Your Light Has Come
Welcome to today's worship service
Your Light Has come
Feb. 28, 2010
Open your Bible
Light a candle
Leviticus 24 (New International Version)
Oil and Bread Set Before the LORD
1 The LORD said to Moses, 2 "Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning continually. 3 Outside the curtain of the Testimony in the Tent of Meeting, Aaron is to tend the lamps before the LORD from evening till morning, continually. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. 4 The lamps on the pure gold lampstand before the LORD must be tended continually.
...when we die, we simply move from one world into another. That is why in the inner meaning of the word, 'death' means 'resurrection' and a continuation of life. [HH, NCE, 44]
Your Light Has Come
I walked into the room of people hesitantly, since I knew so few of them. I was new to the Swedenborgian Church, and a new student at the Swedenborg School of Religion. This was a gathering of faculty and students and people on the ordination committee. There was one person there that I was eager to meet: Rev. Dorothea Harvey. I had heard so many stories about her years of teaching Bible at Urbana University, and her historic journey to become the first ordained Swedenborgian woman. I don’t know what I had expected her to be like, but I was surprised by her genuine warmth and sense of humor. I asked her about the controversy surrounding her ordination. She said that some men told her that Swedenborg warned against women preaching, like men. With a twinkle in her eye, she said that her response had been, “I don’t preach like a man. I preach like a woman.”
Dorothea had a profound impact on my journey to ordained ministry. She was my ministry mentor after ordination and my peer ear for many years. We were colleagues together on the faculty of the Swedenborg School of Religion. Her death this week is the passing of an era in Swedenborgian ministry.
When someone we love dies, we often ponder the meaning of death.
Emanuel Swedenborg had many "near death experiences." He was invited into the spiritual world to see life on the other side. Most of his theological writings are based on what he saw and heard there. For Swedenborg, “life after death," was not a belief; it was an experience.
Many people in modern times have had such experiences and have written about them. Here is an excerpt of a modern near-death experience:
As I came to be in the light there was a presence of someone with me. I did not consciously know who this was, but I trusted this presence completely. I remember seeing hundreds of people welcoming me back, like they were glad to see me. I don't remember knowing any of them, and yet somehow I knew them all. I was told that I must go to meet someone who was waiting for me. As I was in the presence of this one I was to meet, the light became so bright that I thought that this light should hurt my eyes and yet it did not. From my perspective at the time, this being was the Father I had been taught about in heaven. He held out his arms, and I went to him so naturally and was held by him.
I remember feeling small and completely in awe of the beauty of this pure love I was being surrounded by. We had much conversation without saying any words.
Many years ago, I had an experienced that I think of as a "near" "near-death experience." I had gone to the ER for a blood infection that was continuing to spread, despite antibiotics. It seemed that I was alone in a small room a very long time, waiting for treatment. I felt myself floating. I seemed to be with a Presence who knew me completely and loved me totally. I didn't have to explain anything about who I was; I was known better than I knew myself. What was most profound, is that I was completed loved. Not only was I known; I was loved. There was no hint of judgment or disapproval; just pure Knowing, Loving, and Accepting.
I felt I could choose whether or not to return. There was so much more that I wanted to do; I asked to return. Just at that moment a doctor came into the room with an IV. I’ve been told I was not medically near death at that time. But I am convinced since that day that I know what I will experience after death. I will again be with this Being who both knows me and loves me far more deeply than I can know and love myself.
Now, when someone I know passes into the spirit world, I think of those few moments of heavenly bliss I had. I know that they are now living in that bliss. That is Dorothea’s new home.
As we continue to move through Lent, we'll ponder what death means; and what resurrection means. Dorothea's passing in Lent is an occasion to be aware of how death On her last night, a children's choir from her local church came to visit her, and sang Arise, for your Light Has Come. She seemed to enjoy the music. At its end, he took her last breath. She knew it was time to arise; her light had come.
If you didn’t know Dorothea, you can learn more about her in the obituary on the home page and in the discussion forum. Whether you knew her or not, you have friends and family who have passed into the spirit world. Sometimes, like Dorothea, they pass peacefully after a long and productive life. Other times, there is a tragic accident or illness that takes them from us without warning. Whatever the circumstances of the people you have loved who have passed into spirit, take a moment to think of them living in a place where they are completely known and completely loved.
I’m going to close with a meditation from Dorothea’s book, The Holy Center. It is based on the Bible passage above.
Visualize the clear, golden olive oil, pure oil of love, of joy, of healing, of anointing priests and kings, giving its light in that part of life that you can see, that part which is separated only by a veil from the reality of Love itself in all its power. Rest for a moment in the joy of being in the light of Love itself. Feel the warmth and the power of that light, pouring down upon you, surrounding you with good. …
Lord, thank you that your Love is so close to us, your Love so amazing, so real I cannot imagine, much less see it; there every moment, in all the power that makes the universe, coming in goodness unto me. Thank you, Lord. Amen. [p 34-35].
Our closing song is about how Dorothea lived her life.
I'm Gonna Live so God can Use Me
Go in peace, knowing that you are totally known and completely loved by God.