Archive for October, 2013

Oct 27th, 2013

Lessons in Affliction
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
October 27, 2013

Jeremiah 31:7-14 Mark 10:46-52 Psalm 34

In our passage from Jeremiah, a time is foreseen when the Israelites would return home after the Babylonian captivity. During Jeremiah’s time, Babylon conquered Judah and took the Israelites captive to a land far away to the north. It was a terrible time for Israel. The Promised Land–the land promised to Abraham way back in Israel’s beginnings–was now in the hands of foreigners. The Promised Land had been taken away, no longer the home for God’s people. Despite the horror of the present, Jeremiah prophesies that the captivity in Babylon will not last forever. He counsels the Israelites to submit to Babylon for a time, because in the long run they will be released. The passage we heard this morning looks forward to that time of joy, when the Israelites will return to their homeland.
In this message are words of hope. This reading also says something very important regarding spiritual life. That is, religious people will go through periods of suffering. The Babylonian captivity is a symbol of the trials and sorrows that are part of every life, including spiritual life. But this message is also one of hope. On the verge of being captive in Babylon, Jeremiah sings a song of joy, dancing, and gladness. He sings of a renewed land full of grain, new wine, oil, flocks, and herds–symbols of abundance for an agricultural society. And we learn that in every time of sorrow and trial, new life emerges and deeper joy is felt.
The Psalmist sings of a similar theme. He tells us that we will find trouble and distress in this life, even if we are religious people. But the Psalmist tells us also that God is near us in our times of sorrow:
Many are the afflictions of the righteous;
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted,
and saves the crushed in spirit.
But even as the Psalmist tells us that we will experience afflictions, he also promises that God will ultimately deliver us from them:
Many are the afflictions of the righteous
but the LORD delivers him out of them all.
When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears,
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
I call attention to these issues because some people believe that if a person is Godly, they will be saved from troubles. Some even think that they will not get sick. There are indeed passages in the Bible that support that belief. In Deuteronomy 28 there is a long list of blessings that will come to you if you obey God. Among the blessings that are promised are good crops, many children, many livestock, defeat of your enemies, and wealth. After these blessings, Deuteronomy tells us that curses follow upon disobedience. Some of the curses are confusion and rebuke in everything you set your hand to, sudden ruin, plague and disease, scorching heat and drought, blight and mildew, defeat before your enemies, blindness, madness, oppression and robbery of your goods. I think that the list of curses is longer than the list of blessings. Passages like this one make a person think that if they are good, blessings will fill their life and if they are bad then curses will plague them. This makes a person wonder what went wrong when bad things happen to good people, and also people wonder what they did wrong when bad things happen to them.
This belief system works throughout the book of Job. All manner of calamity befalls Job, although Job is the most righteous person on earth. All of his friends come by and ask Job what he has done wrong to bring these calamities upon himself. They also tell him to repent of his wrongdoing and his condition will improve. All through the book, Job protests to his friends that he has done nothing wrong. Job is the clearest example that bad things happen to good people.
This church teaches that good can come even from hard times. In fact, we are told that sometimes hard times can motivate us to change and find a better way. I think that often we don’t change our lives until pain forces us to. It is easy for us to get complacent and satisfied and to forget that we have growing edges. It is often trials and distress that breaks up our complacency and ego and lifts our consciousness to spiritual matters. In fact, Swedenborg talks about trials as a step in our spiritual growth. He speaks of our memory of spiritual treasures called remains. These are childhood feelings about God, and lessons that we may have learned from Sunday School. They are moments when we feel a particularly close relationship with God. These remains can be buried deep within our minds as affairs of this life cover them over. They become manifest when misfortune and struggles break down our worldly interests and we turn our thinking to heavenly matters.
The second state is when a distinction is made between the things that are the Lord’s and those that are a person’s own. Those that are the Lord’s are called in the Word remains; and here are especially knowledges of faith, which have been learned from infancy. These are stored up, and not manifested until he comes into this state; which is a state rarely attained at this day without temptation, misfortune, and sorrow, that cause the things of the body and the world . . . to become quiescent, and as it were dead (AC 8).
In a later stage of spiritual development, trials and temptations are motivators for a person. Distress motivates a person to do spiritual good and to speak spiritual truth.
The fourth state is when a person is affected with love, and enlightened by faith. He talked indeed piously before, and brought forth things that were good, but from a state of temptation and distress, not from faith and charity (AC 10).
Struggles and distress can cause us to break old habits and ways of acting and thinking that need to be amended. Struggle and distress can cause us to see things spiritually and from a world-view that is God-centered. Struggle and distress can bring out the best in us.
There are a couple ideas that need to be addressed in all this. In our Bible reading from Jeremiah, there is a line that goes, “He who scattered Israel will gather them” (Jeremiah 31:10). This line give one the impression that God caused the suffering to come on Israel. It reminds me of the line we say in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation”–as if God leads us into temptation. But God never leads us into temptation and God never punishes, condemns, or causes hardships to befall anyone. God only blesses and does good to us.
In many cases, it is we ourselves who lead ourselves into temptation. It is when we follow the promptings of our lower nature that we find ourselves unhappy and distant from God. When we allow our baser instincts to drive us, we are frustrated, pent up, and unsatisfied. For our lower nature wants and wants and wants. There is no end to the cravings of our egos and our lusts for wealth. We will never have enough control over others and enough money if these are our driving motivations. These drives are what lead us into temptation. These are the drives that make us troubled and unhappy.
God always seeks to lift us out of the drives and cravings of our lower nature. We bring ourselves distress, but God brings us relief. When we follow God’s voice and try to retrace Jesus’ footsteps, we are peaceful and untroubled. But most of us live a conflicted life in which our lower nature and God’s peace strive in our souls. So the reading from Jeremiah has powerful symbolic value to us. Our lower nature may lead us into the captivity of lusts and unsatisfying cravings. But God will always be there with hope and the promise of deliverance. Although we may lead ourselves into temptation, we have the vision of joy, dancing, and fulfillment after our conflict is over.
There is a final note I need to make in all this. What I said about us leading ourselves into distress does not apply to medical sickness. Some people think that there is a correlation between sickness and a person’s spiritual condition. That is not true. People do not get sick because they have lapsed somehow in their spiritual program. People get sick because there are bacteria and viruses and germs all around us. Not everything that happens in this world has a direct spiritual cause. Some things happen from strictly natural, or biological causes.
When our trials, however, are of a spiritual origin, usually we come away from our trials with a better idea of how to live wisely. We come away from our trials with our hearts closer to God. These things will come to pass if we learn from adversity. As the great Swedenborgian poet Edwin Markham writes:
Only the soul that knows the mighty grief
Can know the mighty rapture. Sorrows come
To stretch out spaces in the heart for joy

PRAYER

Lord, you have taught us that many are the afflictions of the righteous. Yet you have also taught us that you deliver us from our afflictions if we but call to you. We know that life can present us with troubles and difficulties. Even the life of the most noble believer has distress and toil. We are not exempt from suffering just because we are followers of Christ. Yet in all our troubles, we can find a way to grow and learn. Our sorrows open our hearts for greater love and compassion. Though times are sometimes hard, they are not without lessons to be learned. And ever bad situation can be turned to spiritual good. Thank you, Lord, for leading us out of trouble and temptation and leading us always upward to life with you.

And lord, we ask that you watch over those who are struggling and enduring hardship, be it sickness, poverty, or national unrest. Send your peaceful spirit to turmoil. Send the power of your healing love to those who are sick. We know on faith that in every trying situation, good can come. May we find the good in trouble, and healing where there is sickness.

Thank you, Lord, for your gift of life. Thank you for another day. May we treasure this day and this moment as the heavenly gift that it is. May we look only for your will for us, and may we find the power to carry out that will.

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Oct 20th, 2013

All We Like Sheep
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
October 20, 2013

Isaiah 53:4-12 Mark 10:35-45 Psalm 91

The passage from Isaiah that we heard this morning is one place where churches find the doctrine called the atonement. This church does not hold the doctrine of the atonement. In fact, Swedenborg in many places makes a point of refuting this doctrine–a doctrine he was brought up with. Our reading from Mark puts a different emphasis on the doctrine of the atonement, although it, too, appears to reinforce the doctrine.
The great composer Handel set Isaiah 53 to music in his Messiah. Handel took the words, “All we like sheep have gone astray.” These words are in accord with the Swedenborgian teaching about why Jesus came to earth. It is the teaching of this church that humanity had strayed far, far from the ways of God. We had gone astray. In fact, things were so bad that heaven could no longer flow into people’s hearts because of all the evil blocking heaven’s influence. All we like sheep had gone astray. What was needed was that God Himself come down to earth and establish the channel of influx through His own Person.
Can you imagine the spiritual heat we would feel standing right next to God on earth? In fact, there is a tradition in the Coptic Orthodox Church that Mary was protected from the burning embers inside her that constituted the fetal God in her womb. And after the resurrection, on the road to Emmaus, the disciples walking next to Jesus later reflect on how their hearts were burning inside them when the resurrected Jesus talked with them.
In order to bring this spiritual heat to the world while He was on the earth, and in order to reopen heaven so it could flow into the world again, was why Jesus came to earth. This is why Jesus says in Mark, “The Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve.” Accepting the human condition, walking upon the dust of this earth, and bringing God to man is the service Jesus underwent on behalf of the human race. Jesus’ whole life was one of service: teaching us, healing the sick, and allowing humans to touch, embrace, and anoint His holy Person. Jesus’ sole purpose was to bring us back to God, as we like sheep had gone astray.
As we know, Jesus’ life had suffering and anguish in it. He was beaten and whipped by the agents of Pilate. And he suffered the horrors of crucifixion by an angry mob. But this church does not emphasize the suffering Jesus. We acknowledge that Jesus’ life was one of nearly continual temptations by the hells. And we acknowledge that Jesus constantly overcame the hells and reordered heaven and hell. But it is the glorification that we emphasize. The final result of Jesus’ temptations and His life on earth was complete union with God. So human was completely Divine and the Divine was completely Human.
Other churches emphasize Jesus suffering. They see Jesus’ suffering and death as a sacrifice like the animals that the Jews sacrificed. In Leviticus the mechanism of the sin offering is explained. It reads,
If a member of the community sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, he is guilty. When he is made aware of the sin he committed, he must bring as his offering for the sin he committed a female goat without defect. He is to lay his hand on the head of the sin offering and slaughter it at the place of the sin offering. . . . and the priest shall burn it on the altar as an aroma pleasing to the Lord. In this way the priest will make atonement for him, and he will be forgiven (Leviticus 4:27-31).
So if a person in ancient Israel sins, his sins can be erased by sacrificing a goat. Leviticus also says that a lamb can be used also as a sin offering. So by bringing a goat or a lamb to the temple to be slaughtered, one’s sins can be taken away. Many Christian churches see Jesus’ suffering and death as a sacrifice. Jesus, to them, is the sacrificial lamb that takes away the sins of the whole human race.
It is true that in several places scattered through the New Testament, Jesus is called the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. One such instance is when Jesus comes to be baptized by John the Baptist. Upon seeing Jesus, John exclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36). There are other places, particularly in Revelation where Jesus is seen as a sacrificial lamb. In Revelation 5, Jesus is seen as a lamb that is slain, and we also find the words of sacrifice in this vision, “for thou wast slain and by thy blood didst ransom men for God” (5:9). In Revelation 21 and 22, God and “the Lamb” are used interchangeably.
The sacrificial lamb that atones for humanity’s sins is how the early Christians made sense out of the crucifixion. To make sense of it, they drew on Hebrew scriptures from Leviticus, as we saw above, and from the prophets such as the Isaiah 53 passage we heard today. This passage emphasizes the suffering of Jesus. So there are lines like,
He was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities . . .
He was oppressed, and while he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter . . . (Isaiah 53:5, 7).
And in this same passage are numerous lines that speak of the suffering servant taking upon himself the sins of the people.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that made us whole,
and with his stripes we are healed
The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all . . .
Yet it was the will of the LORD to bruise him;
he has been put to grief;
when he makes himself an offering for sin . . .
Yet he bore the sins of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors (53:5, 6, 10, 12).
So by means of sacrificial language, borrowed from the priestly laws of atonement, early Christians made sense of Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion.
But this passage in Isaiah is just one of 66 chapters. And the language of the sacrificial lamb is only scattered through the New Testament. I think that an enterprise that takes one passage from all the prophets and turns that into a central interpretative doctrine is suspect.
As nice as it might sound; as appealing as it might be for those smitten with pangs of conscience; it is not possible for my sins to be put on someone else. Each person is responsible for their own sins. So it is not possible for Jesus to take my sins onto Himself. All through the Gospels, Jesus teaches that each person is responsible for their own good and evil. It is a real strain of the text to try to force the whole Gospel message into one idea that can’t stand on its own logic–namely, that my sins can be borne by someone else. We are taught by Jesus to learn to do good, and to flee from evils.
Jesus’ life on earth and His resurrection make it possible for us to do good, to allow heaven’s influx to flow into us, and to find God. That is how Jesus is the servant of all. Jesus gave His life to save us–that is true, if truly understood. He gave His life to the teaching, healing, and salvation of humans. But He did not take away our sins on the cross, like a sacrificial lamb. That idea strains the integrity of both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Jesus did suffer because of human sin. But it is the love that Jesus teaches and brings to us that really matters. By taking on the human form, and by living a human life, Jesus shows us how much God loves us and Jesus shows us how to love each other and God. The life of Jesus is a testament to love and service, not to cruelty, suffering, and passion. So Jesus teaches His apostles and us as well, “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:43).

PRAYER

Lord, all we like sheep have gone astray. And yet no matter how far we stray from you and your precepts, you come to us, and bring us back. We turn to our own ways, and yet you always lead us back to your ways. You never turn from us; you always love us; you continually raise us upward into heaven’s joy and into communion with yourself. Ages ago, you came to us in a material form, and took on our human nature. You suffered at the hands of humans. And yet you still did not turn from us, but you forgave, you forgive, and you come to us even still. We thank you for your unfailing love for the whole human race.

And lord, we ask that you watch over those who are struggling and enduring hardship, be it sickness, poverty, or national unrest. Send your peaceful spirit to turmoil. Send the power of your healing love to those who are sick. We know on faith that in every trying situation, good can come. May we find the good in trouble, and healing where there is sickness.

Thank you, Lord, for your gift of life. Thank you for another day. May we treasure this day and this moment as the heavenly gift that it is. We are taught that in heaven there is no time. May we learn to see this life as the one continuous moment that it is, now and forever. May we look only for your will for us, and may we find the power to carry out that will.

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All These Things Will Be Given
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
October 13, 2013
Thanksgiving Day

Joel 2:21-27 Matthew 6:25-33 Psalm 126

Using agricultural imagery, the prophet Joel tells us that God gives us enough. He says, “He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains” (2:23). It is my belief that God does send us abundant showers; God gives us good things abundantly. The trick is, we have to know where to look. We need to realize that we have enough, despite our appetites for more and more and more.
When we break down our gifts to the basic things we have, we will see that God gives us good things abundantly. Consider this line from Walt Whitman,
It seems to me that everything in the light and air ought to be happy;
Whoever is not in his coffin and in the dark grave, let him know he has enough (The Sleepers, ll.79-80)
How often are we thankful for life itself? How often are our prayers of thanksgiving prayers that thank God for another day, for this day, for the fact that God gives us our daily bread?
I once attended an AA meeting in a rather rough part of town. There were homeless people there, people struggling direly with substance abuse, people who didn’t know where their next meal would come from. We were asked to think of what we had to be grateful for. At first I thought of my usual things: I am grateful I have food to eat, I am grateful I have a job, I am grateful that I have a roof over my head, I am grateful that I have reliable transportation, I have a lot, indeed. But then I remembered where I was. Many of the people in this room had none of these things, and I certainly didn’t want to make them feel bad. I had to get more basic. And I saw that I am even more blessed. I am thankful that I can see, and look at all the beautiful fall colors–the golden leaves, the russet bushes, the bright red leaves, the somber evergreens–what a beautiful and vivid painting God creates for us in the fall and I can see this display of Divine artwork. I think about the beautiful music I can hear. I can hear the wind rushing through the trees. I can hear the strains of a Bach mass from my iPod. I can hear the voices of those I love around me. I feel the brisk fall air against my skin and it refreshes me. When I was in Florida, I used to like to feel the warm, moist gulf wind coming off the ocean waft against my skin. Here in Edmonton, it is that crisp cool dry air that invigorates me. How often are we thankful for these basic gifts of life?
This brings to my mind a way of being thankful that I am suspicious of. Some have told me that when they consider the plight those less fortunate, they are thankful for what they have. In fact, there is a song that I like very much that has this idea in it. The lines in question go like this:
If you’re feeling down
Just take a good look around
Everywhere you look
Look through the clouds and see what’s true
There’s always somebody else so much worse off than you
I’m not sure that we should feel better about ourselves by seeing others that are worse off. Aren’t we called instead to a feeling of compassion, and the desire to give aid to those worse off than we? In fact, the whole notion of comparing ourselves to others is suspect to me. For we will always see others who are better off than we are and we will always see others who are worse off than we are. If we compare ourselves to others, we will feel that we have it bad when we look at those who are better off; and we will feel superior when we see those who are worse off.
Jesus tells us not to worry about our clothes or about what we will eat. He points to the birds who have all the food they need. And he points to the splendor of the grass and how beautifully it is clothed in lilies. Jesus concludes his little sermon by saying, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you” (Matthew 6:33). I used to be suspicious of this passage, too. I knew that God doesn’t give us material things except as they relate to eternal things. God only gives us the things of this world if they conduce to our eternal welfare. There is a passage in Divine Providence that says just that.
Divine Providence focuses on eternal matters, and focuses on temporal matters only as they coincide with eternal ones. . . . Temporal matters involve position and wealth, and therefore rank and money, in this world. Eternal matters involve spiritual rank and wealth, which have to do with love and wisdom, in heaven (DP 214-215).
To me, this passage says that God only cares about the good things on earth if they make us spiritually better. This leads me to look with suspicion on those who pray for money and material things. There are today, or were much more common about five years ago, movements that talked about visualizing wealth. They thought that if you focused your thinking on, say, a new yacht, that somehow the powers of the universe would conspire to magically drop one in your lap one day. I say magically, because trying to manipulate the physical world by means of religiosity is what sympathetic magic is. So I didn’t really understand Jesus’ saying about not worrying about clothes and food. It seemed to me that I needed to put a lot of worry and thought into getting my food, clothing, and shelter.
I have a way of understanding this passage, now. It all has to do with contentment. If we are content with what we have, we have all that we need. First of all, if our hearts are set on the things of God, God will give us them. God will show us the way into His heaven of happiness and delights, and love. These are the eternal things that the passage above refers to. And then, if we are content with our place in life, then we have all that we need. Trust in God is what gives us contentment with what we have. In the Arcana Coelestia, Swedenborg writes,
The ”blessing of Jehovah“ in the genuine sense signifies love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor; for they who are gifted with these are called the ”blessed of Jehovah,“ being then gifted with heaven and eternal salvation. Hence the ”blessing of Jehovah,“ in the external sense or in the sense which relates to the state of man in the world, is to be content in God, and thence to be content with the state of honor and wealth in which one is, whether it be among the honored and rich, or among the less honored and poor (AC 4981).
“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”–that refers to love to the Lord and good will to the neighbor. Then trust in God. This trust that God gives us what we need is what gives us contentment with what we have. Not only contentment, but heartfelt thanks and gratitude.
I have good things in life–good things abundantly. I have food, and I have the ability sometimes to go out to eat. It is only when my appetite for more and more gets out of hand–only then do I think that I do not have enough. I have debts. But they are not too much for me to pay down over time. And back to basics–I have the beautiful fall colors, the music of the wind and human voices, the touch of the ground under my feet and the feel of the crisp air against my face, and the taste of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with milk at night. I am among God’s blessed, if I only pause to see and reflect on it.

PRAYER

Lord, we are so grateful for the countless blessings you shower our lives with. We thank you for the natural blessings you give us: the splendor of the night sky, the beauty of sunrise and sunset, the change of the seasons and the lovely fall leaves. We thank you for the gift of friends, loved ones, and family. We thank you for the food we eat, be it spare or lavish. We thank you for the air that we breathe. Lord, in countless ways you give us your gifts of love. Help us always to be aware of them, and let these gifts remind us that we are cared for by You. May we seek to return your love, and to care for one another as You care for us.

And lord, we ask that you watch over those who are struggling and enduring hardship, be it sickness, poverty, or national unrest. Send your peaceful spirit to turmoil. Send the power of your healing love to those who are sick. Watch over Linda, and Irma, and Andy. We know on faith that in every trying situation, good can come. May we find the good in trouble, and healing where there is sickness.

Thank you, Lord, for your gift of life. Thank you for another day. May we treasure this day and this moment as the heavenly gift that it is. We are taught that in heaven there is no time. May we learn to see this life as the one continuous moment that it is, now and forever. May we look only for your will for us, and may we find the power to carry out that will.

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Marriage in a Spiritual Sense
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
October 6, 2013

Genesis 2:18-24 Mark 10:2-16 Psalm 8

There’s more to marriage than two people falling in love and going through a ritual that sanctifies their relationship. There are spiritual issues that go straight up to God when we consider the topic of marriage. Marriage is built into the very fabric of the universe. It is about God Himself, about God’s relationship to humanity, and, yes, about a couple who marries.
Our reading from Mark this morning is not necessarily a prescription for modern marriage relations. In Mark, divorce is prohibited unconditionally. This teaching is so severe that Matthew adds one escape clause. In Matthew 5:32, divorce is permitted on the grounds of marital unfaithfulness. Today we recognize that there are issues that break people apart and divorce seems the only option. It is never easy and always involves pain. I have heard people say that their divorce was the hardest thing they have ever gone through. But I think that there are times when divorce is allowable. Let’s turn from the unhappy issue of divorce, though, and look at the happy issue of marriage.
I want to jump right up into the spiritual aspects of marriage before considering human marriage. Let’s start at the very highest way to think about marriage. The highest marriage is in God Himself. In God there is a union of love and wisdom. We can say that God is love expressing itself wisely. Swedenborg writes,
In the Lord God the Creator are Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, and these are Himself; that is, He is Love itself and Wisdom itself (CL 84).
I might say, since this is communion Sunday, that our communion service reflects this union of love and wisdom. We see the communion elements as symbols of love and wisdom. The bread symbolizes God’s Divine Love, and the wine symbolizes God’s Divine Wisdom. By partaking of the bread and wine, we are symbolically letting God’s Love and Wisdom into our hearts and minds.
OK, but where is marriage in all this? This union of love and wisdom is called the heavenly marriage. From love we do what is good, and from wisdom we think what is true. When we do good from a love for doing good, and when we think what is true from a love for wisdom, then we are in the heavenly marriage.
In the created universe and in every detail of it there is a marriage between what is good and what is true. This is because what is good is a matter of love and what is true is a matter of wisdom (DLW 402).
Some traditions call this marriage of love and wisdom the alchemical marriage of the feminine and the masculine elements. But as I do not know about alchemy, I will not go any further on this than to mention that alchemy uses these terms, too.
This spiritual marriage of what is good and what is true is directly related to our spiritual growth. This church sees salvation as a gradual process. We learn right from wrong. But do we always practice what we know to be good or right? Sometimes we fall short. But we little by little put off our sinful nature and little by little put on a godly nature. Paul calls this dying with Christ and being resurrected with Christ. Little by little, our loves are purified from lust into healthy affections and heavenly loves. The alchemists call this process refining base metals into gold. We lift our emotional life up into heaven’s good feelings and good deeds.
We begin the purification process by means of truth, or by means of our mind. Our minds can rise way up above our lives and look down at the way we live. From this lofty vantage point, we can see where we need to make improvements in our lives. When we lift up our emotions and behaviors to conform with what we know to be good, then we are living what we know. Our knowledge of right is one with the way we live. Our thoughts are one with our feelings. Then the heavenly marriage takes place inside of us. Good and truth are one; love and wisdom are one.
Our understanding can be raised into heaven’s light and gather wisdom from it. I have also frequently noted that our love or volition can be raised up as well if it loves the things that are found in heaven’s light, things that involve wisdom. . . . Love4 or volition, though, is raised into heaven’s warmth, while the understanding is raised into heaven’s light. If they are both raised up, a marriage takes place there that we call “the heavenly marriage” because it is a marriage of wisdom and heavenly love (DLW 414).
I can think of an example of this from my own life. When I was younger, I wanted to reform the world. I did this by protesting what I thought needed to be changed. The thing was, I didn’t make any allowances for other people. It was as if I wanted to be the director of a movie. I wanted everyone to stand where I told them, I wanted them to act the way I thought they should act, and move where I wanted them to move–the way a director would direct a cast. However, the world is quite capable of acting on its own. All that my attempts to reform the world just made me frustrated and mad, because people had their own ideas about what they wanted to do. Well I read a book that talked about this very thing. It taught me that I had to accept the world not on my terms, but on the world’s terms. I had to accept the world, not make it into an image of me. At first, this was a bitter pill to swallow. But I trusted this book, and began to let the world turn without my guidance. This is an example of me learning wisdom. The wisdom was the teaching about accepting the world on the world’s terms. The next step was to raise my love up to conform with the wisdom I learned from that book. So as time passed, I let go more and more. I accepted what I couldn’t change. I tended my own garden, and let others tend their gardens. Now I can say that I am a much more serene person. I am calm a lot of the time, instead of being frustrated and angry. Sure, I get upset by drivers who don’t show the courtesy I think they should. And I still get upset at pedestrians who walk out in front of my car without looking because they’re looking down at their smart phone. But by and large, I’ve resigned from the debating society and I’m letting the world go the way that an All-Knowing God allows it to go. I say all this to illustrate the idea of a heavenly marriage of love and wisdom. Wisdom told me to accept, and my serenity from accepting is the love.
There is a final aspect to spiritual marriage I need to bring forth. God’s relationship with us is compared to a marriage. Even if we are not monks or nuns, we are spiritually married to God. Paul talks about this,
Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:28-32).
In this passage, Paul, like Mark, quotes the Genesis passage about the creation of Eve and the general statement about marriage that “They twain shall be one flesh.” But Paul says that it is a profound mystery, and that it refers to the marriage of Christ and the church. In many passages in the Bible, God compares Himself to the Husband and the church, or the people of Israel, to the bride. I’ll just cite just a few:
Isaiah 54:5-6:
For your Maker is your husband,
the LORD of hosts is his name;
and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer,
the God of the whole earth he is called.
For the LORD has called you
like a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit,
like a wife of youth when she is cast off,
Jeremiah 31:31, 32
“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, . . . not like the covenant which I made with their fathers . . . my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband,” says the LORD.
Hosea 2:16, 19-20:
“And in that day, says the LORD, you will call me, ‘My husband,’ . . . And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. 20 I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD.
In many places in the New Testament there are parables about the bridegroom, and marriages that symbolize our relationship with Christ. And there are some striking passages in the book of Revelation, such as Revelation 19:7-9:
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
9 And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.”
I’ll conclude with a statement about human marriage. If a person is living out that marriage of love and wisdom in their lives, their marriage will be more blessed and tranquil. For both parties will be striving to be good and to love wisely. And if a person is spiritually married to God, that is, if a person has God in his or her life, then their marriage will be blessed and tranquil. For God is the Source of all love and God expresses His love wisely. So, too, will a married couple express their love for each other wisely when they are married to God. The spiritual marriage of love and wisdom, the mystical marriage of Christ and the church, and the love between two humans all make for happiness in this world and in the next.

PRAYER

Lord, we pray to you this morning to lead us into the heavenly marriage of good and truth. Teach us your ways, so that our minds may be filled with truth. And then, Lord, we pray, give us to love your ways and to do what we know you would have us do. Teach us, Lord, what your will is for us and give us the power to carry that out. For only when we know what is good and love to do what is good is the perfect heavenly marriage alive in our souls.

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. Lord, we especially ask that you be with the people of Egypt and of Syria. May the way of peace and diplomacy prevail over force. May all 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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