Archive for May, 2010
Tongues of Fire
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
May 23, 2010
Genesis 11:1-9 Acts 2:1-21 Psalm 51
In our stories from Genesis and Acts, we find a circle of alienation from God and reconciliation back to God. In our Genesis story, God separates humanity, and gives different people different languages. In our reading from Acts, humanity is reconciled in God’s Holy Spirit and people from all different nationalities hear in their own language what the Apostles are saying.
The Genesis story we heard this morning is not a statement of historical fact. Anthropology has a different picture about how different cultures formed along with their languages. Furthermore, Genesis says that it is God who confounds humanity’s languages and separates people from people. This is said because it was important to the Biblical writers to understand everything as in God’s power and providence.
But there are elements in the Genesis story that contribute to a deeper meaning. There is more to this story than an explanation of why there are different countries and different languages. This story, in a deeper level, is about how people separated themselves from God. The confounding cause in this story is human pride and ego. And when human ego runs wild, we are separated from God.
There are several story elements in Genesis that illustrate human self run riot. First, the people in our story migrate east to Babylon. This is where the plain of Shinar is, which is mentioned in Genesis. Babylon has a generally negative connotation throughout the Old Testament. It is seen as a city of idolatry and superstition. It was a powerful city and thought itself invincible. So it is fitting that this story of human ego would be set in Babylon.
The first move away from God by humanity is in the formation of bricks. The people say, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone and bitumen for mortar” (Genesis 11:3). The bitumen that Genesis mentions is a kind of slimy mud that floats down the Euphrates River. I see the line “bricks for stone” as one of the key story elements here. What is happening is that people are relying on man-made technology. They aren’t using natural stone. They are relying on man-made bricks to build with. This is a symbol for relying on self instead of relying on God. They are depending on their own materials and not relying on what God provides for them.
We see this happening more and more in society today. People are becoming increasingly consumed with materialism. High priced cars with all kinds of gadgets in them. The internet and computers, which includes gaming and texting. Television is programming longer and longer commercials to lay before viewers all the material things they can spend their money on and fill their minds with a craving for. Ipads, ipods, Blackberries, twitter, facebook, DVD’s, podcasts, broadcast streaming. People are working longer and longer hours in order to acquire the material things they crave. The bonds between parent and child are becoming thinner and thinner. The natural bonds of love and community are being severed by the technology that is proliferating in culture. Some of us are losing touch with the world of nature and our inner harmony with God.
Other story elements in Genesis is the line about building a city, a tower to heaven, and making a name for themselves. “Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves’” (11:4). Building a city reinforces the trend toward materialism. The contrast here is between the nomadic and agricultural life the Israelites knew versus the apparent sophistication of the great city of Babylon. Building a city is another way of moving away from nature into man-made structures. It also symbolizes moving away from God into self. Making a name for themselves is clearly an ego-driven inclination. They want to make their name known among the nations around them. When we think of a person today wanting to make a name for him or herself, we see this as self-importance. It is a desire to feel important. To be famous or powerful. It is a striving for self-aggrandizement. The height of self-aggrandizement is seen in the tower. The tower was to reach to heaven. Here we see an attempt to climb to heaven by human power. The people in the story wanted to climb up to heaven by the force of their own efforts. This symbolizes the proprium, or selfhood. It symbolizes the drive to rule over holy things from selfhood. Selfhood wants to exalt itself above everyone, be the one in charge, and have one’s own will followed. Selfishness, or ego, if left unrestrained would seek to rule over God Himself.
Self will run wild ends up separating the self from others. When a person desires their own way above all, community is broken up. Community is formed when people come together on an equal basis and will what is good for each other. Selfhood wills only what is good for the self, and seeks to elevate oneself above others. So the natural consequences of self will run riot are the dispersal and confusion of language that the Bible speaks of. It is not God who disperses such people from community, but the individual him or herself by breaking the bonds of mutual love.
But in Christ all of humanity is reconciled. When we are filled with Christ’s Holy Spirit we are in union with God, each other, and with the natural order of things. While in Genesis we heard about a confusion of languages and the dispersion of peoples, in Acts we hear of a common language and spiritual community. The Holy Spirit descends upon the Apostles and tongues of fire appear above their heads. The they all begin to prophesy telling “the mighty acts of God.” When the Apostles are prophesying, everyone hears their words in each one’s native language. All kinds of different people hear the words of the prophets. We are told that there are Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, and even Asia, Phrygia, Egypt, and Rome, Cretans and Arabs (Acts 2:8-10). What this must have sounded like I can’t imagine. But some observers think that they’re drunk and babbling. Peter explains that they are not drunk–after all, he says, it’s only 9AM! It is the fulfillment of what the prophet Joel said about the last days. Then, the Spirit of God shall be poured on all flesh.
When we are filled with God’s love, we are given to perceive truth more and more clearly. It was Christ’s Holy Spirit that gave the various nationalities the capacity to understand what the Apostles were saying. And as we progress spiritually, as we are filled ever more deeply and fully with the Holy Spirit, our notions of truth get refined and purified into more accurate truth.
While selfhood separates a person from God, the Holy Spirit brings us into communion with God. The people of Babble tried to build a tower to heaven by their own might. But the only way to heaven is by letting go of self and allowing God’s Spirit into us. Swedenborg writes,
Generally speaking, the divine action and powerful effects meant by the Holy Spirit are the acts of reforming and regenerating us. Depending on the outcome of this reformation and regeneration, the divine actions and powerful effects also include the acts of renewing us, bringing us to life, sanctifying us, and making us just; and depending on the outcome of these in turn, the divine actions and powerful effects also include purifying us from evils, forgiving our sins, and ultimately saving us. These are the powerful effects, one after the other, that the Lord has on people who believe in Him and adapt and modify themselves in order to welcome Him and invite Him to stay (TCR 142).
It is through God’s actions in us that these things are accomplished and we are brought into heavenly bliss. And as everyone heard the Apostles’ prophesies, so God is calling each and every one of us into communion with Himself and into heavenly joy.
It is important to know that the Lord is carrying out these salvation processes in every single one of us all the time. They are the steps to heaven. The Lord wants to save everyone; His purpose is to save all people (TCR 142).
While selfhood alienates and separates, the Holy Spirit unifies and forms loving community. All of heaven is being in God’s Holy Spirit. All the delight in heaven and on earth flows from mutual love and God’s Spirit in our hearts and minds. All frustration and rage flow from selfhood, as no one can ever get their own way all the time. We are taught in the lesson about Babble what are the alienating consequences of selfhood, egotism, and materialism. And in the Pentecost story we are taught about God’s reconciling love in His Holy Spirit. The choice is ours.
Whoever Is Thirsty, Let Him Come
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
May 16, 2010
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21 John 17:13-26 Psalm 97
In the book of Revelation, we find a beautiful invitation to God’s kingdom. Jesus says, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ . . . whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17). Jesus holds out his love to everyone who wants it. It is not restricted to those of a certain sect, or a certain race, or a certain belief system. He says that “whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”
This passage refers to accepting Jesus into a person’s life. Earlier in the Gospel of John, Jesus promised to give the water of eternal life to a Samaritan woman. In that passage, Jesus says, “The water I give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). This water of eternal life is given to all who want it. Jesus will come to all who ask Him to. This is what we heard in our reading this morning from John 17. It refers to Jesus entering a person’s life. Jesus says about His Father, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:26).
When we have Jesus in our hearts and lives, only then do we truly live. There are several ways in which this statement can be understood. Spiritually, it means that only when we have Jesus’ love and wisdom in our souls do we have spiritual life, or eternal life. Everyone has life as a free gift from God. But what matters most, is the spiritual life that we accept from God. It is spiritual life that is eternal, and eternally blessed. And we have spiritual life when we have Christ in our lives.
In our reading from John, Jesus talks about the world. He says that his followers are not of the world. Verse 18 reads, “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” It is receiving God’s love that lifts us out of the world and makes us children of the kingdom. Last Sunday there were questions about living in the world. The question arose about how to interact with the world as we let God into our hearts, and into our very behavior. There are two ways to consider this question. First there is the question of how to deal with the world in our own souls. Then there is the question of how to deal with the world outside of our own souls.
In our reading from Revelation, there is a clear teaching about spiritual purification. We read, “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city” (Revelation 22:14). In order to enter the Holy City New Jerusalem, we need to wash our robes. We need to detach from the things of this world and to embrace the things of heaven. Truth is what leads us away from the things of this world and points the way to heaven.
When we first come to adulthood, we are filled with ideas about the world and ideas taken from observations about the world. We look around us to the things at hand and seek fulfillment in them. We look at jobs and professions; we look at fashions and clothing; we seek status and power; we seek pleasures that our senses give us; we seek to make a name for ourselves. This is a necessary stage in human development when it is taken in moderation. There are some things that pertain to the world that are essential. These things are a livelihood, a roof over our head, food, clothing, and the like. Fulfilling these needs is a part of everyone’s spiritual development. But there are other things that pertain to the world that we do not need, in fact, that inhibit our spiritual development. These things would be the craving for status and power; exaggerated self-importance; overindulgence in bodily pleasures and sensual gratification; and then there are neurotic patterns of behavior that inhibit healthy social relations and Christian love. When these things dominate our consciousness, we are then in the world and we are of the world. It takes spiritual truth to show us what really matters in life, and it takes spiritual truth to point the way out of these worldly cravings. Swedenborg clearly teaches us how powerful truth, or knowledge, can be for our spiritual liberation:
Worldly things cannot be dispersed before truth and good are implanted in the heavenly things, through knowledges; for a person cannot distinguish between heavenly and worldly things, before he or she knows and recognizes what the heavenly is, and what the worldly. Knowledges make a general and obscure idea distinct; and the more distinct the idea is made by knowledges, the more can the worldly things be separated (AC 1557).
I can remember how I was in my early 20′s. I was a salesman and a musician. I drove a shiny Catalina, wore a three-piece suit, and carried around a brief case. I was going to the top. I was quite full of myself. And being immersed in these things and with that attitude, I saw no problem with the direction my life was heading. I still went to church, but the truths I heard didn’t affect my character. I think to one degree or another, we all go through something like this stage in life. My own spiritual aspirations ended up in something like spiritual pride for my good behavior. I was honest–at least to others; I didn’t steal; I believed in God; and I thought I was a pretty holy person. When I was so full of pride and worldliness, I was unable to see any other life. So Swedenborg writes, perhaps reflecting on his own life,
It is similar with all in the world who are in the love of self and the world, and therefore in no goodwill. They know the enjoyment of those loves, but not the enjoyment of goodwill. Thus they are altogether ignorant of what goodwill is, and still more that there is any enjoyment in goodwill; when yet the enjoyment of goodwill is what fills the universal heaven, and makes the blessedness and happiness there (AC 3938).
But through some harsh knocks to my complacency, and through continued spiritual learning, I evolved. This was a very slow process. So slow, that I can’t even point to how or when changes happened. As I grew and progressed in my own spiritual development, I could look back and see how empty, and even harmful, those former ideals actually were. As we progress spiritually, we are able to look back on our former desires and enjoyments and see them as comparatively repugnant. So Swedenborg writes,
They who receive from the Lord the enjoyments of affections for truth and good, see and perceive by degrees the nature of the enjoyments of their former life, which they believed to be the only enjoyments–that they are vile in comparison (AC 3938).
So the worldliness that Jesus speaks of can be something that is inside each and every one of us. But by allowing God’s love into us, by accepting Jesus into our life, we become filled with that goodwill and love that the Gospel of John talks about. This brings up the problem of living in the world as a spiritual being. Jesus says, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (17:15). This is a prayer that we all know too well. We want to be shielded from hardships and from hurtful company. We want to be shielded from the evil one. Our Christian response to hardships that come our way, seemingly unprovoked, is patience, toleration, and forgiveness. When we have Christ in our hearts, we will be able to bear hardships better. When we are deprived of money or something material, we will accept God’s dispensation and rest content with what we have. When we are slighted, we will not retaliate because our ego is no longer vulnerable to wounding. How often are we offended because our ego is involved! In AA they teach us to see where we played a part in an argument or when we feel resentful. When we are filled with God and not self, where is the hurt?
Jesus calls us all into community through His Holy Spirit. He says,
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (John 17:22, 23).
We are called by Christ into unity with our brothers and sisters. We are especially called into unity with our fellow Christians, and with spiritual seekers of all faiths. We are called into unity in smaller units such as this denomination, and this church. We are called into unity with our families and friends.
This unity in Christ is also cosmic. When we are in unity with Christ, we are in unity with the very creative power of the universe. And since the universe is created in God’s image, we are also in unity with the whole created universe when we are in unity with Christ. Swedenborg writes,
Everything in the universe was created by the divine love and wisdom of the Divine Human. The universe, from beginning to end and from first to last, is so full of divine love and wisdom that you could call it divine love and wisdom in an image (DLW 52).
The pattern of love and wisdom that our soul is made in is the same patter in which the universe is made. When we are in Christ, we are in love and wisdom. And that love and wisdom is God’s very form, the form of the whole angelic heaven, and the whole created universe. The union of love and wisdom that we embody puts us in unity with the universe, with heaven, and with God.
Let us remember that Christ’s invitation to unity is extended to everyone, as must be our love and community. “Whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life” (Revelation 22:17). Jesus spoke with a Samaritan woman, who was an outcast to orthodox Jews. He let a sinful woman anoint him. He dined with thieves and tax collectors. We can see him saying to all of them, “Whoever is thirsty, let him come.” So our Christian love is not limited to those in our own church building, our own faith, or our own race. We can imitate Christ in His complete openness to the whole human race. Christ calls us into unity in His name. And our unity is to let the world know that there is another way than materialism, power, and status. As the song goes, “We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord.”
I in You and You in Me
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
May 9, 2010
John 5:1-9 Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 Psalm 67
Last Sunday I talked about God’s presence with everyone. Today I would like to talk about our reciprocal presence with God. There is a difference between God’s presence with us, and our presence with God. God is continually reaching out to us, and in our inmost soul, God is present with everyone. In this sense, God is always in us. But we are not always in God. We have a responsibility to respond to God and to let God into us. When we let God into us, then we are in God.
Our Bible readings this morning speak to this issue. In our reading from John, we heard about a man who had been sick a long time. He was lying beside the healing waters of Bethzatha. Jesus asked him if he wanted to be healed and the man responded that he never got the chance to enter the waters. Jesus then said, “Take up your bed and walk.” The man was instantly healed. This healing, as with all Jesus’ healings, symbolizes God’s deliverance from evil. We are spiritually sick when we let evil have power in us, and it is God’s own power that lifts us out of evil and holds us in God’s heavenly joy and love. This is the picture we have in our reading from Revelation. There we have that beautiful vision of the Holy City New Jerusalem. There is no need for the sun to be there because God Himself is the light. Nor is there a temple because there is a direct relationship with God in the Holy City. This vision of the Holy City comes after all the tumult in the earlier parts of the Book of Revelation. It comes after the horrors of the four horsemen, the plague, the sword, famine, and wild beasts. It comes after the dragon tries to swallow up the new born baby from the woman clothed with the sun. The Holy City New Jerusalem comes after the victory is won. It comes after our spiritual sicknesses have been healed by God. Then God is in us and we are in God.
This end of times vision in Revelation is our birthright. We are born to be in harmony with the created order. And the created order is good, as we read in Genesis, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (1:31). The whole created universe was created by God and as such, is full of God in every aspect of it. Swedenborg tells us, “the universe as to essence and order is in the fullness of God” (TCR 63). Since God is goodness itself, so, also, the universe is full of God’s goodness,
Because he wills nothing but what is good, he cannot do anything but what is good. . . . God is in fact goodness itself. When he does something good, he is in himself. He cannot walk away from himself.
Clearly then, his omnipotence fills, and works within, the sphere of the extension of goodness, and sphere that is infinite. At a deep level, this sphere pervades the universe and everything in it (TCR 56).
So the whole universe from the smallest to the largest is filled with the order God has imposed on it, and that order is good.
Genesis tells us that we are created in the image and likeness of God. This means that we are created according to God’s divine order. We have been created in the form of goodness that the universe is created in. We are in the same form in which the whole created universe is, and we are created in the order in which the whole of heaven is. That form, or that order, is a form of love and wisdom.
We have been created as forms of the divine design because we have been created as images and likenesses of God, and since God is the design itself, we have therefore been created as images and likenesses of that design.
The divine design originally took shape, and it continues to exist, from two sources: divine love and divine wisdom. We human beings have been created as vessels for these two things. Therefore the design that divine love and wisdom follow in acting upon the universe, and especially upon the angelic heaven, has been built into us (TCR 65).
We are created in the same form as heaven and the universe. If we follow our nature, we will be at one with the universe, at one with heaven, and at one with God.
This is where our responsibility enters the equation. We have been created in the order of heaven, which is a vessel that can receive love and wisdom. But we need to allow that love and wisdom to enter us. We need to respond to God’s call. We need to turn ourselves to God and ask Him into our hearts and minds. When we do this, we are in God. If we do not allow God into our lives, we will not be in God. God is present to everyone in the deepest parts of our soul. But God needs to come down through all the levels of our consciousness in order for us to have God in us fully. The difference is whether God is only in the highest parts of our soul, or whether God is in our whole being and all the levels of our consciousness.
Now because a person was created a form of divine order, God is in him or her, and so far as he or she lives according to Divine order, fully; but if he or she does not live according to Divine order, still God is in him or her, but in their highest parts . . . But as far as a person lives contrary to order, so far he or she shuts up the lower parts of his or her spirit, and thus prevents God from descending and filling them with His presence; consequently God is in them, but they are not in God (TCR 70).
God is present with everyone and God is in every part of the universe. This is possible because God is not in space or time. All the dark spaces of the universe that appear to us as being empty and vacant are filled with God. The psalmist says,
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
If I make my bed in hell, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
If I settle on the far side of the sea,
Even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast (139:7-10).
God will be with us wherever we are. And God’s love will never cease to draw us toward Himself by the mighty force of mercy. Swedenborg writes, “The absence of God from a person is no more possible than the absence of the sun by its heat and light from the earth.” But we can turn away from God. Then God will not be present in our whole being.
Therefore, as far as a person suffers him or herself to be brought back into order, so far God is omnipresent in the whole of him or her; consequently, so far God is in him or her and they are in God. The absence of God from a person is no more possible than the absence of the sun by its heat and light from the earth. The objects of the earth, however, are not in the sun’s power except so far as they receive the light and heat proceeding from it, as in the time of spring and summer (TCR 70).
We are in God, then, when we ask God into our lives. An image I have of this is God beginning in our depths and working His way down into our behaviours. This is a lifelong process, and even continues for ever in the next life. This process may involve struggle at times. This process may involve the spiritual equivalent of all those calamities in the book of Revelation. But to the victor goes the crown. When we have consistently prayed and acted in Godly ways, God’s omnipresence will be in our souls, minds, and spiritual bodies. God will be in us and we will be in God. God will be with us always, even to the end of the age, as he tells the Apostles at the very end of Matthew, and as we read at the end of the Book of Revelation. “The throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see his face, and his name shall be on their hearts” (Rev. 22:3).
Nearer, My God, to Thee
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
May 2, 2010
Revelation 21:1-6 John 13:31-35 Psalm 148
Today I will talk about God’s presence with us. In our Revelation reading we find a loud voice saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (21:3). This passage is related to the reading we heard from John. In it, Jesus says, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (13:34). God is present with us in the love we feel for one another. As God is love itself, when we have love in us, we have God in us.
This brings up a very difficult doctrine in Swedenborg’s theology. In order to understand God’s presence with us, we have to leave behind all thought based on time and space. And it seems everything we know is based on time and space. In fact, the philosopher Immanuel Kant said that in order for us to know anything, we need to think in terms of time and space. So for Kant, an idea that doesn’t have time and space in it can’t be known.
But the laws of spirit don’t involve time and space. We can feel close to someone who is way across the country. And we can feel distant from someone right beside us. The laws of love are apart from distance. In fact, at times we can feel close to people we have known who are now in the spiritual world. It looks to us like we are separate from each other, since our bodies can be at a distance from each other. But our emotions obey a different law. Emotionally, there is no separation of one from another. Love connects the whole universe and each individual is a part of the whole. The idea that we are separate people living in separate bodies is an illusion. The great Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor says that this is a distinctly modern idea. In the past, people thought that their minds were open to all sorts of spiritual influences and that actual angels and demons could enter their heads. Swedenborg agrees with this. Our thinking and our emotions are connected with each other and with the whole heaven. Our thinking and emotions are connected with the thoughts and feelings of angels and demons. And ultimately, our thoughts and emotions are connected with God, no matter where we are.
So in order to understand how God is present with us, we need to forget about distance and space. This is not easy for us to do. But it is the only way to understand how God is with us. It can cause confusion when we hear Jesus say, “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20). “What exactly does ‘in’ mean, here?” we may ask ourselves. We think “inside” and the teaching doesn’t make sense. What is inside me are organs and a heart and lungs and blood. There is no one inside me, we may think. So in order to understand the reality of God’s presence with us, we need to remove ideas like “inside,” “separation,” and “distance.”
From God’s point of view, God is present equally with everyone. But from our point of view it looks like God is close or distant depending on the person or circumstance. We hear Swedenborg talk about the highest heaven being “above” the lowest heaven, or more “interior.” These are spatial words. They are words based on space and distance. The truth is that God is just as present with angels of the lowest heaven as He is with angels of the highest heaven. Swedenborg tells us,
As a result of the differences in angels’ acceptance of the Lord, the heavens appear to be marked off from each other. The highest heaven, called the third heaven, seems to be over the second, and the second over the first. It is not that the heavens are distant from each other, but that they seem to be. In fact, the Lord is just as present with people in the most remote heaven as he is with people in the third heaven. What causes the appearance of distance is in the subjects, the angels, and not in the Lord (DLW 110).
God is equally present with all of us. But we do not feel God’s presence the same. Some of us feel God’s presence more intimately and others less so. And sometimes we feel God closer to us than we do at other times. Some of us have embodied much of God’s wisdom and love and others of us have embodied less of God’s wisdom and love. So our feeling of God’s presence will vary. This difference is in us, not in God. So Swedenborg tells us,
It does seem as though the Divine were not the same in one person as in another–that it were different, for example, in a wise person than in a simple one, different in an elderly person than in an infant. But this appearance is deceptive. The person is a recipient, and the recipient or recipient vessel may vary. A wise person is a recipient of divine love and divine wisdom more aptly and, therefore, more fully than a simple person and an elderly person who is also wise, more than an infant or child. Still, the Divine is the same in the one as it is in the other (DLW 78).
An example that Swedenborg uses to illustrate this idea is the way the sun interacts with the different planets. The sun is the same, but some planets are hotter than others. Mercury and Venus are closest to the sun and their temperature is very hot. (And as Armand will tell us, Velikovsky anticipated this before scientists did.) Mars is farther away, and it is colder. But the sun is the same. Likewise on our planet earth, we find different parts of the globe with different weather patterns. Florida is warmer than Alberta because it is farther south. The sun shines the same, but the earth is on an angle so that some parts of it get direct sunlight and other parts get slanting rays of the sun.
God is in us as love and wisdom. True love and true wisdom are not ours. They are God’s in us. So when the book of Revelation says, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God” (21:3), it is referring to God’s love and wisdom in us. God is in us to the extent that love and wisdom are in us. Everyone who has embodied love and wisdom is in heaven. And since that love and wisdom is actually God, God is in heaven.
Given the fact that distance is only apparent, then, it follows that the Lord himself is in heaven. He is in the love and wisdom of heaven’s angels; and since he is in the love and wisdom of all the angels and the angels make up heaven, he is in all of heaven (DLW 113).
And since love and wisdom are God’s in us, God actually is heaven.
The reason the Lord is not only in heaven but actually is heaven itself is that love and wisdom make an angel, and these two are properties of the Lord in the angels. It therefore follows that the Lord is heaven (DLW 114).
This is as true for us here on earth as it is for angels in heaven. After all, we are material bodies that have a soul within us. Our soul is actually in the spiritual world right now. So we are in a heavenly community or a hellish one right now.
This may seem like a matter of higher wisdom since it is being supported by reference to havens and angels. However, the same holds true for us. As far as the deeper levels of our minds are concerned, we are warmed and enlightened by that same sun, warmed by its warmth and enlightened by its light, to the extent that we accept love and wisdom from the Lord (DLW 112).
So when Jesus tells us to love one another as He loves us, He is talking about His own presence with us. He is in us, when we are filled with God’s love and wisdom. Then the relationship is mutual. When we love God back, then we are in God and God is in us.
Perhaps it isn’t so hard to think about God apart from space and time. We use such language all the time. We say things like, “You are in my thoughts.” Or, “My heart is with you.” The same is true of God. God is very much in our thoughts. We think because God is in our minds. We love because God is in our hearts. God is with us everywhere. All we need to do is to realize this, and to open ourselves to the warmth and light of God’s real presence with us. Then God Himself will be with us and be our God.