Dec. 6, 2009
Second Sunday of Advent
Light the 2nd candle on the Advent wreath
I Believe in Angels
Mark 1:1-8 (New International Version)
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
1The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
"I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way"—
3"a voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.' " 4And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
Heaven and Hell, NCE
284: Anyone who has not experienced heaven’s peace cannot know what the peace is that angels enjoy….In order to perceive it, we need to be the kind of person who as to thought can be raised and taken out of the body and brought into the spirit so as to be with angels. Since I have perceived heaven’s peace in this way, I can describe it, but not in words as it really is, because human words are not adequate. …
There are two things at the heart of heaven, innocence and peace. We say that they are at the heart because they come straight from the Lord.
286. First, we need to say where peace comes from. Divine peace is within the Lord, arising from the oneness of his divine nature and the divine human nature within him. The divine quality of peace in heaven comes from the Lord, arising from his union with heaven’s angels, and specifically from the union of the good and true within each angel. Those are the sources of peace… in to its essence, it [peace] is the divine joy of the Lord’s divine love, arising from his union with heaven and with every individual there. This joy, perceived by the Lord in the angels and by the angels from the Lord, is peace. It flows down from there to provide angels with everything that is blessed and delightful and happy – what is called ‘heavenly joy.’ …
287. 2. … Because peace means means the Lord and heaven and also heavenly joy and the delight of good, greetings in ancient times were – and consequently still are – ‘Peace be with you.’
I opened the front door to let my two small dogs out. Daisy saw the newly-fallen snow and began to run, roll, and twirl with wild abandon. Her most joyous day every year is the one when snow returns to her world. For this year, today was that day!
When I was a child, I felt that way with the season’s first snow. I would run outside, eager to lie down and flap my arms to make “snow angels.”
Because I’ve always lived in cold climates, my winters have always contained snow. The first snow has usually fallen around Christmas, and my first snow angels just before Christmas Eve.
Snow, Christmas, and angels have always been intertwined for me. In the second week of Advent, we light the 2nd candle. It represents peace, and Swedenborg's angels bring peace into our lives.
Swedenborg wrote about his many encounters with angels. Two good books on the topic are Conversations with Angels: What Swedenborg Heard in Heaven, edited by Leonard Fox and Donald Rose and Angels in Action: What Swedenborg Saw and Heard by Robert Kirven.
What Are Swedenborg's Angels?
Kirven's book includes a special chapter on the difference between spirits and angels; not often differentiated. Swedenborg explained that when we die in our physical bodies, we are born in the spirit world. After death, we all spend time in an intermediary world, where angels are available as teachers. If we let them help guide us, we soon become angels ourselves. When we make contact with someone in the "spirit world," we usually connect with spirits in the intermediary level. Often our friends and loved-ones are there. However, the souls there are still learning about the heavenly realms, and may not have accurate information for us.
What do they do?
Kirven points out that they help people die, they help infants, they help people find their way, and they help us celebrate.
"When we need more strength or courage or clearer direction than we feel we have within ourselves, our appeals for help -- our silent or spoken prayers -- bring angelic assistance if those appeals are genuine and if we are willing to accept help. Angels are sent to us when we need to be led away from evil desires and the thoughts that spring from them."
Kirven says we have angels with us all of our lives. We have guardian angels when we are infants. As we grow, we have angels who specialize in our particular type of life path.
How can we hear our guiding angels?
Their voices are very soft. It is often in dreams that we get a sense of how they are guiding us. Kirven says that a good way to come to know and hear your angels is to ask them to guide you in helping others. If asked with selfless sincerity, they will be there.
How are they depicted in the arts?
Angels have been popular subjects in the arts for throughout history. One special place for Swedenborgians is "In the Company of Angels." These stained glass windows were put in the New Church in Cincinnati in 1902. That building had to be torn down by eminent domain, so the windows were purchased by the Swedenborgian Church at Temenos. In 2001, they were re-discovered by Rev. Suzanna Currie. With an anonymous donation, they have been beautifully restored. To learn about these windows, go to this website.
The hexagon art of Jeff Richards
While surfing the net in preparation for this message, I put together "Swedenborg, angels, and art." I then found the incredible hexagonart of Jeff Richard. He has a "Swedenborg Angel" gallery. He wrote on his website that most cultures have a concept of angels or guides of some sort.
One commen denominator that seems to run through them all is a description of angels as beings of a higher frequency than most of us can perceive, much as ultraviolet light is a higher frequency of light than what our eyes can detect. This series was sparked by this hint - "beings of higher frequency"- and is named in honor of that peculiar 18th century scientist and mystic, Imanuel Swedenborg.
He kindly gave us permission to include a copy of one of his works in this sermon. Here is a breath-taking example:
I invite you to visit Jeff's website, and let yourself experience his work as part of today's worship.
What do angels mean in your life?
This Advent, open your heart to the messages that angels are whispering in your ears. Be aware of the guidance that comes to you in dreams. Listen for your inner voice of wisdom. Ask for the guidance to be of help to others.
Hark the Angels Sing
Extinguish the Advent candle