Speaking with Conviction
WELCOME TO TODAY'S WORSHIP SERVICE
Rev. Wilma Wake
Go Down Moses
El Cor Gospel Carlit
1 Corinthians 13
1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
After the great lights are kindled and placed in the inner self, and the
outer self is receiving light from them, the time arrives when we first start to live.
Earlier, we can hardly be said to have been alive, thinking as we
did that the good we perform and the truth we speak originate in ourselves.
On our own we are dead and have nothing but evil and falsity
inside, with the result that nothing we produce from ourselves has life.
So true is this that by our own power we cannot do anything good—at
least not anything inherently good. ...
Now, when love and faith have brought us to life and we believe that the Lord
brings about all the good we do and the truth we speak, we are compared
initially to creeping animals of the water and birds flitting over the land and
later to beasts. All these are animate and are called living souls.
Heavenly Secrets, #39
SPEAKING WITH CONVICTION
Do you sometimes speak with conviction? And sometimes not? How can you tell when you are speaking God’s truth?
Swedenborg tells us this about his fifth stage of regeneration – spiritual growth:
In the fifth stage, we speak with conviction and, in the process, strengthen ourselves in truth and goodness. [HS, 11]
What an important stage this is in our regeneration! In the 3rd stage – repentance --, we speak devoutly and reverently. Yet, we think that we ourselves are doing so.
By stage 5, we realize that it is God working in us that allows us to discern truth and to speak it. It is when we realize that our words are from God that we speak with conviction, from our deepest selves.
So much of our regeneration up to now has been within ourselves. Now, we are taking our voices into the world, to speak God’s truth.
What is this stage like in people’s actual lives? Of course, we never know what stage anyone else is in – let alone ourselves! – But we can look at the lives of people who were committed to speaking out – even when their words were unpopular.
There are so many examples. To find one for today, I turned to Susan Poole’s book, Lost Legacy: Inspiring Women of Nineteenth-Century America. She writes about Swedenborgian women who have made a difference.
I want to share with you what Susan wrote about Ellen Spencer Mussey.
Ellen practiced law before women could be lawyers. She was active in suffrage before women could vote. And she was a Swedenborgian delegate at the first Parliament of World Religions.
Ellen was out of step with society most of her life. Actually, Swedenborgians as a group tend to be out of step with many around them!
Ellen was a shining example of this. She lived from 1850 to 1936. She was born in Ohio as Ellen Spencer. Both of her parents died young. In 1869 she went to D.C. to live with her brother Henry and sister-in-law Sarah Andrews Spencer, who was an active and well-know suffragist. After moving to D.C., Ellen happened to meet General Reuben Delavan Mussey, Superintendant of the Sunday school at our DC Swedenborgian Church. She, too, became a Sunday school teacher, helping to teach Massey’s children. Massey’s wife died, and he married Ellen in 1871.
The Massey’s became well-known in the social circles of Washington. They knew personally many Presidents. They developed a law practice together, but Ellen was not allowed to enter law school. Why? She was a woman. There were no women lawyers at that time.
Not to be deterred, she studied law on her own, and joined her husband in a joint law practice. General Mussey died in 1892, and Ellen now needed to practice law on her own. She easily passed the bar exam in Washington, and was admitted to the bar in 1893.
Shortly after this, quite an exciting event came into her life: she was appointed to be a Swedenborgian delegate to the Parliament of Word Religions. She presumably knew Charles Boney, the Swedenborgian who inspired and organized the Parliament as a part of Chicago’s World Fair. It became a pivotal point around the world for religious tolerance and the start of the interfaith movement. Many Swedenborgians were involved in the Parliament, since our theology accepts all religious paths.
Ellen’s talk at the Parliament specifically addressed women:
Let us fit ourselves and our daughters for a life of active use. Let us not be led astray by personal ambition or love of ease. Let us remember that every soul is accountable to God, and that we must form our opinions, even though they differ from those we love best. Let us not be disputatious, but rather help our brothers to see that when they shut themselves away from the womanly influence, they are in fact closing the higher or celestial plane of their minds, and so preventing the doctrines of the church from passing into life.
If I had an opportunity to take a time machine back into history, I think I would choose to go the Chicago of 1893, as the World’s Fair and Parliament of World Religions were taking place. There was also a women’s congress held alongside the World’s Fair. Many thousands of women – and many men – were there to attend those meetings.
In Susan Poole’s book, she quotes a description of that conference:
Even women’s suffrage, so frowned upon that it had been given one session, was arousing so much interest that extra meetings had to be held, and its valiant leader, Miss Anthony, once so ridiculed and defamed, became the veritable luminary of the women’s congress. When she talked, crowds stormed the meetings, and when she appeared at other meetings, the crowd broke into the discourse of the speaker on the platform to do Miss Anthony honors.
Ellen came to see how essential organization was for the advancement of women. She returned to DC determined to become active in the women’s movement.
Her law practice flourished, and she took on controversial cases. She campaigned to change laws that discriminated against women.
She wrote a strong letter to the New Church Messenger in 1898,
What a loss it would have been to humanity if Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, and Frances Willard had been afraid of overstepping the bounds of womanly decorum. … God made the bird to sing. He has made women to think and feel, and given them voices with which to be heard.
And so has God given us all a way to communicate: with our voices – through our vocal cords, or with alternatives like sign language or assisted communication, or even with the flutter of an eyelash.
God has given us a way in which to express ourselves in the world.
Another Swedenborgian woman who was a delegate at the Parliament was from Maine: Selma Weare Paine from Bangor. She was a writer and musician. She was active in the women’s rights movement, often quoting Swedenborg on uses. In her talk at the Parliament, she said:
…there are women to whom their evident use says: ‘You cannot walk in the common highway. … You must pass alone, through the forest. You must climb this mountain. You must descend into that dark and hidden valley.
Swedenborgians have been climbing mountains and descending into dark, hidden valleys since their beginnings. We have been at the forefront of social movements such as anti-slavery and suffrage.
Where is God calling you to speak with conviction? Where are you called to climb a mountain or descend into a dark and hidden valley? Is anything holding you back?
Extinguish your candles