Messages Archive: August 2007
Message from August 5, 2007
“Being rich toward God”
Rev. Sage Currie
Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”‘ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
From the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
Riches and wealth are natural and temporal with those who have regard to these only and to themselves in them, finding in them their whole pleasure and delight. These same things, however, are spiritual and eternal with those who have regard to good uses in them, finding in uses interior pleasure and delight (Divine Providence #220).
Jesus begins this morning telling us he is not the arbitrator over questions of wealth in the world. “Man, who made Me a Judge or arbitrator over you?” This man from the crowd who asks Christ to tell his brother to share his inheritance is that voice for our human desire for fairness. We so desperately want things to be fair.
For many years as a teenager and young adult my personal theology was one of complete fairness. I thought for sure that the universe was designed to some how even out. And what I thought this meant for me was that since I had been given so much, had a loving family, and many good experiences as a youth, my life would certainly have to end horribly short, or begin to be rife with difficulty. Because how could I only be given much, when it seemed so many people around me were suffering? Well, thankfully my life hasn’t ended abruptly, and while I’ve had my share of difficulties, in many ways, my life has only gotten better! God has managed to provide more and more, and any concept of fairness, or evenness has been thrown out the window. Life isn’t fair. Life is abundant.
In the nineteen hundreds the
How can we be rich toward God?
In this parable we read of a man whom God is being very rich towards. His crops are plentiful and overflowing his store houses. I hope that all of you can think of a time when God has been this rich towards you. When you have received what you needed, and more than you expected. When God has provided opportunity, relationship, love, success, healing, joy, etc.
How abundant has God has been with you? If you’re reading this you are most certainly alive I would say. There’s one gift! You have been given an education that allows you to read this message. Here are two I can deduce, and now you add the rest. Take a second to in a very practical way count your blessings.
Could it be that to be rich toward God may start with very simply being grateful? The mistake of this rich man whom God has so blessed is not that he has wealth in the first place, but that he believes he can control and store it up for the future. That he can in a sense, opt out of participating with God in receiving life. That he can store up enough that he won’t need God in the future.
Our life flows into us from God, and then out through the uses that we have to offer and share with the world. God never tires of giving us life and giving it abundantly. Like a parent who wants only to see their child succeed, God wants us only to accept this gift of life with joy.
If we store up the treasures that God gives us for ourselves we leave no room for the next thing, no room for the new thing God is always trying to do. The impulse to store up for ourselves is driven only by fear and mistrust, it is not being rich toward God. We can be rich toward God by accepting the gifts of God, by being truly grateful for them, and by sharing them with the world. Let us be rich by feeling the joy of the Lord’s abundance, and trusting that it will never end. Amen.
Message from August 12, 2007
“Being prepared for blessing”
Rev. Sage Currie
Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning; and you yourselves be like men who wait for their master, when he will return from the wedding, that when he comes and knocks they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants whom the master, when he comes, will find watching. Assuredly, I say to you that he will gird himself and have them sit down to eat, and will come and serve them. And if he should come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
From the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
The Lord flows into each one of us according to heaven’s design, into our inmost natures as well as into our outmost, and disposes us to accept heaven. (Heaven & Hell, #297).
The parable that Jesus tells in today’s scripture lesson this morning has me thinking of the motto for the Boy Scouts of America, “Be prepared.” Boy scouts prepare for emergencies and survival situations, with first aid and life saving instruction. They are prepared to meet the unexpected challenges that come our way. But what is it to be prepared for the unexpected gifts?
The parable from Luke speaks of what it is to wait and keep watch for the Son of Man, for God himself, who will come into our lives when we least expect. Jesus speaks of this coming of God, like a servant waiting for his master, that when the master returns, “he will gird himself and have [his servants] sit down and eat, and will come and serve them.”
This is not a story of staying watchful and prepared because a wrathful angry God could come down and catch us in the midst of bad behavior at any time. This is the call to stay watchful and prepared for God to come bless us, to serve us, to love us, and to give us comfort, purpose and joy, when we least expect it. This is the story of blessing.
And God is telling us that we need to do to prepare ourselves for it. To prepare for the Lord’s coming Jesus commands, “Let your waist be girded and your lamps burning.” Emanuel Swedenborg says this of the correspondences of this passage:
"The loins that are to be girded" mean the good of love; "the lamps that are to be burning" signify the truths of faith from the good of love; "girding Himself, making them to recline to eat, and ministering to them," signifies to bestow upon them every good. (Apocalypse Explained, #252).
To be prepared for the coming of God is to stay in the goodness of what we love, and to stay in the truth of our faith in the Lord. As we stay in our own love and truth, as we believe in love and truth we prepare for the Son of Man. To be prepared for the Lord is to believe in blessing.
This is where our part comes in. The Lord is continually flowing into us, offering us heaven, and it is our part to accept it. Our part is to prepare for blessing, to have faith in it, to love it and hope for it, and to open the door when it comes.
As I have reflected on this theme of preparation and watchfulness this week, it has occurred to me how much more often I prepare like a Boy Scout, for challenges and emergencies, than I do for blessing. I confess that I often prepare for things to go wrong. When facing a new situation or project I spend a lot of time running through all of the possibilities for failure. It seems often so much easier to consider all of the possibilities of what could wrong instead of all the things that could go right.
What keeps us from preparing for blessing?
Well the first this that comes to mind is that we can’t control when God will bless us. We can’t sort that out, predict or plan for it. “The Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Now of course if we are really honest with ourselves we will see that this is probably a good thing. That if we knew when God was coming, when we would be blessed and how, we might very well do all we can to stop the blessing from coming. That we very easily might, and probably would get in our own way.
But more than our lack of control it seems to me that perhaps we prepare more often for failure than we do for blessing, because we wonder if we are really worthy of it. This is painful to say. I hope that this is not true for all of you who are reading this message today and that you know full well that you are worthy and whole and meant to receive an infinity of blessings! But, if you are human and living in the world of Judeo Christian ethics and values, with its long history of meditating on the wrathful punitive nature of God, perhaps you have slipped into wondering about your worthiness a time or two.
But what the Lord tells us in his parable is that we are completely and fully worthy. That we are all meant for heaven. That we are meant to keep watch for God, not so our beds will be made and we will pass the Lord’s inspection without being cast into hell, but so that we can be ready to receive the fullness of the Lord’s blessings, the fullness of heaven.
In his book Heaven & Hell, Emanuel Swedenborg teaches us that heaven and hell are places that we choose, based on what we love. That we choose heaven or hell after we die, based on the loves we develop in the world. If we learn to love the Lord and other people we gravitate towards heaven. If we stay wrapped up in our own self love then we pave a path for hell. If we cannot accept heaven while here on earth it will be very difficult for us to accept heaven for eternity.
We have to believe in blessing. What will motivate us to move out of living only for ourselves but a belief in something more? The blessing of heaven will come, and it will come when we don’t expect it. To live into higher love and truth, we need only welcome these gifts in from God, welcome in the blessings that the Lord freely offers, and most importantly to be watching so that we notice these blessings when they come.
This week may you be open to receive heaven. May you be willing to accept abundance and joy. May you be grateful for new gifts without falling prey to fears of what will come next. May you be prepared for blessing. Amen.
Message from August 19th, 2007
Rev. Sage Currie
10Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward
16Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place—and I did not know it!” 17And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” 18So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. 19He called that place
20Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, 21so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, 22and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house; and of all that you give me I will surely give one tenth to you.”
From the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
As for dreams, it is well known that the Lord revealed the arcana of heaven to the prophets not only by means of visions but also by means of dreams, and that dreams were just as much representative and carried a spiritual meaning as visions, being almost all of the same type. (Arcana Coelestia #1975)
Have you ever had a vision? How about a dream?
While many of you may have said “yes” to both questions, I imagine that most if not all have said “yes” at least to the latter. We all dream. There are some people who claim that they never or rarely remember their dreams, but scientific evidence suggests that all people go into a period of sleep every night called R.E.M., or Rapid Eye Movement sleep, when they dream. Researchers know people are dreaming in this state because the body reacts during this period as if it were engaged in wakeful activities. The body responds with fear, affection, enjoyment and anger. The eyes follow the events of these night time adventures. And while we travel with our senses, inner vision, and physical responses, our bodies stay sedentary due to a temporary muscle paralysis that keeps us safe and sound in our beds. It’s really a miraculous process.
Even though you may not remember them, everyone dreams, usually several times a night! And during the course of a typical lifetime the average person will spend about six years dreaming. So what’s happening during this time? Why do we dream? What’s the point of these night time adventures?
This morning’s scripture reading is the story of a very famous dream; Jacob’s dream of the ladder of angels. We actually have a painting depicting Jacob’s dream on our Mysticism Page, here on the site. God reveals himself, and his plans and intensions to Jacob in this prophetic dream.
My question for you all this morning is this: Is God revealing these same miraculous insights to us each night, and we just don’t know it?
I first began a really serious study of dreams, and my own dream life, while I was in seminary. I took a class by a Unitarian minister and scholar, Jeremy Taylor, who had been working with dreams, leading dream groups and advocating for the serious study of dreams for over 20 years.[i] The real powerful gift of this course was not learning anything definitive about how to interpret dreams, but being given the gift and encouragement to take my own dreams seriously, and to share them with others. Jeremy had a firm belief that all you needed to better understand your dreams was other people, that sharing dreams in a group would unveil their meaning exponentially more, than looking at them alone. That dreams come in a language that can translate from person to person. If any of you have had the opportunity to participate in a dream group, or even just to share your dreams with one other person, you probably already know how powerful this can be.
While in this course my dream life took off. Rarely did a night go by without a dream, and usually there were more than one. Some were long and winding and some were simple and made only of singular images, or even singular feelings. And as I recorded these dreams, as I shared them with the group, I began to see, that not only were these dreams depicting “me” exactly as I was, but they were also calling me to the next thing, they were calling me towards something better. I saw that God really was painting these night time dramas, that in my dreams, God was speaking.
Jeremy taught that all dreams come in the service of health and wholeness, that all dreams tell us where we are, and also give us new information that in our waking life we don’t yet fully see. In that way dreams are always revelatory. He also taught, which took me some time to believe, that the dream images that come to us, are always the best vehicle to convey the particular truth they seek to tell us. Even if it’s a
While Jeremy is a modern day dream worker, working with dreams is something that goes back throughout history.
Emanuel Swedenborg directly experienced the process by which, through angels, God paints our dreams. He gives here a detailed description of this activity.
By much experience I have been taught how dreams are produced, and which spirits produce them. I was in a wakeful state, and another was in a state of sleep, or asleep. I was then a spirit so to speak with spirits, and so I was allowed to be among those spirits who introduce dreams, and I also was allowed to introduce dreams, and that this was so I learned from experience, for the other woke up three or four times after the dreams introduced by me, and then I told them, and they were acknowledged. The ones I was allowed to introduce were lovely and pleasant. Then I was instructed by actual experience who those were who introduced dreams, and how. It was done by symbolic displays intended to delight the sleeper, and they are the ones whose duty it is to keep watch over mankind lest they be attacked by evil spirits while sleeping. This duty they carry out while awake, with the greatest enjoyment, so that there is rivalry as to who of them may be present. And because they are good spirits, they love those dreams that are most pleasant and delightful to [the sleeper]. (Spiritual Experiences #3181)
It was through dreams that Swedenborg first began his spiritual awakening. Long before his first vision of Christ, and his first experiences of the spiritual world he began keeping a dream journal and dutifully recording his dreams. The language of correspondences that Swedenborg would later interpret scripture with, would begin to form and shape itself from the language he saw in his own dream life.
Swedenborg called them correspondences, Carl Jung who has been highly influential to modern dream interpreters called them archetypes. Whatever you call these universal images, they are the language of the universe, the language of God, and they speak to us all, all people everywhere, of every time, every night.
Prophetic, instructive, and detailed dreams are throughout the Bible. God reveals himself throughout, calling, instructing, comforting and informing. Are we so different today? Or has our culture today, only distanced us more from our belief, distanced us from our own experiences, busied us so much that we do not have time to listen to the wisdom of our dreams.
While I have not had Jacob’s particular dream of the ladder, or God proclaim his presence in exactly the same clear and direct way as he did for Jacob, I have dreamed God. In my dreams I have seen myself laid bare. In my dreams I have been given new insights into difficult situations that seemed near impossible in my waking life. In my dreams I have become overwhelmed by the beauty and magnificence of God, in a deliciously tasting ice cream cone, or a glorious magical sky. I trust that through the angels God is painting my dreams, and sometimes shows up himself, as the man behind the check out counter asking me what I want, the woman in the distance beckoning me to her, the art instructor asking me to draw with him.
We are all God’s children. We are all chosen. We are all like Jacob, called to multiply, and bring ourselves and our uses into the world. God will lead us in all the ways possible. And some of that leading will certainly happen during the sacred time each night when we are not distracted by the natural world, and are open to receive all that the spiritual world would have us to see. Amen.
[ii] Savary, Louis & Patricia Berne. Dreams and Spiritual Growth: A Christian Approach to Dreamwork. (New York: Paulist Press, 1984) p. 42.
Message from August 26th, 2007
“Does God Hear?”
By our Guest Minister the Rev. Dr. David Fekete
Isahiah 11:1-10 A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. 3His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; 4but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked. 5Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins. 6The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. 7The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. 8The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder’s den. 9They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. 10On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious.
Luke 1:68-79 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them. 69He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us. 72Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, 73the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham, to grant us 74that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 76And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins. 78By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, 79to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
When we hear the term “Messiah”, we think of Jesus and the whole Christmas story. However, the term “Messiah” meant something very different to the Jews living at the time of Jesus, such as Zechariah. The Hebrew word messiah literally means “anointed one”. This refers to the ritual conferred on kings when they assumed the throne. Upon their ascension, a prophet or priest would anoint their head with oil. So the messiah was the king, as he was anointed upon assuming his throne. Specifically, King David was the start of the whole messiah doctrine. God promised him that his descendants would rule on the throne in
However, this didn’t happen. In 586 BC,
This historical fact gave rise to messianic expectations. Prophecies such as the one from Isaiah 11 that I read this morning, proclaimed that one day a king descended from David would take over
But Jesus was none of these things. In John 18:36, Jesus says, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” The Jews today are still waiting for that messiah, that king from David’s lineage, to take over
Zechariah’s hope was that God would intervene in the affairs of the world. Sometimes we want God to fix our lives here on earth. According to Augustine, life on earth belongs to a theological category called the temporal world. God’s kingdom belongs to the world he called eternal. So he gave us two theological terms, temporal and eternal. Swedenborg adopts these categories. He talks of temporal things, which he defines as follows: “Temporal things relate to dignities and riches, thus to honors and possessions, in the world” (DP 214). He defines eternal things as follows: “Eternal things relate to spiritual honors and wealth, which are of love and wisdom . . .” (DP 214).
God is primarily concerned with eternal things. This is because God himself is eternal and he gives us of his own nature, thus eternal things. But he is not only concerned with eternal things. He is also concerned with temporal things if they accord with eternal things. Again from Swedenborg, “The Divine Providence regards eternal things, and temporal things so far as they accord with the eternal” (DP 214). When I first read this passage, I heard that God only cares about eternal things. But the passage I read states quite clearly that God also cares about temporal things, “so far as they accord with the eternal”.
We live here in the temporal world. Many things that we care about will not follow us to the grave. Our honors, our money, our clothes, our possessions, none of these things will we take with us into the next life. To illustrate this, when it came time for Saint Francis to die, he lay down naked on the earth to symbolize that he was leaving behind all his possessions of this world.
So the question arises, will God hear us if we ask for temporal things. The best answer I can come up with is, yes, if they contribute to our eternal welfare. This can generate some amusing prayers from us. I remember when my mother went to
On a more sober note, I think about a song by the great blues guitar player Roy Buchanan. His song went like this. “Thank you God, saw your sun rise today./Bless you God, got to see my little daughter play./It may not be the right way to pray, but I want to thank you anyway./Thank you God.” It seems to me that this kind of prayer is most pleasing to God.
God’s score with me is about 60/40. He has granted me some huge requests that I will remember all my life. I remember quite a while back I was worried about my credentials. I had received by bachelor’s degree from a tiny, unknown college in
Now, it is the spiritual rewards that I received at Harvard much more than the degree I received that matters in my life. People encounter the person I have become. No one asks me about my graduate education. They care about who I am as a person. Of course when I network with other universities like the
Now I’ve said that my score with God is about 60/40. There are some prayers that I have prayed for many, many years that I haven’t received. I take this to mean that I am not ready to receive what I think I want. It may be that what I want is all around me and I just can’t see it because of my current spiritual state. Perhaps I am not in a fit condition to revere and respect the holy gift I am asking for.
However, I can say with complete confidence that God does hear us. He will grant us what our soul needs. He will give us temporal requests, if our eternal life is enriched by them. I think, though, especially about the kind of prayer that Roy Buchanan sang. He thanked God for the sunrise and for the gift of seeing his little daughter play. These things are the stuff of eternity. These things we can take with us into the next life. If we find that God doesn’t seem to hear us, maybe we are not asking for things that will better our souls. Maybe we don’t want the right things.
God will always answer us if we seek him and his kingdom first. He will not only give us spiritual things, but worldly things if they contribute to our eternal welfare. We have the promise of Jesus’ own words on this. “Seek ye first the