WELCOME TO TODAY'S WORSHIP SERVICE
April 12, 2009
Open your Bible
Light a candle
from the Bible
Matthew 28: 1-10 N.I.V.
1After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
2There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. 4The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
5The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. 6He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."
8So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."
Suffering on the cross was the final trial the Lord underwent as the greatest prophet.It was a means of glorifying his human nature, that is, of uniting that to his Father's divine nature. It was not redemption TC 114:6
OPENING SONG #1
Morning has broken
OPENING SONG #2
Christ the Lord is Risen Today
Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia! Alleluia! All over the world this morning Christians are shouting with joy! This is a glorious day of celebration and affirmation of life! [of course, our Greek Orthodox brothers and sisters will celebrate on a different date.]
Lives again our glorious King, Alleluia!
Where, O death, is now thy sting? Alleluia!
Once he died our souls to save, Alleluia!
Where's thy victory, boasting grave? Alleluia!
Jesus has saved our souls! That is incredibly comforting. That is, of course, if our souls need saving.
This is where Swedenborgian Christians veer off on a side road from most of Christendom.
We all are singing and shouting Alleluia today. Yet, the Swedenborgian “Alleluia” has a different “ring” to it.
Throughout Christian history, “he died to save our souls” has had very specific meanings.
As Marcus Borg says: “The most familiar understanding of Jesus’ death emphasizes its substitutionary sacrificial nature: he died for the sins of the world. This understanding is part of a larger package; namely, that all of us are sinners. In order for God to forgive us, a substitutionary sacrifice must be offered. But it would not be adequate for an ordinary human being to be the sacrifice, for such a person would be a sinner and would only be dying for his or her own sins. Thus the sacrifice must not be a sinner, but a perfect human being.” Yet this view of the crucifixion didn’t come together for a thousand years after the death of Jesus.
To accept that the crucifixion was a sacrifice to save our souls involves a few assumptions.
1. The first is that we are born sinners.
2. The 2nd it that there is nothing we can do to remove our sins.
3. Therefore, our souls must be saved from hell, where a judgmental God would send us if a sacrifice were not made for our sins.
Only through the crucifixion can we have any hope of an eternity in heaven; assuming of course that we accept and believe in this sacrifice.
There are other ways to understand this momentous event that do not involve a substitutionary sacrifice. They start with different assumptions:
1. We are born not as sinners, but with an inclination towards sin.
2. There is no judgmental God who sends us to heaven or hell. We make that choice for ourselves.
3. To prepare ourselves for heaven, we need to live lives of loving actions.
Some really major differences there! The Swedenborgian perspective is that heaven is for every person of any faith tradition, and we create our own pathway there through how we live our lives.
So what was this event all about? Why are Swedenborgian Christians singing “Alleluja” this morning?
Let’s look at the poetry of St. Teresa of Avila. Here is a poem of hers:
I WOULD CEASE TO BE
My mind – my separation.
I cannot describe my intimacy with Him.
How dependent is your body’s life on water and food and air?
I said to God, “ I will always be unless you cease to be,”
And my Beloved replied, “And I
would cease to Be
She was writing about the spiritual journey, which we all encounter sooner or later. One of her more famous works is “Interior Castle” where she describes the journey as moving through the rooms of a castle. One finds God in the most interior room, where one experiences a kind of marriage with God. This is the state of union—the goal of our spiritual journey.
Many other traditions have written similar accounts of a journey to the Divine that ends in becoming one with the Divine.
Swedenborg, too, talks about a series of stages that lead to “conjunction” or “union” as the “God-man.
However, added another dimension to this issue.
Jesus had a journey that took him through various stages of spiritual growth. He endured many temptations, and, as he resisted them, be became closer to God.
Jesus came into union with God by his death and resurrection. Swedenborg gives the name “glorification” to describe the process of Jesus merging into oneness with God.
Many traditions talk about a Dark Night of the Soul before moving into union. In a similar vein, Swedenborg says that on the cross, Jesus faced his final temptations and overcame them. He “emptied out” his ego self. His final merging with God was glorification.
The cross and the resurrection are powerful accounts of how Jesus and God became one: The Divine Human. And they are a narrative of a universal web that awaits all of us down the road.
What happened to Jesus on the cross is not that different from what happens to us when we move closer to God towards that ultimate Union. Jesus modeled for us the kind of life that prepares us for heaven.
This is a big difference in how one understands “Alleluia.”
Occasionally, someone asks me the question: what if you’re wrong? What if you die and meet a judgmental God who says: “You are going to hell, because you did not believe that Jesus die as a sacrifice for your sins?" Don't you think you should believe in the sacrificial atonement just in case?
Well, I peer out into the Cyber world of so many people I cherish; I look out at our earth filled with people who are Jews, or Muslims, or Hindus or wiccans or atheists. I would look God in the eye and say “I want to be where they all are going. Any other eternity would just be too bland and boring.”
I look forward to an exciting, vibrant, and diverse eternity with all of you!
Easter-Praise-dance, easter-liturgical dance
Jocelyn RicNow extinguish your candle
CLOSING SONG #2
Jocelyn RicNow extinguish your candle
CLOSING SONG #2
Now extinguish your candle
And close the Bible.
Go forth; knowing that Christ the Lord has risen today. Alleluia