Sunday Worship Service, March 1, 2009

Weeping From The Sound Of An Angel’s Voice

It’s really kind of strange to me that our current economic problems are essentially psychological, or perhaps better said,,,,,,,,psycho-spiritual.

As the editor of Newsweek rightly puts it:“……..how to bring a country enveloped in a gloom to a psychological place where people can somehow endure or even overcome the deluge of bad news and the disappearance  of wealth in order to restore faith in markets and in politics.”  He goes on to say,,,,,”for without that faith—–without confidence that institutions are unlikely to fail us and without the  belief that spending and investing are wise—–then we will face a compounding crisis of paralysis.”

It’s all about just doing things.  About working and trusting that others will work.  If we all sit on our porches and DO NOTHING,,,,,,we all starve to death.

Do you get the picture of people moving and doing, without excessive fear and mistrust, that is the basis of our whole economy and world?

I would like to address a major underlying, though often unseen, cause of this gloom that threatens our world today.

More and that later.

LIGHTING OF THE FOUR CANDLES
Besides lighting the altar candles,

(which represent the heat and light of the Lord)

  1. We light this first candle to honor the GOOD and TRUTH to be found in all spiritual traditions, including our own which is a restated  Christianity in the Swedenborgian perspective.
  2. We light this second candle to honor the earth and all of life as the creation of the Divine—the one Lord and God of us all.
  3. We light this third candle to honor and support the variety of individual paths which, together, make our one spiritual community.

4. And finally we light this fourth candle to honor and provide an open and                                                                   safe place for all who seek greater understanding and a life of deepening spirituality.

OPENING PRAYER

Lord, when we are born, we are soooooo soft and open——–sooooo tender and vulnerable.  We know and feel things all over our little body and minds……..esp. when another is loving us, and we are loving them too.  The kingdom of childhood is soooooo much the kingdom of the heart loving as it can.But we are not wise in our hearts Lord.  That comes much later.  And sometimes it comes as a result of loosing our ability to feel……….to truly feel love and warmth inside us.  That loss propels us often on a quest………a journey to truly love and be loved in return.  And when we find our hearts a second time, we then love from mercy and much more wisely!

Lord, give us that wisdom that true, real love demands, so our hearts will rest easyand peaceful at the end of the day, and the end of our earth life as well.

Let us love passionately, but let us also love with wisdom that shines like the morning star.

Amen

Prayers and concerns for others or self.

SCRIPTURE READING:  I Samuel: 24: 1-12 & 16 ; John 10: 27-30

READING FROM SWEDENBORG: Heaven and Hell, paragraph 238

Because the speech of angels corresponds to their affection, which is of love, and the love of heaven is love to the Lord and love towards the neighbour (see above, n. 13-19), it is evident how choice and delightful their talk is. For it affects not only the ears but also the interiors of the mind of those who hear it. There was a certain hard-hearted spirit with whom an angel was speaking. At length he was so much affected by what was said that he shed tears, saying that he had never wept before, but he could not help doing so, for it was love speaking.

MESSAGE

Weeping From The Sound Of An Angel’s Voice

“There was a certain hard-hearted spirit with whom an angel spoke.  At length he was so affected by what was said, that he shed tears, saying that he had never wept before, but he couldn’t help it, for it was love speaking.”
In the book of psalms, number 95, it is written: “today if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”

How are you affected when someone is speaking to you?

Obviously it depends on what the person says.

And, certainly we can wonder what an angel said to a hard-hearted spirit that made him cry.

But even more importantly it depends on the tone or the way something is said.

A phrase like, “I’m glad to see you,” can affect us very deeply when it is said in a way that tells us it is really meant.

And when that happens, the tone doesn’t just hit the ears; it touches the heart; it stirs honest feeling in us.

Lovers know all about these kinds of things!  Oh how they can speak to each other!!!!
Now beside the content and beside the tone, when someone speaks to you, there’s also the context of your relationship.

If there is something going on between you and the person who speaks to you, that can affect how things are said and heard.

What if it’s a person who has treated you very badly?

Or, what if it’s a person who YOU have treated very badly?

Think of the context when King Saul heard the voice of David——and wept!

David had been completely loyal to Saul.  He had served him faithfully; he even played the harp when Saul was troubled with evil spirits.

And, then, we see Saul actually on a mission with 3000 men to kill David!

Wow!  A very complicated relationship!

And then we see David,

    in the recesses of a cave,

who, unbeknownst to Saul who’d gone in that cave to relieve himself,  then cuts off part of Saul’s garment to prove that he would not harm Saul, even if he easily could have killed him!

When Saul emerged from that cave, he heard a voice and then saw David holding up that piece of garment.   And then David made a pleading speech, showing that he would NEVER harm the Lord’s anointed.

And that ruthless King, that hard-hearted Saul said, as if some great light came in on his heart, “is this YOUR voice my son, David”?    And he wept.
Saul was a hard man; his heart had been hardened a long time.  He was plagued with suspicions about the motives of other people.  Imagining that others intended him harm, he was blind and he was deaf to the good intentions in other people.

His hardened heart made it so he could no longer see and he especially could not HEAR the lives of others around or near him.

What a common problem this is for almost all human beings as they go along in life.  They become callous; cynical; and then when the mind ultimately follows the heart as it always does eventually…….they become unbelieving.

But it all begins with that hardening of the heart.

Now, let’s make a small shift here.

If we can handle it, the Lord’s intentions for us are completely loving and merciful!  Can you hear that?

Remember the psalm: “Today—— if you will hear his voice, do not harden your heart.”

And notice the “if” there.  IF you will hear his voice—do not harden your hearts!

There is a passage in one of Swedenborg’s books called the Arcana, paragraph 904, where it says the Lord is talking to everybody, all the time……..all the time through our affections and feelings,,,,,,trying to lead us to higher ground; higher perceptions of the true nature of life and love!

And to understand this it might be helpful to compare the circumstance when a mother, love incarnate, is talking to her baby.

What does she say?  Does she impart information to the baby?   Does she outline to the baby a course of action?

Isn’t she saying: “I’m here.”

Isn’t she saying: “I love you.”

Isn’t she saying: “You’re safe now.”

Isn’t she saying: “I will care for you and I will be WITH you, present with you tenderly——–and in a oneness that is the very essence of being alive.”

The Lord’s presence with us………..He is always present with us!

When I was 18 years old, I had double quincy.  That is a form of tonsillitis that is so bad you can’t even open your mouth.  I was very ill.  But this chaplain came in who obviously knew I was very ill and could not speak.

He just sat there silent……..completely silent for about 10 minutes.  My back was to him but I could FEEL his presence there….it was like a kind of warmth.  He was just present with me.

And the Lord is ALWAYS PRESENT with each and every one of us ALL THE TIME, but if we are hard hearted, we may not hear His voice or feel His presence.  A key question for any spiritual journey is: how can we become very soft inside and still walk in this world?

Let’s return to that hard-hearted spirit to whom an angel was speaking.

What makes people hard-hearted, for indeed, some people are that way.

Perhaps you can remember in your high school days——-were there some pretty tough characters you knew back then?   I certainly did in the slum like conditions of Chicago!!  They scared the heck out of me!

Sometimes when you find out what kind of childhood they’ve had, you stop asking why they’re so tough and start wondering how they managed to be anything approaching normal!  Life can be so cruel to the young and tender hearted children of this world!!

There are cases in which the causes of a person being unfeeling go back beyond what the person can remember.

Traumatic births or early sibling rivalry for example, let alone just that simple but devastating feeling of simply not being loved.

And maybe A LOT of anger, resulting from that feeling.  So much can make us so unsoft and so unfeeling.  In this world, it’s more the norm than the exception.

The incident of the hard-hearted spirit, spoken to by an angel, is mentioned in the book Heaven and Hell as we read a moment ago.

But it is also mentioned, the same incident, but differently, in the Arcana.

And here is what it says there: “I (Swedenborg) have spoken with a certain person who died when an infant and yet when I was speaking to him in the spiritual world he was as an adult.  This same person who died as an infant but grew up to adulthood in the spiritual world also spoke with his brother who had died in adult age, and spoke with him with so much brotherly love that his brother could not refrain from tears, saying that “it was love itself that was speaking.”

Now, notice we learn two, striking things there.

  • One, the angel who spoke, as if it were love speaking, had died when he was a baby.
  • The other is that he was actually the baby brother of that hard-hearted man.

It’s not too difficult to imagine the problem, a very common problem, in the household of those two brothers!

The older brother resented his infant sibling, which made him a defiant and angry youth!

And this made it hard for his parents to be loving toward him.  And since the parents were expressing less love then, he became more defiant and, of course, harder to love.  Can’t you just feel the older brother’s heart hardening?

But the baby was loved.  And there was the older boy grinding his teeth as he witnessed that baby getting the love he needed sooooo desperately.  Without doubt, he thought of himself as someone deprived of love and the cause was that baby.

And was the problem solved, when the little baby died?

Of course it wasn’t?

The grieving of the parents for the lost brother angered the older brother even more.   EVEN IN DEATH that little intruder was taking the love away.
Now, we don’t know how long it was between the deaths of those two brothers.  We do know that they meet in the spiritual world.

And when the older brother knew, after he arrived in the spiritual world, that he was in the presence of his younger sibling, the feelings must have flooded back..

And if those feelings could be articulated in words by that hard hearted older brother, they might be something like: “you took everything.  You took all the love; how I’d like to take it back from you.”

And the answer that came back to him, although expressed soooooo tenderly and gently, must have had the power of thunder in the emotions of the older brother.

You see…….an angel, and particularly an angel who died in infancy, has the characteristic of sincerely wanting to give ALL that he has.

It really is!  As the angels told Swedenborg: “to give the other everything and to retain nothing.”

And so, picture the angel saying to his older brother: “you want to take it all; well I want to give it to you………take it…….take all of it!”
And then comes the clincher: that incident is mentioned in other places more than once.  And one of those places relates that, at this very emotional scene between the two brothers where the younger brother speaks and the hard hearted brother breaks down and cries——at this scene the parents were present…….his mother was there…….his father was there.
Then Swedenborg, at close hand, relates what he witnessed next.    The parents were previously unable to love him enough……..but at this meeting their hearts just meltedddddd and they loved him very tenderly and warmly as he wept deeply in their arms.  Oh the power of heaven to melt hardened hearts.   Oh the thawing that can occur from the inside out.

The parents of these boys are people whose faith, whose perception, made them whole: they could love with all their hearts.
We have considered an example of extremes in hardness of heart and the consequences that come from that hardness.

Hardness of heart is the OPPOSITE of faith.   Faith is, quite simply, living perception that God is and something of WHAT God is.

So now we come full circle: If everyone’s faith in the world was basically on tract, we would not have, nor could we ever have, the economic problems we now have.

Let this be an occasion for us to reflect on ways that our hearts are not receptive to the good that the Lord is speaking to us all the time so that He may lift us up……that we may hear His voice saying, as the prophet declared:

“I will give you a new heart.  And put a new spirit within you.  I will remove from you your heart of stone, and I will give you a heart of flesh.”

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