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Archive for May, 2013

May 27th, 2013

Your Sin Is Forgiven
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
May 26, 2013

Isaiah 6:1-8 John 3:1-17 Psalm 29

The forgiveness of sins is a major topic in religion. Your could say that it is a central topic in religion. It is synonymous with salvation. And aren’t we greatly concerned with salvation.
For this church, salvation is all about character formation and reformation. It is about change. It is about the process by which we become heavenly beings, from a beginning as earthly beings. Swedenborg calls this process regeneration. And as I was suggesting just above, regeneration assumes a central place in our worship life.
all things of worship relate to purification from evils and falsities, to the implanting of truth and good, and to their conjunction, thus to regeneration (AC 10042).
We have two images of regeneration from our Bible readings this morning. First, from Isaiah we have the prophet encountering God in God’s glory. Isaiah sees God sitting on a throne, and we are told that this throne is “High and lifted up.” God’s train fills the whole temple. God is surrounded by Seraphim. This image of God is a royal image, and it shows God in glory and awe.
Isaiah’s response is one of fear and contrition. In this awesome appearance of God, the prophet becomes conscious of his sins. He cries,
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”
This consciousness of sin is followed by a purification ritual. A Seraphim takes a burning coal from the temple altar and touches it to Isaiah’s mouth. Isaiah is purified from his sins, and the Seraphim tells him, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin forgiven.”
This ritual is a symbol of the process by which we all have our sins forgiven. It begins with a consciousness of some sin in us. Then we approach the Lord and confess them to God. This is symbolized by the altar from which the burning coal is taken. For the altar symbolizes God. In Swedenborg’s system of correspondences, “The altar was the principal representative of the Lord” (AC 10042). The burning coal symbolizes God’s fiery Divine Love. And as we are touched by Divine Love, we are purified from our evils.
The Isaiah story can be a little misleading. It can give one the impression that forgiveness of sins can happen in an instant. But we need to remember that this story is symbolic. The coal that touches Isaiah’s mouth symbolizes a whole process. The process is one of character reformation over a whole lifetime.
Jesus talks about this process symbolically in our reading from John. First let us consider how God appears in this story. For Jesus is God in the flesh. In Jesus, God walked upon the earth. What a different image we have of God in the Gospels! People of all walks of life can come to Jesus. Jesus touches people; Jesus heals people; and Jesus talks with people. In our story, Jesus enters into a rabbinic dialogue with Nicodemus about being reborn. Their dialogue is a kind of stylized ritual of question and answer. Nicodemus appears simple the questions he asks Jesus. For instance, he asks Jesus how a person can re-enter his mother’s womb. Of course that is impossible, and on the surface Nicodemus would look like a simpleton to ask this question. But Biblical scholars tell us that this is typical rabbinic dialogue. The way this goes, is that a person prompts the teacher to reveal his wisdom by asking a series of questions, even simple questions like the ones Nicodemus asked. And in the process of his questions, Jesus tells us a powerful truth. He says that, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John3:5).
Being reborn of water and the Spirit has been interpreted in many different ways. Some say that baptism is what is meant by being reborn. Others say that confessing that Jesus is God and that He died for our sins is what being born of water and the Spirit means. This church teaches that being reborn of water and the Spirit means actually letting God’s Spirit into us. And as God’s Spirit enters us, we are purified from our sins.
Forgiveness of sins is removal of sins only. A sin that we endorse with our hearts and minds cannot be forgiven. How can we expect forgiveness of something we don’t think is wrong–something we keep doing? We are forgiven to the extent that we desist from evil thoughts and deeds. Forgiveness of sins is nothing other than resisting them. Forgiveness of sins is allowing God’s love into our hearts and God’s wisdom into our minds. Swedenborg calls this the implanting of good and truth in us.
The forgiveness of sins, expiation, propitiation, and redemption, are also nothing else than purification from evils and falsities, implanting of good and truth and their conjunction (AC 10042).
Purification fro evil and falsity cannot happen overnight or in an instant. It is a lifelong process. Swedenborg compares it to our conception and formation in our mother’s womb.
Sins are removed so far as a person is reborn, because rebirth is restraining the flesh that it may not rule, and subjugating the old man . . . . Who that yet has sound understanding, cannot conclude that such things cannot be done in a moment, but successively, as a person is conceived, carried in the womb, born, and educated . . . . For the things of the flesh or the old man are inherent in him from birth . . . as an infant grows, reaches childhood, then youth, and then begins to think from his own understanding, and to act from his own will. Who does not see that such a house which has been thus far built in the mind, . . . cannot be destroyed in a moment, and a new house built in place of it? Must not the lusts . . . be themselves first removed, and new desires which are of good and truth be introduced in the place of the lusts of evil and falsity? That these things cannot be done in a moment every wise person sees from this alone, that every evil is composed of innumerable lusts; . . . therefore unless one evil is brought out after another, and this until their connection is broken up, a person cannot be made new (TCR 611).
One by one, we become aware of evil we committed unintentionally–or by design. As we become aware that some of our behaviors are evil, we begin the struggle to desist from thinking and doing them. Since we are talking about really changing who we are, we must conclude that this takes a while.
If we are but striving to be good, we are on the heaven-bound path. I think that people of this church can be hard on ourselves. We become aware of some sin in us, and we can think that we are beyond hope–at least some of us some of the time. There are places in Swedenborg where he describes this state of mind. Indeed, he does say that we can despair of our own salvation at times.
But I have found some reassuring passages in Swedenborg that suggest that we may not be as bad off as we can think ourselves. He says that people who are essentially good have their slips and evils forgiven. We can be forgiven if we are not deliberately and intentionally doing evil. We are forgiven if our end, or purpose isn’t to be evil.
As to good spirits, if perchance they speak or do evil, they are not punished, but are forgiven, and also excused; for it is not their end to speak or do evil, and they know that such things are excited in them from hell, so that they do not come forth from guilt of theirs. This is also perceived from their struggling against such things, and afterward from their grief (AC 6559).
In this passage we see that we are forgiven if we do not do evils from a set purpose. We also see in it that good spirits, or people, struggle against such sins. We see further that good spirits or people feel grief when we act contrary to our conscience. There is an even more reassuring passage in Heaven and Hell. In this passage, Swedenborg states that hereditary evils do not even return in the next life, because it was not our intent to commit evil.
But good spirits are never punished, though they had done evils in the world, for their evils do not return; and I have learned that their evils were of another kind or nature than those of evil spirits, not being done purposely contrary to the truth, and not from any other evil heart than what they received hereditarily from their parents, into which they were carried from a blind enjoyment when they were in externals separate from internals (HH 509).
If we are of such a disposition, we can give ourselves a little break if we slip up. Although Jesus says, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect,” He would also know that this injunction is impossible for any mortal (Matthew 5:48). We need to admit with humility that we are earthy, broken creatures in need of God. In the course of my work, I have been around some people who are having a hard time with life. People who are broken and in fact, desperate. Yet in the presence of these downcast individuals I found a profound sense of love and openness. Sometimes we need to be broken in order to be open to God. Swedenborg says that people who are elated in heart have a hard time opening their souls to God’s love. He speaks of the
humbleness which is essential in all worship, and by means of which good can flow in from the Lord; for an elated heart does not receive at all, but a humble heart” (AC 2715).
Recognizing sin is one way we become humble. I do not mean chastising ourselves for our terrible disposition. I mean only acknowledging that we need God to elevate ourselves out of our native tendencies toward evil. Being conscious of sin reminds us that we are not the greatest individuals on the planet–nor the worst. We are simply a human with failings we are overcoming with God’s help. Knowing our finite capacity for good is honest. It is true. Another word for this is being teachable. No athlete can succeed who isn’t teachable. Nor can we Christian athlete find salvation unless we are teachable. And admitting who we are; admitting we need help; and asking God for help means we are teachable. Then we can receive the enlightenment and the love we need to be truly born of water and the Spirit.

PRAYER

Lord, we thank you for the gift of your living water which you offer to all who ask. This morning we ask that you send us your Holy Spirit, and baptise us with water and the Spirit according to your word in the Gospels. We ask that you fill us with all goodness which cleanses our heart. And we ask also that you illuminate our minds with all truth, in order to show us how to walk in your ways. Lord we know and admit that we fall short of your holy commands. And we also know that as often as we fall away, you, in turn, bring us back into the fold by the strong power of your mercy. Thanks be to you.

And Lord, we pray that you bring peace to this troubled world. May those who harbor ill will for their neighbors learn to understand and see the fellow humanity that they share. May those who strive against each other see that they are like in their wishes and in what they want for their land and nation. And may warring factions find their way to peace.

Lord, we ask for you to heal those who are sick. As you worked miracles of healing when you were on earth, how much more can you work healing miracles now that you have risen and have all authority in heaven and on earth. Grant all who are in need your healing love and power.

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May 20th, 2013

The Breath of Life
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
May 19, 2013

Ezekiel 37 John 16:4-15 Psalm 104

A little while back I busted my knuckles on my apartment doorway as I turned my key against the steel doorframe. It broke the skin. I cursed at the time, but over the days a strange wonder overtook me. I watched as my knuckles began to heal. Soon they were just pink circles. Then they returned to flesh tones and you couldn’t tell they had been scraped at all. I was amazed that there is a force in my body striving for health. There is a power in me that restores my body to its normal functioning condition. There is a life force in me, in us.
What is this life force? What is this healing energy in my body? This isn’t just an accident of evolution. Sure, it is in an organism’s interest to heal. And organisms that heal will perpetuate themselves. But this doesn’t explain that healing power itself. That doesn’t tell me what mysterious life force restores my body to the condition it is meant to be in.
Reflections like this make me wonder about who and what I am. Reflections like this lead me to think that I am not all I am. I am something with a life force in it. Maybe I am a vessel, holding a power much greater than my own person.
We are told this very clearly in the Bible. In Genesis, God forms a person out of the dust of the earth. But that creature doesn’t come to life until God breathes into him the breath of life.
Then the Lord God formed a person of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being (Gen 2:7).
To the ancient people, wind, breath, life, spirit, and soul were all the same. So when God breathes into Adam the breath of life, it is the same as saying that God gave Adam a living soul, or gave him life itself. The Hebrew word for the breath God breathed into Adam is neshamah. And its definition is a “puff of wind, or vital breath, divine inspiration, soul, spirit.” There is such a close connection between breath, wind, and life that one could say that the ancient people saw God as the wind. In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve encounter God. But God does not appear as a person. Rather, God is arguably the breeze blowing through the Garden of Eden in the early evening. The Complete Jewish Bible brings this out very nicely. It says that Adam and Eve, “heard the voice of ADONAI, God, walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze.” So it was the wind blowing through the Garden that was God’s presence. We see now why the wind, or breath that blew into Adam and gave him life was the very divine Spirit.
It is this divine breath that gives life to the dry bones in our reading from Ezekiel. After the bones came together, and sinews and flesh covered them, there was no life in them yet. Then the four winds blow into the bones as breath and they become living beings.
“Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet–a vast army (Ezekiel 37:9-10).
This relationship between wind, breath, and spirit is even more explicit in the New Testament. The same word, pneuma, is used for wind, breath, spirit and Holy Spirit. As an interesting aside, this word, pneuma is where we get the English word pneumatics from. And pneumatics is the use of air, or compressed air for power. Using the Greek pneuma for spirit appears early in the Gospel stories, as in John 1:33, 34. There, it is said that the Spirit descends on Jesus and remains on Him. And it also says that Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. In both these cases, the word pneuma is used. And we find that word in our reading from John 16. There, it is said that the Spirit of truth will guide the disciples into all truth.
It is God’s Spirit that guides us into truth. It enlightens our minds, and it elevates our souls up into heavenly affections. This is what the story of the dry bones is about. It begins with dead bones. And God’s word brings the bones together, and clothes them with flesh. Then God’s Spirit comes from the four winds and breathes into them the breath of life, as was the case with Adam. We begin our spiritual journey dead to spiritual life, like the dry bones. In fact, bones correspond to the proprium. True, we do have remains of childhood innocence in us. And it is also true that we have God’s inflowing life force in our bodies and souls. But the process of elevation up, out of proprium–or selfhood–has not yet begun. That is why our early spiritual life is like that thick darkness and void described in Genesis 1.
A person before regeneration is called the earth, void, and empty; also ground wherein nothing of good and of truth has been implanted. A void is where there is nothing of good; and emptiness wherein there is nothing of truth; from which there is darkness, or insensibility and ignorance of all things that are of faith in the Lord and, consequently, of spiritual and heavenly life (AC 17).
This condition is also described in Jeremiah, “I looked at the earth, and it was formless and empty” (4:23).
But God is laboring unceasingly to lift us out of our proprium, and to shine light upon our souls. Swedenborg writes, “The Lord is constantly in the act of regenerating a person, because He is constantly in the act of saving him, and no one can be saved unless he is regenerated” (TCR 577). As I said above, the dry bones are our lives before regeneration. But we become increasingly human as we let God work His healing power on our souls. We put on sinews and flesh. And we ultimately become that human being created in the image and likeness of God when we breathe the breath of the four winds and come alive.
In the New Testament, it is said that the Spirit of truth comes to us. It is called the Spirit of truth because we need truth to lead us into the paths of righteousness. It is through truth that we come to good. I can say now, that I am learning about behaviors and thoughts that I had in the past. I am learning that some of them were spiritually harmful. I am sifting through memories, and situations in my past and I see the problems in them. These reflections are teaching me how to step into the light, and what attitudes and behaviors to avoid in the future in order to walk in the paths of righteousness. These reflections are truth guiding me into good.
What makes this process of regeneration possible is a desire for good. We need to remain open to God’s breath of life. And provided we remain open, God will enliven us with spiritual heat, with vital living water. Swedenborg writes,
God is in the perpetual endeavor to regenerate and thus to save man; but He cannot effect this, except as the man prepares himself as a receptacle, and so clears the way for God and opens the door (TCR 73e).
This whole process is not only about evil–evil in us or evil in the world. It is rather about letting good thoughts, feelings, and behaviors into our lives. As we progress spiritually, we come to know what is good, and we come to enjoy what is good. This sensibility to good feelings and thoughts increases as does our regeneration. Our enjoyment with goodness takes on a central place in our world. Even if we fall short, our endeavor is to be good. Even if we slip, we still want to be good. Swedenborg talks about this in a remarkable passage. He says that as good assumes a central role in our lives, our evils are softened, tempered, and do not define our character.
in the good [people], goods with truths are in the centre, and evils and falsities in the circumference: and in both cases [with the evil and with the good], the things which are in the centre diffuse themselves even to the circumferences, as heat from fire at the centre, and as cold from icy cold at the centre. Thus . . . with the good, evils in the circumferences grow mild from the goods of the centre. This is the reason that evils do not condemn the regenerate person (DP 86).
We are in process here on earth. We will find ourselves a mixture of good and evil. I will use a present-day metaphor from my home here in Alberta. We are like the oil sands. We are precious oil that is mixed with sand. Our process is to extract the oil and leave behind the sand. Swedenborg would probably prefer a metaphor from alchemy. In that mystical system, metals are purified of their dross in order to refine them into pure gold. This is how our process of regeneration works. From dead, dry bones, we rise up as living creatures, filled with the breath of spiritual life.

PRAYER

Dear Lord, we thank you for giving us the gift of life. For we freely acknowledge that we do not live by our own power, but by the breath of life that comes from you. We humbly ask you to fill us also with the gift of spiritual life. Elevate our thoughts and purify our affections that we may breathe the air and endure the warmth of heaven. Strengthen us in every good desire. Give us to seek you in your ways always. And though we may stumble at times, though we may fall away from you, we ask that you bring us back into your kingdom, into the heavenly pastures where you are our shepherd.

And Lord, we pray that you bring peace to this troubled world. May those who harbor ill will for their neighbors learn to understand and see the fellow humanity that they share. May those who strive against each other see that they are like in their wishes and in what they want for their land and nation. And may warring factions find their way to peace.

Lord, we ask for you to heal those who are sick. As you worked miracles of healing when you were on earth, how much more can you work healing miracles now that you have risen and have all authority in heaven and on earth. Grant all who are in need your healing love and power.

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May 13th, 2013

Only a Mother’s Love . . .
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
May 12, 2013

Isaiah 66:6-14 John 2:1-11 Psalm 71

Only a mother. Only a mother knows her children so well. Only a mother cares so dearly for her children. Only a mother is right there with her children in all the circumstances of their lives, lending her support to her children.
The word “mother” appears 395 times in the Bible, in the Revised Standard Version. But many of these references are very brief–sometimes only one line. There are indeed some powerful stories of mothers, though, such as Sarah and her son Isaac. Or Rachel and Leah and the 12 sons of Jacob. There are some in the New testament, too, such as the birth stories of John the Baptist and of Jesus. There is the story of Mary finding Jesus in the temple when He is twelve years old, and the scolding she gives Him for staying behind the family in their trip from Jerusalem. But these powerful stories are few in relation to the whole Bible.
Then there is the story of Jesus turning the water into wine, that I selected for this morning’s reading from the New Testament. I chose it because Jesus’ mother, Mary, figures prominently in it. And she acts as a present-day mother would. Mary knows her Son’s abilities, and basically goads Him into performing His first miracle. The Holy Family is at a wedding feast, and the host runs out of wine. Mary, Jesus’ mother, intervenes. She comes up to her Son, and says, “They have no wine.” We have an interesting picture of the young Jesus here. Jesus doesn’t want to get involved, apparently. He says, “O woman, what have you to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” But Mary knows her Son’s abilities, and disregards His statement. She says to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Jesus is going to help out regardless of what He says, due to His mother’s prompting. This is Jesus’ first miracle, and He turns the water into wine. This story shows how a mother knows her child’ potential, and often brings out this best in her children.
Through the many turns my life has taken, my mother has always been on my side and supportive. When I had just graduated from high school, and was considering college, she saw way back then that I was destined to become a minister. I thought that I would make a good electrical engineer, and enrolled in an engineering university. My mother knew that this was a bad fit for me. But as I had saved up money for my first couple years of schooling, she didn’t say anything to discourage me. After two years, it became clear to me that engineering was a bad fit for me–something my mother knew all along. Then I flirted with the notion of becoming a musician, as I love music and enjoy performing. Now I actually scared my mother. For mothers often want their children to take music lessons, but no mother wants their children to actually become a musician! Probably looking after my better interests, my mother wouldn’t support me in this venture. But when it became clear to me that I was best suited for ministry, my mother breathed a sigh of relief and supported me fully.
Mothers support their children throughout their children’s journeys in life. When a child is struggling with employment, as so many are today, a mother will open her home to her child until they get back on their feet. Robert Frost captures this feeling very well in a poem called The Death of the Hired Man. The poem is about a farming couple. A hired man returns to the farm after being away for a while. It becomes clear that the hired man has come back to die, and that he wanted to be around familiar faces, as he had no other home. The husband in the poem grumbles, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” His wife responds in a motherly way, “I should have called it/Something you somehow haven’t to deserve.”
We don’t need to deserve our homes. We don’t need to earn our place there. They are there for us regardless of our successes or failures. This can be frustrating at times. For if our mothers love us regardless of our successes or failures, then our successes don’t matter all that much. I was pretty proud when I got admitted to Harvard University. But my mother didn’t seem fazed at all. This didn’t make her more or less proud of loving toward me. I was her son and she would be there for me regardless of success or failure. Later in life I wrote my dissertation for my Ph. D. at the University of Virginia, and that didn’t seem to change my mother’s attitude toward me. But a school counselor said something about a mother’s love. She told me that only three people will read my dissertation: me, my dissertation director, and my mother. And that was true. Later still I published a few articles and a book and felt pretty full of myself. But my mother remained the same in her unconditional regard for me. But she did buy a copy of my book for all her children and all my relatives. But none of these accomplishments changed the way my mother regarded me. Had I continued to work in the factory I was hired in just after high school, she would have loved me just the same. That is the glory of a mother’s love and the frustrating aspect of a mother’s love. Home is very much that place you don’t have to deserve.
There is a special bond between a mother and her children. I think it is perhaps the strongest bond of love. Or at least equal to any other bond. The love a mother feels for her children is unlike any other love we feel on earth. And when the Bible wants to talk about God’s love for humanity, it turns to maternal imagery. In this morning’s reading from Isaiah, God’s love and care for Israel is compared to a mother caring for an infant:
you shall be carried upon her hip,
and dandled upon her knees.
As one whom his mother comforts,
so I will comfort you;

And when Jesus shows His love and sorrow over Jerusalem, He uses the image of a mother hen:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! 38 Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matthew 23:37-39).
Our mothers have a special connection to us. We have had their very blood flowing through us. We have been nourished by the very food they ate; and they feed us still after birth with their own bodies. Perhaps it is due to this visceral connection that mothers are that symbol of God’s divine love for humanity.
In Swedenborg’s theology, women correspond to love. I made that remark in a job interview for a teaching position. And the dean of the school, who had it in for me from the get-go, made the following statement, “I like to think that I love my children as much as their mother does.” What shall we say? Of course fathers love their children, too. But is it expressed in the same way as mothers express their abiding love for their children? Look at elementary school teachers. What is the ratio of men to women when it comes to educating children? I have worked in the mental health field, and almost all the social workers and counselors were women. Carol works with special needs individuals and all of her co-workers are women. Of course men care and nurture, too. Of course men are counselors and social workers, too. Of course men are elementary school teachers and special needs workers, too. But what is the ratio of men to women in these fields? I think that these nurturing roles are filled by women because care and nurturing are qualities in which women excel. I think that Swedenborg was right in saying that women correspond to love’s expression.
Only a mother. Only a mother knows her children so well. Only a mother cares so dearly for her children. Only a mother is right there with her children in all the circumstances of their lives, lending her support to her children. It is mothers that make a house into a home, into something you somehow don’t have to deserve. Today, and every day, it is right and fitting that we celebrate the mothers in this world.

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May 6th, 2013

God-Human Relations
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
May 5, 2013

Exodus 33:7-11 John 15:9-20 Psalm 98

Our Bible readings this morning bring up the topic of God-human relations. In our reading from Exodus, God speaks to Moses “face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” While Moses speaks to God as to a friend, Jesus tells us that we are actually His friends,
You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (John 15:14-15).
There is a difference in the way God was perceived between Moses and Jesus. God appeared as a pillar of cloud to the Israelites. However, Jesus is God in Human form. Furthermore, the Israelites did not want to approach God directly. They feared God’s awesome power, and asked Moses to act as a intermediary between God and them.
When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die. . . . The people remained at a distance, while Moses approached the thick darkness where God was (Exodus 20:18-19, 21).
On the other hand, Jesus’ disciples spoke to Jesus person-to-person as friends.
In fact, according to Swedenborg, seeing God as a Human is what distinguishes the New Church from all the churches that came before. Before God’s advent, God was invisible. But with the birth of Jesus, God appears in Human form. Swedenborg calls the New Church the crown of all the churches that came before because of that very reason: we see God in visible Human form, in which the invisible Infinite God dwells, as soul in body.
This New Church is the crown of all the churches which have hitherto existed on earth, because it will worship one visible God in whom is the invisible, like the soul in the body (TCR 787).
Swedenborg claims that our minds are incapable of seeing Jehovah God as God is in His infinity. We need the Human Jesus for conjunction:
In the Word it is read that Jehovah God dwells in light inaccessible; who then could go to Him, unless He were to dwell in light inaccessible? that is, if He did not descend and assume the Human, and become in this the Light of the world (John i:9; xii. 46). Who cannot see that to go the Jehovah the Father, in His light is as impossible as for one to take the wings of the morning, and by means of them to fly to the sun? (TCR 176).
For Swedenborg, it is crucial that God appear as a Human. He teaches that we can be united in a love relationship only with a Human God. We are unable to picture an infinite God. And if we have no mental image of God, then God does not become a part of our mind and thus not of our heart.
Thus and not otherwise can there be conjunction of God with man, because man is natural and hence thinks naturally, and the conjunction must be in his thought and thus in his love`s affection, which is the case when he thinks of God as a man. Conjunction with an invisible God is like that of the eye`s vision with the expanse of the universe, of which there is no end; it is also like vision in mid ocean, which falls upon air and sea and is lost. But conjunction with a visible God, on the other hand, is like seeing a man in the air on the sea, spreading out his hands and inviting into his arms (TCR 787).
Some people I know disagree with this doctrine. Some see God in plants and the created order. Others have told me that they see God in the unconditional love their dog has for them. Others, simply cannot wrap their minds around the idea that the infinite God can dwell in a Human body.
For me, seeing God as the all-loving Jesus works. Seeing God as a Human does give me a God I can love and relate to. And I like Swedenborg’s image: “a man in the air on the sea, spreading out his hands and inviting into his arms.” Remember, in Isaiah 25 and in Revelation 21, it is said that God will wipe away the tears from all faces. Wouldn’t God need a Human form to perform this tender act?
Furthermore, the idea of a Human God makes it possible for us to approach God directly, immediately, face-to-face. This is what our church teaches. We hold that every person can come to God directly, without any intermediary. Recall our story from Exodus. The children of Israel wanted Moses to act as an intermediary between them and God. This reminds me of some churches today. In some churches, the priest is seen as an intermediary between God and the congregation. But we teach that everyone has a direct connection with God. We do not need to go through a priest, or a saint, or angels, or any other intermediary. “Conjunction with the Lord is not given to any but those who approach Him immediately” (AR 883). God, in His Divine Humanity is intimately present with each and every one of us. That is one reason why God came to earth at all.
Since His coming He is present with people of the church immediately; for in the world He put on also the Divine natural, in which He is present with people (TCR 109).
Through the Human body that God took on in Jesus Christ, God is actually physically present with humans on earth and in the heavens. He has what Swedenborg calls the “natural” degree. The natural degree is that aspect of our soul that lives on earth. It is also the outermost level of our souls when we transition to heaven. God now has that part of His soul, since He took on a Human body in Jesus Christ. And when Jesus rose from the dead, He rose body and soul, so that nothing was left in the tomb. To prove His natural reality, Jesus ate a fish in the presence of His apostles when He appeared to them after His crucifixion.
The glorification of the Lord is the glorification of His Human which He assumed in the world, and the glorified Human of the Lord is the Divine Natural. That it is so is evident from this, that the Lord rose from the sepulchre with His whole Body which He had in the world; nor did He leave any thing in the sepulchre; consequently, that He took thence with Him the Human Natural itself, from the firsts to the lasts of it; wherefore He said to the disciples after the resurrection, when they supposed that they saw a spirit, “Behold my hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; handle Me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see Me have” (Luke xxiv. 37, 39). From this it is manifest that His natural body by glorification was made Divine (TCR 109).
So for us, God and Human are One. And in God’s Divine Humanity, we can approach God without any intermediary. And seeing God as the loving, gentle Jesus Christ, we can form a relationship of love. As the hymn goes that we sung earlier this morning, “Jesus is my best of friends.”

PRAYER

Lord, we give you thanks for coming to earth as a man, in a form that we mortals can see, understand, and love. Although God incarnate, you have called us friends. You put off your awesome powers and infinity and humbled yourself to the human condition. You even experienced the ultimate human fate of death. And yet, in your humanity, you filled yourself with the divinity of your origins, and God and Man became one. May we not seek any other way to call to you, than in your Divine Humanity. And in your Divine Humanity, we love you–person to person. You are no longer an invisible, unknowable power, but a person–the true and original person–a person who loves us, and whom we love, our friend.

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