded. Except for God.
He is the Alchemist who can take whatever junk is in our hearts and minds and through
the grace of his Son, transform it into something eternally beautiful.
Ron Naylor, Chaplain