Sunday Sermon, June 4, 2011

Lay-led Sermon by Suzy Gardner

Opening prayer:
Lord, guide us and give us the strength to live as you would have us live.  Let us find wisdom in the words of others, even if we cannot accept them on a personal level, and help us to see an opportunity for enlightenment in all of our encounters.  Open our eyes to see others in need, and give us the courage to use the talents and gifts You have given us to be of service to others—and by extension, to be of service to You.  Open our eyes that we may see our blessings as clearly as our sorrows, as we now lift both to you…Amen.

Lighting of the candles:
We light the 1st candle to honor the goodness and truth in all religions and spiritual paths, including our own, a Christianity advanced by and enlightened by the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg;
We light the 2nd candle to honor the Earth and all that is in it as God’s beautiful creation;
We light the 3rd candle to honor all of our individual paths, which together make up our one blessed spiritual community;
We light the 4th candle to honor this church as a safe and secure place for all who seek spiritual enlightenment and desire a closer relationship with God

Bible Passage:
Psalm 118:24
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it!

“Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about his religion.
Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light,
for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.
When your time comes to die,
be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death,
so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time
to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.”
–Chief Tecumseh

I’ve often thought that some non-Christians actually embody the spirit of Christianity better than some Christians do!  I find Tecumseh’s quote to be not only of a Christian spirit, but actually quite Swedenborgian.

“Trouble no one about his religion.
Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.”

“Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.”
One of the biggest attractions to this church for me was the respect shown to other religions and spiritual traditions.  As Emanuel Swedenborg said, “No one who loves God and lives well is damned.”  To accept differing spiritual views—and to still accept and love those who hold them—is a bold statement of faith.  I’ve long felt that people who can’t stand to even listen to other views must be somewhat weak in their own faith, as if they fear that hearing something contrary to their own beliefs will somehow change their minds.  Maybe it’s because they have so blindly accepted their spiritual teachings, without really having a personal investment in them.  Maybe they’re afraid that they’ll discover that they’ve been “wrong” all these years, and don’t want to have to deal with that.  People of strong faith can not only listen to dissenting views without fear of “being led down the wrong path” or “being proven wrong,” but they can accept and respect the other person’s right to these views, and grow in spiritual understanding for having experienced it.

“Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.”
“Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.”
Swedenborg teaches that Heaven is a spiritual extension of our Earthly lives, and that our experience of Heaven—or of hell—is built on what we love and value in this life.  It stands to reason that if we create beauty and harmony and goodness in our lives, our afterlives will contain all that and more.  “Usefulness” is also a Swedenborgian concept; as stated in the Arcana Celestia, “Real worship of God consists in performing uses.”  Being of service to our fellow man—our “people”–keeps the vision of our spirit on Heaven, rather than hell.

“When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light,
for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.”
Gratitude for our many blessings is seen by Swedenborg to be essential for our spiritual well-being, as evidenced by this quite from the Arcana Celestia:
“The Lord does, indeed, require humility, worship, thanksgiving, and many other things from us. This might seem like repayment, so that the Lord’s gifts do not seem to be free. But the Lord does not require these things for his own sake…Rather, they are required for our sake. If we are humble, we can accept goodness from the Lord, since we have been separated from selfishness and the evil things that go with it, which stand in the way of our accepting the Lord’s goodness.”

It is difficult for us, as imperfect, fallible human beings, to remember to always be respectful, kind and thankful.  Other people anger and frustrate us; we may feel too self-indulgent to be of service to others, or not know how to offer our services; we often dwell on our sorrows more so than our blessings, and therefore don’t feel as blessed as we are.  We would do well to remember the words of a wise Shawnee chieftain, whose spiritual view is so in tune with Emanuel Swedenborg’s—and our own.

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