from the Bible; Luke 19
36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying, “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”
From Swedenborg 6] By the disciples putting their garments on the ass and her colt, was represented that truths in the whole complex were submitted to the Lord as the Highest Judge and King; for the disciples represented the church of the Lord in respect to its truths and goods (n. 2129, 3488, 3858, 6397), and their garments represented the truths themselves (n. 4545, 4763, 5319, 5954, 6914, 6917, 9093) The like was represented by the multitude strewing their garments in the way, and also branches of trees. The reason why they strewed them in the way was that by "a way" is signified the truth whereby the man of the church is led (n. 627, 2333, 3477). The reason why they strewed branches of trees, was that trees signified the perceptions and also the knowledges of truth and good (n. 2682, 2722, 2972, 4552, 7692), consequently "the branches" denote the truths themselves. This was done also in conformity with a customary rite; for when the highest judges and kings rode in their solemn procession, the princes of the people then put their garments on the asses and mules, and the people themselves strewed their garments on the way, or in their place the branches of trees; for the judicial function in heaven is the Divine truth from the Divine good, and the regal one is the Divine truth (n. 1728, 2015, 2069, 3009, 4581, 4966, 5044, 5068, 6148). AC 9212
Our theme this year is The Year of the Lord, and this month will be Union with the Lord. This month we’ll be exploring Swedenborg’s concept of the Easter message, which is about Divine-human union.
Next week – Easter - we’ll look at “union” in other mystical traditions. Then for “experience of the doctrine,” we’ll explore Zen prayer and Christian centering prayer. For an exploration of “uses,” we’ll look at “union” in the life of Alice Archer Sewell James as shared in Alice Blackmer Skinner’s book Stay By Me, Roses.
Have you ever watched any of the “Left Behind” movies or read the books? This evangelical approach to Christianity gives the traditional Christian meaning to Easter. Tim LeHaye says:
The suffering and death of Jesus were enough to pay the debt of anyone's sin—whatever is needed to make up for everything you've ever said or done wrong. God is so holy that only the death of Jesus, his own perfect Son, could make things right. So great is the power of this enormous act of divine love that no sin is greater than the capacity of this loving gift to cover it. God's very own Son personally invites us to receive forgiveness for our sins and become a part of God's eternal kingdom.
In this perspective, we are all born into sin, and can only receive eternal life in heaven because Jesus died for our sins. In the most traditional Christian viewpoint, we have to believe this to be true to receive the offered salvation. Because this is primarily about belief, you can accept this belief on your deathbed and be saved. You would need to say a prayer such as this one suggested by LaHaye:
Father in heaven, I believe that you sent your Son to save me and that Jesus willingly died on the cross for me. I want to become part of your kingdom now and forever, but the things I've done wrong condemn me. I've ignored you. I've been selfish and dishonest and so much more.
Today, most mainstream Christianity does not take such a fundamentalist approach to Jesus’ death and resurrection, but they do advocate some parts of it.
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.
He goes on to say that this is not the only Christian understanding of the death of Jesus. In fact, it was 1000 years after the crucifixion of Jesus before that concept was fully developed. In Mark’s gospel, the substitutionary sacrifice theme is absent altogether.
It is also not Swedenborg’s understanding of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
Swedenborg saw separate levels of reality connected by relationships called “correspondences.” All of existence begins with the pure divine, and flows downward – into the heavens, into humans on earth and the animals and plants of the earth. This pure divine keeps flowing down. If we take the very smallest possible thing that exists, even it corresponds to the divine. Everything corresponds to higher levels. That is how both matter and spirit are both real; through correspondence they are all the same.
That is how there is union between humanity and divinity. Swedenborg called it the “Divine human” or the “God-man”. And that is what Easter is all about: showing us the union between human and divine that unites us.
This is one part of Swedenborg’s concept of Easter: the union of humanity and divinity.
Another part of Swedenborg’s Easter can best be understood through the new physics concept of a hologram.
Physicist Michael Talbot wrote: If Emanuel Swedenborg were alive today, it is likely that he would find many aspects of the new physics compatible with his own thought. And he wrote: perhaps the most astonishing foreshadowing of new-physics ideas in Swedenborg’s writings are the similarities between his world view and a revolutionary new way of looking at nature known as the ‘holographic paradigm.
Every part of a hologram contains the whole. Jesus was a correspondence of God – and we all are. God was not present in Jesus as something unique in existence, but rather in all of us.
George Dole says, I see the holographic model as implicit in his [Swedenborg’s] Christology. In his view, it is intrinsic to the divine nature to be wholly present in every part of creation, and especially clearly in human beings.
Dole says this helps us understand the resurrection. It is wholly characteristic of the divine to be wholly present in every part of creation all the time.
The Easter story is about how human and divine became one. It is about the divine being in the smallest pieces of existence.
In the traditional Christian perspective, Easter is extremely joyous for those who believe that Jesus died to atone for our sins. It is a celebration of knowing that heaven is our after-life because we accept and believe in this atonement.
However, this traditional perspective on Easter also includes an implicit assumption that anyone who does NOT accept this belief will spend eternity in hell.
This is where our Swedenborgian Christianity takes a radical turn from traditional Christianity. We do not need “vicarious atonement” for our sins. We only need to live the best life we can each day. By doing well day after day, we are preparing our own path to heaven. We ourselves determine our eternal lifestyle. It is based on how we live; not what we believe. Jesus’ time on earth helped to bring heavenly love into a stronger position on earth than evil. He taught us love by how he lived his life, and how he died.
So, Swedenborg’s Easter is very sacred and joyful. We can never cease to exist, because we are united with God. As the God-Human, we are always growing and changing. We have eternity in which to explore all that we can be in this universal hologram. This gift is not limited to those of any particular religion or belief; instead it is the right of all human beings to move into union with God. Jesus modeled for us how this can happen by how he lived his life.
Easter is a great day to begin to explore our unique eternal place in the universal hologram.
Have a blessed Holy Week.
INSPIRATION AND PRAYER FROM REV. JUDITH
"Union With God"
In a sense we are all unified with God because God dwells within us. His Presence is there, but we are estranged from it by our thoughts, our feelings, and by the noise of the world. Everything we focus on before God keeps us from knowing Him. Our focus is outside ourselves rather than within; or on what we want rather than what He wants for us. How many of us abide by and do what the Bible instructs to do? "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all else shall be added unto you." It also tells us to "Be still and know I am God."
Questions arise from this months' theme, "Union with God". What does it mean to be in union with God? How do we get there? What will it feel like? etc. There are many ways we can get into union with God. The two that I work with are prayer and meditation. During Lent and Holy Week,I work on eliminating those things and habits that keep me from union with the Lord. (Prayer, Forgiveness, and "Let Go, and let God be God in my Life.")
What are the ways you unify with God?
"Our Beloved Lord, help us to make the changes in our lives that keep us in union with You. As we let go of old Ideas, addictions, habits, and old worn out emotions, give us the grace to form new habits of forgiveness, kindness, love, compassion and mercy. Help us in prayer and meditation on Your Word to be more unified with you. Thank you for your tender care all these many years.
Just as You were resurrected, so may we be resurrected in Your Will for us and the Communion with You.
Thank you for the blessings of this day and everyday. AMEN."
May you be blessed each day,
The Lord of the Dance
Extinguish your candle.
Close the Bible
Go in peace, rejoicing in your union with the divine.