Is It God's Will?
WELCOME TO TODAY'S WORSHIP SERVICE
July 22, 2012
Is It God's Will?
THIS YEAR'S THEME: The Year of the Lord
THIS MONTH'S TOPIC: What does the Lord require? Walking Humbly with Your GodTODAY'S MESSAGE: Is It God's Will?
text version of this message
Open your Bible
Light a candle
From the Bible
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.[a]
2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
9 If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
10 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
14 “Because he[
b] loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation. ”
234. Laws of Permission Are Also Laws of Divine Providence
There are no "laws of permission” that are simply that, or that are separate from the laws of divine providence. They are the same thing; so saying that God allows something to happen does not mean that he wants it to happen but that he cannot prevent it because of his goal, which is our salvation. Whatever happens for the sake of this goal, our salvation, is in accord with the laws of divine providence, since as already noted [183, 211], divine providence is always moving away from and contrary to our own intentions. It is constantly focused on its goal; so at every moment of its work, at every single step of its course, when it notices that we are straying from that goal it leads and turns and adapts us in accord with its laws, leading us away from evil and toward good. We will see shortly that this cannot be accomplished without allowing bad things to happen.
Is It God's Will?
I was watching TV this week when I saw an interview with George Zimmerman, the man charged with killing Treyvon Martin last February. When asked about the incident, he said that [I quote CNN] ...he can't now second-guess what happened, adding, "I feel it was all God's plan.
I almost jumped out of my seat to scream at the TV set. Is this some new kind of legal defense? Are we going to start asking juries for verdicts of “not guilty by reason of God’s will”?
This theology could be taken to an outrageous extreme after the tragedy in a movie theater early Friday morning. Would someone seriously argue that God had a plan for certain people to die that night, so that James Holmes’ mass murder in a crowded theater was a fulfillment God’s will? Many of us would consider that an insane theology that posited a God who is crazy or malicious – or both.
That certainly was not the God Swedenborg wrote about.
The situation and issues remind me of the shooting in Arizona last year when Rep. Gabby Gifford was shot in the head, and some people were killed. We explored that situation by turning to a significant book released by The Swedenborg Foundation last year: Why Does God Let It Happen? by Bruce Henderson.This award-winning book incorporates many of the insights of the ground-breaking book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Hendeson's book, however, is written from a Swedenborgian perspective.
In his introduction, Henderson gives us four concepts are fundamental to understanding Swedenborg’s view of “God’s will”:
He adds: God’s providence is governed by fixed spiritual laws. It is not arbitrary, but clear and consistent within a transcendent spiritual context.
It is hard to understand why God allows tragedy. Henderson writes:
Without the freedom to make mistakes that may lead to suffering in our own lives and the lives of others, we would be reduced to automatons. The same principle works on a spiritual level. If God were to meddle in our lives and change the course of history to preserve our own narrow sense of order and justice, where would he stop? God cannot pick and choose. His laws—and his love—must be absolute and consistent.
When I was a student at the Swedenborg School of Religion, one of my professors was the Swedenborgian scholar Rev. Dr. Robert Kirven. He wrote:
Evil includes everything that flows from the hells, or comes about under hellish influences. Murder is evil, but the desire for murder; the intention to commit murder … is sin.
So Swedenborg would see the shooting of people in a movie theater as more than evil; it was intentional sin. Kirven goes on to say:
Swedenborg sees the basic, minimal freedom of choice as absolute, irreducible, and unbridgeable. [Kirven, A Concise Overview of Swedenborg's Theology, p. 9]
Understanding Swedenborg’s concept of free will can help us cope with tragedy. Rabbi Kushner struggled with why his three-year-old son should die of a tragic disease. People tried to reassure him that “it was God’s will.” But the Rabbi found that to be an appalling theology. Henderson writes:
We can wonder, with Rabbi Kushner, why “the wrong people” get sick or hurt, or die young. We can agonize with him over the “deep, aching sense of unfairness” over his son’s terminal disease. As people who are trying to do what is right in God’s sight—living a religiously committed life—we would be tempted to ask the same question: If God truly is loving and fair, “How could he do this to me?” And not only how could he do this to “good parents,” but how could he do this to an innocent, three-year-old child? ...
Rabbi Kushner has articulated the questions so well for so many people. He understands that God does not cause the bad things that happen to us, and that God does not sit on his throne, determining which of us will suffer misfortunes and which will be spared. But he does stand always ready to help, comfort, and lead. “The God I believe in,” Kushner wrote, “does not send us the problem; he gives us the strength to cope with the problem.”5
Ultimately, the healing journey for all of us is through our loving actions and caring relationships
To Swedenborg, faith could not exist apart from the good deeds we do for others:
There cannot exist a grain of spiritual faith apart from charity, since charity is the life, soul, and essence of faith; 2. Such as the charity is, such is the faith; and the faith that precedes charity is a faith of cognitions, which is historical faith, in itself a knowing. [Charity, #198]
Was it God’s will that Trevyon Martin die by gunshot last February? Was it God’s will for 12 to die and 70 to be wounded on Thursday night in a theater in Aurora, Colorado?
Swedenborg tells us that tragedy is never God’s will. But we are not helpless victims in a world of random violence. Ultimately, the healing journey for all of us is through our loving actions and caring relationships.
Central to Swedenborg is that we can experience the Divine through our relationships with each other. Every loving action moves us closer to the New Jerusalem where we live in peace guided by God’s will. God does have a will for all of us, that we love each other as God loves us and that we support each other through life’s journey. Anything else is NOT God’s will.
Extinguish your candle
Close the Bible
Go in peace, knowing that God's will is Divine Love and Wisdom.
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