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Archive for January, 2015

Jan 25th, 2015

So that We Perish Not
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
January 25, 2015

Jonah 3:1-10 Mark 1:14-28 Psalm 62

We are taught to repent in the Bible readings for this morning. In Jonah, the whole city of Nineveh repents after hearing Jonah’s preaching. And God does not destroy the city because God sees that they repented of their evils. This message of repentance for forgiveness of sins is in the New Testament, too. Some Christians think that Jesus undid all the Old Testament, so that the Old Testament teachings are no longer valid. But in this pairing of readings, we see the same teaching in the Old Testament that we do in the New Testament. In Jonah, God does not destroy Nineveh because the people repent. And very early in Mark, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” So as for the residents of Nineveh, Jesus’ message for us is to repent and believe.
In case we don’t know what repentance is, Jonah makes it clear. The prophet says that God saw that the people of Nineveh, “Turned from their evil way.” That’s it! To repent is to turn from evil ways. That is half of the message of Jesus. The other half is to believe. Believe in God. So the message is clear, “Turn from evil and believe in God.”
The message is clear, but is it easy? We need to know what evil is, and we need to know what to believe in. These two questions point to our need for spiritual education. After Jesus calls Simon, Andrew, James and John he immediately goes into a synagogue and teaches. The people in the synagogue are astonished at Jesus’ wisdom. There is much to learn about in spiritual life, and we need to learn what is right for us to learn. Each one has a different path to walk, so we have truths that are unique to us to learn.
There are certain basic truths for everyone in this church. Some of these truths are that there is a God, that we need to learn what is good, that we need to learn what is bad, and that we need God’s help in doing all this. Those are the basics for this church. Other Christian Churches have different core teachings. And other non-Christian Churches have still different core teachings.
While these teachings are basic for everyone, how to apply them is unique to everyone’s journey. Everyone’s relationship with God is personal. Everyone perceives God in a way that fits their own life’s experiences. Therefore everyone’s journey is different. Swedenborg writes,
All may be regenerated, each according to his state; for the simple and the learned are regenerated differently; as are those engaged in different pursuits, and those who fill different offices . . . those who are principled in natural good from their parents, and those who are in evil; those who from their infancy have entered into the vanities of the world, and those who sooner or later have withdrawn from them . . . and this variety, like that of people’s features and dispositions, is infinite; and yet everyone, according to his state may be regenerated and saved (TCR 580).
For me, God is Jesus as I find Him in the New Testament. But the New testament is so rich a body of literature that the Jesus I find there may be different than the Jesus you find there.
In addition to learning about God, our spiritual development depends on learning what is the good life. And, again, I find that in both the New Testament and the Old Testament are teachings for the good life. In the Old Testament are teachings that are just as real and valid for us as are teachings in the New Testament. In no way has Jesus undone the teachings in the Old Testament. At least not all of them. Where would we be without the Ten Commandments? There are commandments that teach us what to do–such as honoring the Sabbath and honoring our parents. And there are commandments that teach us what not to do. These are things we are to repent of. There is the teaching that we shall put nothing before God, we shall not commit adultery, we shall not steal or pronounce false testimony, and not desire what belongs to our neighbor. And in the book of laws called Leviticus, we find the teaching that many attribute to Jesus. In Leviticus we find the teaching to love our neighbor as ourselves. That is Leviticus 19:18. Again, many of the teachings in the Old Testament are upheld in the New Testament. It is part of our spiritual life to find teachings for how to live spiritually and then to put these teachings into action.
What I have been talking about is the process Swedenborg calls repentance and reformation. Repentance is seeing some evil in us that we need to get rid of. Reformation is the process of changing who we are. From an image of the world we change into an image and likeness of our Creator.
Swedenborg says that we are born into an image of the world. He uses metaphor to describe this. He says that our natural mind is a spiral that turns downward. Our spiritual mind is a spiral that turns upward. I have heard bits and pieces about the formation of the mind from birth. I have heard that synapses are formed from birth. These are neuron pathways that become hardwired into our brains. These nerve pathways are formed from birth up to adulthood. Are these nerve pathways the natural mind that turns downward toward the world? Some brain experts say that our brains are hardwired to make us behave in certain ways. This is particularly evident in addictions. But Swedenborg gives us hope that if our brains are hardwired to turn in certain ways, that there is a process that can untwist the nerve pathways. We can reform ourselves. If we are hardwired to behave in certain ways, we are not condemned to continue this pattern of life. We can change, we can overcome addictions and cravings for worldly things, and become new people. In rather mysterious language, Swedenborg describes this process,
For the natural mind is by birth in opposition to the things belonging to the spiritual mind; an opposition derived, as is well known, from parents by heredity. Such is the change of state which is called reformation and regeneration. The state of the natural mind before reformation may be compared to a spiral twisting or bending itself downward: but after reformation it may be compared to a spiral twisting or bending itself upwards . . . (DLW 263).
This language is fairly mysterious. I’m not sure just what this spiralling of the mind is all about. But it is an example of how our minds change when we repent and reform our lives. Swedenborg says that our minds change their state. The mind actually changes. I think we can say that the brain changes. I think we can say that the nerve pathways change. Old pathways are changed into more effective, new pathways. Our brains are changed; our minds are changed; our loves and thoughts are changed.
It is the same with the natural and with the spiritual mind. When the natural mind acts from the enjoyments of its love and the pleasures of its thought, which are in themselves evils and falsities, the reaction of the natural mind removes those things which are of the spiritual mind and blocks the doors lest they enter, and it makes action to come from such things as agree with its reaction. The result is an action and reaction of the natural mind opposite to the action and reaction of the spiritual mind, whereby there is a closing of the spiritual mind like the twisting back of a spiral. But when the spiritual mind is opened, the action and reaction of the natural mind are inverted; for the spiritual mind acts from above or within, and at the same time it acts from below and without, through those things in the natural mind which are arranged in compliance with it; and it twists back the spiral in which the action and reaction of the natural mind lie (DLW 263).
This is what repentance is. It is relearning how to live. It is letting the good things we learn in religion modify our behavior when it needs to be modified. It means twisting back the spiral of worldly cravings and spiraling upward in heavenly loves. Our higher mind than can act in harmony with our lower mind. For our lower mind now loves good things and does not shut out the influx from God and from the heavens.
This all happens by re-education. Re-education comes from religious teachings, and it comes from experiences that jar us out of worldly complacency. We see that our life needs amendment and we act upon it. That is what the people of Nineveh did. That is what Jesus means when He says, “Repent and believe.”

PRAYER

Lord, we thank you for your gospel message of hope. You teach us that if we turn and follow you that we will be saved. You give us the good news of the coming of your kingdom and the promise of new life through repentance. You teach us that we are not fated to follow always the ways that have been thrust upon us in this world of competition and strife. You have shown us the ways of compassion, forgiveness, and rebirth. You teach us that there is promise of new life in you.

And Lord, we pray for the sick. May they experience the power of your healing love. Fill them with the grace of your healing power. Comfort their family and friends. We pray for the grace of your healing power for all who are ailing in body or soul.

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Jan 19th, 2015

Here I Am, Lord
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
January 18, 2015

1 Samuel 3:1-10 John 1:43-51 Psalm 139:1-12

I see two topics in today’s readings. One is hearing God and the other is following God. We need to hear God first, before we can know how to follow God. The process is cyclical. When we follow God, we will hear God more and more and finally we will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on God.
Our reading from 1 Samuel concerns the prophet Samuel. Samuel is just a boy and he is serving God under the direction of the aged prophet Eli. In the culture of ancient Israel then, the office of prophet was a family institution. The role of prophet was passed down from father to sons and kept within one family. But the case of Eli was different. Eli’s sons were not following God. In fact, Eli’s sons were committing blaspheme. They were stealing food that the Israelites were bringing for sacrifice to God. This was not mere greed. This was interfering with holy offerings meant for God. In doing this they were showing contempt for God.
After showing the blaspheme of Eli’s sons, the story shifts to Samuel. There are strong foreshadowings of Jesus’ birth in the birth of Samuel. His mother, Hannah is without child and has lost favor with her husband. When her husband, Elkanah, went to the mountain of Shiloh to offer his annual sacrifice, Hannah went with him and prayed for a son. Eli tells her that God will give her a son. So there is an element of miracle in the birth of Samuel. Samuel’s birth is the result of divine intervention. As Samuel was the firstborn, Hannah gives him to God as a servant at the shrine on Shiloh. So we have a miraculous birth and a holy child in Samuel. And when Mary sings a song of praise to God for her Son Jesus, her song, the Magnificat, is modelled after the song of Hannah over the birth of Samuel. Next to Moses, Samuel was the most prominent prophet in the Bible. There are two books in the Bible named after him. This holy man Samuel would take over the position of prophet after Eli. Samuel would anoint King Saul and King David. In fact, all the history of King Saul and almost all of King David are not in the book of Kings, but in the book of Samuel.
Samuel, like Moses, was called by God to his position of prophet. In the night, God calls to Samuel, “Samuel, Samuel.” The Bible tells us that Samuel did not know God and neither had God’s Word been revealed to him. In fact, we are told that God’s word and prophetic visions were rare in those days, “The word of the LORD was rare in those days; there were no frequent visions” (1 Samuel 3:1). When Samuel hears God calling, he thinks that it is Eli calling him. Eli tells Samuel that it is God. When God calls again, Samuel says, “Speak, for thy servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:10).
Samuel is called to be a prophet. Prophets were those special people who understood God’s laws and interpreted them for the people. So the first thing that prophets did was to hear and learn God’s laws. The second thing was to interpret God’s laws in the light of the times and circumstances in which the Israelites were living.
We are all called by God. Are we called to be prophets? Moses, the greatest prophet of all, said, “Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29). In the sense that we have a religious responsibility to learn God’s laws, I think we are all prophets. Like Samuel, we have a role to listen for God’s voice.
There are two ways for us to listen for God’s voice. One way is simply by being who we are. The other way is to seek out God’s voice, God’s ways, to learn them and to follow them.
We are all unique individuals. We are all different. There are no two humans who are alike. We are unique because each one of us has a special understanding of truth that is hers or his alone. God is infinite, so no one finite person can completely understand God. In fact, no one person can come close. So there are billions and billions of people created who are different from one another. And each human has one special aspect of God to bring to the collective wisdom of the human race. By listen to the various voices of humanity, we have a better and better idea of who and what God is.
This is like Swedenborg’s doctrine of use. Each one of us has a certain way of living that is unique to us. We have gifts that no other person has. We have good works to do that only we can do. These works are our calling. God calls us to these works by making us who we are. Some of us find our calling in the work we do to make money. There is a doctrine that John Calvin writes about called the doctrine of vocation. The vocation we enter is just as holy a calling as any other vocation–be it priest, monk, preacher, or deacon. A snow plow is as much a calling by God as is a missionary. The vocation that we practice is a way of serving humanity; it is a way of loving our neighbor. Some of us are lucky enough to find a job in this world that fits with their vocational calling by God. For instance, Carol’s work with special needs individuals is a job she is wonderfully suited to. She is excellent at it and she loves it. I am not suited for that kind of work. As you know, I am here as a minister. That is work I am suited for and I love it. This is what Swedenborg’s doctrine of use is about.
And our use does not have to be a vocation. I think that the way we affect other people, as our own unique individuals, is also our use. All the people I know affect me differently. They all show affection differently. They all challenge me differently. They all speak to different aspects of my personality. The whole world is like that. We affect others in ways that are unique to us. So use is really us simply being who we are.
Our other Bible reading this morning was from John. It is about the calling of Philip and Nathanael. Jesus asks them to follow Him. Following Jesus is a kind of quest. We need to learn who Jesus is. We need to learn that path that Jesus walks. We need to listen for God’s voice. This is the role religion plays in leading us to Jesus.
I gave a talk at a university a while back. I asked the students and teachers if there was a need for spirituality in the world and in the lives of individuals. Almost the universal response is that a person knows intuitively right from wrong, good from evil. Some of them pointed to children. They asserted that children have an innate sense of right and wrong. There may be something to this. Children seem to have an innate sense of what is fair. How often do we hear children complain, “That’s not fair!”
But I have two things to say about that. One is that very young children do not seem to have that sense of fairness, or a sense of right from wrong. What does a young child do when he or she sees a toy that they want and another child is playing with it? Won’t that child take it from the other one? Is that fair? So I don’t think I can agree that the sense of right and wrong is inborn in children. Second, is fairness the same thing as good and evil? I think that one of the things that makes for maturity is the ability to live with things that are not fair. Isn’t it true that there are many things in life that are not fair? And isn’t it equally true that living with unfairness and trying still to do what is good is a mark of maturity, indeed of spirituality?
So we do not have an innate sense of right and wrong, of good and evil. These things we need to learn. And to learn these things we need to read spiritual literature, we need to seek out spiritual teachers, we need to reflect on our experiences in life. And, I suggest, we need to listen to our inner voice, called conscience.
Conscience is not innate. It grows and grows more clear the more we walk in the ways of God. Our conscience grows the more we learn about God’s ways. And the more pure in heart we become, the more clearly we hear God calling to us.
And Jesus’ prophesy is true for us, too. The closer and closer we come to God, the more we are able to see heaven open and have visions of angels ascending and descending from God. Some people are actual visionaries who can see spiritual realities. I cannot. But I do have an inner sense of angelic presences in my heart and in my best thinking. These presences descend from God into my heart and ascend back up to God in good feelings and thoughts in my heart and mind.
The more I listen for God’s voice, and the more I prepare myself to hear it through spiritual discipline, the more clearly and accurately I hear God calling to me. And like the prophet Samuel, when I hear God calling to me, my response is, “Here I am!”

PRAYER

Lord, we know that your still, small voice calls to us. You call to us and ask us to follow you. You speak to us in our conscience and guide us. You come to us in the Bible and in other teachings. Help us to hear your still, small voice calling to us amid the noise of this world. This material world, with its material demands, can threaten to drown out you voice. But your voice teaches us the things that last beyond this material world. Your voice leads us into heavenly delights. Give us to hear more and more clearly your voice, and bring us into eternal life.

And Lord, we pray for the sick. May they experience the power of your healing love. Fill them with the grace of your healing power. Comfort their family and friends. We pray for the grace of your healing power for all who are ailing in body or soul.

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The Mystery of Jesus’ Baptism
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
January 11, 2015

Genesis 1:1-5 Mark 1:4-11 Psalm 29

We read about the baptism of Jesus, and we know the story about how the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, and the heavens opened and God proclaimed Jesus His Son. We know this story so well that a great question may elude us. As I pondered this reading, it struck me: “Why did Jesus need to get baptized?” Jesus was God on earth, would God need to be baptized?
The answer to this question gets at the heart of Swedenborg’s theology. We believe that Jesus had a fully human nature, and that He had to grow up and develop the same way that humans do. He was born a baby, He grew and formed His mind by learning, and He even needed to be reborn, as we do. Swedenborg says,
. . . that the Lord might make the human Divine, by the ordinary way, He came into the world; that is, it was His will to be born as a man, and to be instructed as a man, and to be re-born as a man; . . . the regeneration of man is an image of the glorification of the Lord (AC 3138).
We all know that Jesus was fully God and fully man. The ancient Creed of Athanasius states this:
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; . . . Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood by God. One altogether; not by confusion of Essence; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ.
I think what never occurred to me was just how human Jesus really was. And Jesus being baptized is an example of how human Jesus was.
Jesus’ baptism was the start of His ministry. And we know little of Him before that. But we do know that Jesus didn’t spring fully grown into the world. Luke tells us that he developed as we develop. “And the child grew and became strong . . .” (Luke 2:40). Luke tells us further that Jesus learned the Bible as we learn the Bible. When Jesus’ parents lose Him on a trip home from Jerusalem, they find Him in the temple learning from the teachers,
they found Him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:46-47).
I find it striking in this Luke passage that Jesus is listening to the teachers. We are so accustomed to Jesus teaching others during His ministry, it is striking that Jesus Himself had to learn the Bible. So, here, we find Him listening to the teachers and asking them questions.
This far, I think Jesus’ development makes sense. But the baptism issue raises Jesus’ development to a higher level. Swedenborg makes the striking statement that Jesus needed to be reborn as a man. The humanity of Jesus wasn’t perfectly divine during Jesus’ life. Like us, Jesus needed to be reborn.
For us, baptism is symbolic. Baptism symbolizes regeneration, or spiritual rebirth. But the baptism itself does not wash away our sins. We are not reborn immediately upon being baptized. Rather, spiritual rebirth takes place as we look at ourselves and make changes. We put off old ways of behaving, feeling, and thinking, and put on new ways. We put off our worldly self and put on a heavenly self. Jesus did something similar to this. He put off the humanity He received from Mary, and put on the Divine Humanity from His divine origins.
This is one of the hardest aspects of Swedenborg’s theology for me to understand. What was this human from Mary that Jesus “put off,” and what was this divine human that Jesus “put on?” I don’t understand the transition from the Mary humanity to the Divine Humanity. This idea is all through Swedenborg’s theology. One clear statement about it is in AC 2159,
The Human with Him was from the mother, and thus infirm, having with it from the mother a hereditary nature, which He overcame through combats of temptations and utterly expelled, till it had nothing left of the infirm and hereditary nature from the mother–indeed, at last not anything whatever from the mother (AC 2159).
In this passage from Swedenborg, we see the idea of hereditary evil. We are all born with tendencies to evils of different kinds. These are only tendencies, though. We don’t have to act on them and make them part of our personality. Jesus also had tendencies to evil from his mother, Mary, as every human does. For us, hell acts upon these tendencies, trying to make us fall into them. For Jesus, all the hells descended upon Him, with all the sin of the whole human race, which Jesus resisted all His life. The Bible tells us that Jesus was tempted,
The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts (Mark12-13).
Jesus’ temptations are recorded in greater depth in Matthew 4 and Luke 4. In Luke the temptations end with an intriguing line, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). Luke suggests that the temptations after the baptism weren’t all of them. The devil would return at an opportune time.
But this doctrine of Jesus’ two natures answers a difficult question for Christians. I often hear people ask, “Who did Jesus pray to if He is God?” This is a difficult question. We know that there is only one God. And as Christians we know that Jesus is God. Yet we see Jesus praying to God. We believe that when Jesus prayed to God as an activity He did so when He was in the humanity from Mary. We can call this the human humanity. This humanity was like our humanity. It was susceptible to temptation. It had all the feelings and parts of the mind that we have. When Jesus was in the humanity he received from Mary, He prayed to God as if to someone else. So Swedenborg explains, “when as yet He had the infirm Human with Himself, He adored Jehovah as another than Himself” (AC 2159).
So Jesus did need to be baptised. Jesus did need to be reborn. Jesus did need to put off the humanity he received from Mary and put on the Divine Humanity from His Divine origins. This process is called glorification. We follow a similar path. Our path is called regeneration. We put off our natural humanity and put on a humanity from God. Jesus put on the Divine Humanity from His own soul, which is Jehovah God. We put on a spiritual humanity from God as a kind of grafting, or implanting. Jesus put on His Divine Humanity, not by a grafting, but by filling His human form with His Divine Essence.
When Jesus had put off everything from Mary, He was fully united with Jehovah God. At that time, as the Athanasian Creed says,
our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man . . . Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. . . . For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ.
This is the Divine Human Jesus Christ that we worship. With every mortal thing expelled from His person, Jesus is now risen and one with His Divine origins. Now God and Man is one Christ.

PRAYER

Lord, we are amazed at the miracle of your incarnation. You took on a human form, and lived a human life, as we live a human life. You grew up from a baby to adulthood. You learned the Bible, as we learn the Bible. You were baptized as we are baptized. You were reborn, as we are reborn. You have showed us the way to live to come to you in eternity. Give us insight into our lives so that we can see your path in our hearts. Give us, we pray, the strength to live as we see your pathway illumined in our hearts. May we grow into deeper and deeper love for you, and live a more holy life by your grace.

And Lord, we pray for the sick. May they experience the power of your healing love. Fill them with the grace of your healing power. Comfort their family and friends. We pray for the grace of your healing power for all who are ailing in body or soul.

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Jan 5th, 2015

The Name of Our Savior
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
January 4, 2015

Jeremiah 31:7-14 John 1:1-18 (Luke 2:21-24) Psalm 147

Our Bible readings this morning concern the name of God. In our reading from Jeremiah, it says that the LORD has saved his people. In Jeremiah, LORD is in all capital letters. This means that God’s name is written in the text. That name is Yahweh. This name for God was given to Moses at the burning bush and it is under the name of Yahweh that the whole Israelite culture was organized. The name Yahweh, however, was considered too holy to speak. So in place of Yahweh, Jews then and Jews today, say Adonai, which means “Lord.” Jeremiah tells us in no uncertain terms that Yahweh has saved his people. This teaching reinforces the teaching found in many places in Isaiah that Yahweh is the Savior. One such example is Isaiah 43:11: “I, I am Yahweh, and besides me there is no savior.” For traditional Christians, this presents a problem. Christians assert that Jesus is the Savior. This church, teaches that both are true. Yahweh and Jesus both are our Savior. This is because we hold the unique doctrine that Jesus is Yahweh in the flesh.
In our New testament passage, we heard about the circumcision of Jesus. Then he is formally given the name Jesus. When we hear the name Jesus Christ, we can easily think of common names that have a first and last name such as John Smith. In that way of thinking, Jesus is the first name and Christ would be the last name. But there is a deep meaning behind the names when we say, “Jesus Christ.” In fact, there are levels of meaning for the names Jesus Christ. Those names are not just a first and last name.
On the natural level, Jesus is the Greek name for the Hebrew Joshua. Recall that it was Joshua who led the Israelites in their conquest of Canaan. Joshua brought the Israelites into the Promised Land. The meaning of the Hebrew name Joshua is “Savior.” So we can say that as its Greek equivalent, the name Jesus means Savior. And it is Jesus who leads us into the Promised Land of heaven.
The name Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “Messiah.” Messiah means “anointed,” and it refers to the anointing of kings. The Messiah was eagerly looked forward to by the Jews as the divine king who would drive out the Romans, rule on the throne in Jerusalem, and usher in a period of peace throughout the whole world. Jesus claimed to be the Messiah in His trial, but all through His ministry He tried to redefine what the Messiah meant. The kingdom and the peace that the Messiah would bring is all within us.
So the two names Jesus Christ mean Savior and King. Jesus is our savior and he rules in our hearts. But on the spiritual level, the two names mean more. They encompass all we need for salvation. For Swedenborg, Jesus refers to the Lord’s Divine Love, or Divine Good. Christ refers to The Lord’s Divine Wisdom, or Divine Truth. The Lord is Divine Love and Divine Wisdom itself and so the two names Jesus Christ refer to all that God is.
Jesus Christ means salvation for us because when we embody love and wisdom, we have God inside us. All of heaven is made up of God’s divine love and wisdom. The heat there is God’s divine love and the light there is God’s divine wisdom. These two qualities proceed from God as the sun in the spiritual world. God as He is in Himself is infinite and He cannot be in any created thing because we are all finite. This means, essentially, that God is too big to be in us as He is in Himself. But he shines out from His own life into heaven, and from heaven into our souls as the heat and light of the spiritual world. And the sun of the spiritual world shines forth from the Lord Jesus Christ.
as He cannot be received by any one as He is in Himself, He appears as He is in Himself as the sun above the angelic heavens, the proceeding from which in the form of light is Himself as to wisdom, and in the form of heat is Himself as to love. The sun is not Himself; but the Divine love and Divine wisdom going forth from Himself proximately, round about Himself, appear before angels as the sun. He Himself in the sun is a Human, He is our Lord Jesus Christ both as the Divine from which are all things, and as to the Divine Human (AR 961).
All of heaven is made up of this divine love and divine wisdom from God. So we can live in heaven to the extent that we have God’s love and wisdom in our hearts. If we do not have divine love and wisdom in us, we cannot endure the heavenly atmosphere. This is why our religion is called mystical. Mysticism means an actual conjunction with God. Mysticism of this sort can be found in the Eastern Orthodox religion, too. In that faith, they call it divinization. We need to be conjoined with God in order to live in heaven–that is, we need to have God’s love and wisdom in our hearts in order to live in heaven. So conjunction with God is salvation. On one occasion, Swedenborg heard angels talking about this, and they were talking about, “the one God, of conjunction with Him, and of salvation thence” (AR 961). Conjunction with the one God is salvation.
The person Jesus Christ has caused much confusion and controversy in Christianity. While Christians know that there is only one God, they also try to reconcile the oneness of God with the words of Scripture that seem to suggest a three persons. This issue is called the Trinity. And the classical formulation of the trinity says that there are three persons with one essence. This cannot be understood. Swedenborg himself began his life with that idea. He had to give up the ideas about the trinity that he grew up with as a Lutheran. Swedenborg’s theology is so consistent throughout that we don’t realize that he had to learn these heavenly truths and actually change the way he had been thinking before his enlightenment. The angels who were talking about God that Swedenborg heard told him that his thinking did not agree with the idea of God in heaven.
The angels perceived in my thought the common ideas of the Christian Church concerning a trinity of Persons in unity and their unity in trinity . . . and they then said, “What are you thinking of? Are you not thinking those things from natural light with which our spiritual light does not agree? Therefore unless you remove the ideas of that thought, we close heaven to you, and go away” (AR 961).
He responds to the angels that his ideas about the trinity were about God’s attributes:
But then I said to them, “Enter, I pray, more deeply into my thought and perhaps you will see agreement.” And they did so, and saw that by three persons I understood three proceeding Divine attributes, which are creation, salvation, and reformation; and that these attributes are of the one God . . . (AR 961).
The angels accept this idea of the trinity, and then they separate off the old ideas of the trinity that Swedenborg grew up with as they enlighten his mind.
After this the heavenly light before seen above the aperture returned, and gradually descended, and filled the interiors of my mind, and enlightened the natural ideas of the unity and trinity of God; and then the ideas received about them in the beginning, which were merely natural, I saw separated, as chaff is separated from the wheat by winnowing, and carried away as by a wind into the north of heaven and dispersed (AR 961).
This must have occurred early in Swedenborg’s enlightenment because from the first pages of the Arcana Coelestia through his last book True Christian Religion, Swedenborg is consistent that there is only one person in the Godhead. His doctrine of God brings together the Old Testament reading this morning and the New testament reading. Jeremiah teaches that Yahweh is the Savior, and John says that God became flesh. So our teaching is that Yahweh God of the Old Testament came down to earth in the body of Jesus that He took from Mary. So the Creator God who always was and from whom all things are, came into the material world and took on a material body. The Old Testament Yahweh is Jesus’ soul, and Jesus is the body of the Old Testament Creator God, Yahweh. God’s soul acts through His body, Jesus Christ, and acts to give us all life and salvation. With Yahweh as the soul, through His body Jesus Christ, God acts to bring joy and salvation to the human race. The activity of God through his body Jesus Christ is the Holy Spirit. So Swedenborg says of Jesus Christ:
The Lord Jesus Christ: in Him is the Divine being itself from which all things are, to which the soul of a person corresponds, the Divine Human, to which the body in a person corresponds, and the proceeding Divine, to which activity in a person corresponds (AR 961).
This perfect conjunction of God the Father and Jesus Christ as the soul is in the body is spoken of in the Bible. John’s Gospel tells us, “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26). Only in a perfect union of Father and Son can life in itself be one. There cannot be more than one life in itself. Two or more itself’s cannot exist logically. Jesus is Life Itself because of His complete union with Life Itself who created all things. Swedenborg argues this point philosophically. It may be difficult to understand, but it does make sense and shows how Swedenborg’s whole life made him fit to explain the teachings of the New Church. For Swedenborg,
the Divine being, which is also the Divine manifestation, because it is one, the same, the itself, and hence indivisible, cannot be given in more than one; and that if it were said to be given, manifest contradictions would follow (AR 961).
So let’s forget about all the manifest contradictions that would follow from several beings who are being itself. Let’s instead turn to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ whom we can readily picture and understand. Let us turn to Jesus Christ for our salvation. And let us act to incorporate the divine love and wisdom of God through Jesus Christ into our hearts and lives. Then we will be united with God and find joy and peace in heaven where love and wisdom are heat and light itself.

PRAYER

Lord, we give you thanks this morning. We thank you for giving us your laws, so that we may understand the ways of your kingdom. You have not given us laws that are too hard for us. And, Lord, we thank you for coming to us to show us your ways. You came to us in a human form. You came to us in a form we can understand and love. For who can understand you in your infinity? Who can measure the ocean with our mortal eyes, and fathom its depths? But when you became a tiny baby and grew up as a human grows up, you gave us a way to understand God that is in our power and within our mortal minds. Thanks be to you.

And Lord, we pray for the sick. May they experience the power of your healing love. Fill them with the grace of your healing power. Comfort their family and friends. We pray for the grace of your healing power for all who are ailing in body or soul.

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