Guest Minister, Rev. Catherine Lauber, from Ontario, Canada, gave our Service.
“As I was preparing the message for today, I hard time figuring out just where to start.
There seems to be so much going on today, with the start of the new Church year, the First Sunday of Advent, and we will be sharing in Communion sacrament, all very important events. And our readings are pointing to realities or events at different points in time and in different forms. Jeremiah is prophesying the Lord’s coming in the flesh, at a time before the birth of Christ (which relates to the season of Advent)…. and the passage from Luke, the Lord Himself is foretelling the Second Coming while we, at this time of year, are preparing for the birth of Christ, which has already happened, and yet is still to come.
And then, Swedenborg throwing in some levels there, and the correspondence of the different natural elements, relating to the different spiritual ones.
And I had a hard time trying to fit these multi-dimensional, multi-temporal, multi-correspondential concepts together.
I don’t know about you all, if you’re feeling the same way. Maybe?
I’ve had more time to reflect on these readings, and this season of the year. But we’re really being asked to engage on multiple levels this morning. All of us are.
But it’s my role, in this moment to try and help us all to try and make sense of this all, and maybe figure out, What does this all mean for us today? Well, as I often do when when I seem to be a little lost with whatever it is that I am doing, I went back to scripture. And the words
“Then he told them a parable;”
jumped out at me. Jesus is speaking not just to the disciples, but he’s speaking at the temple, to anyone who will hear him. And the whole first half of this chapter (21), Jesus is basically saying the temple will be destroyed, and that there will be earthquakes, and nation will rise against nation – and there will be the signs, “signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars, and on the earth distress…” He’s preaching a lot of the same stuff that Jeremiah was saying centuries before, that landed that prophet in jail by the religious leaders. Because they didn’t want him upsetting people. And here’s Jesus, now, telling everyone to beware, things are going to get
It’s an important message that Jesus Jesus knows that the people and the disciples do not understand what he’s talking about. Will the temple physically be destroyed, will the sun darken and the moon and stars fall from the sky? (Scary stuff. Very unsettling.) What in the world are you talking about?
Well, to help people understand, and to relate, maybe on a different level, Jesus, tells a parable about a fig tree.
“Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”
When I reread this passage, this suggests to me, that by the time that the the signs of growth, or sprouting, or change if you will….are recognized, Summer is already here…..new life is already on it’s way. The kingdom of God is already near.The new life, or the transforming power, that is needed to sprout the leaves of the fig tree, or bring heaven in closer, is already a reality. The signs that are now appearing in physical form, are a reflection of a spiritual reality that already exists.
That is….incredibly hopeful to me, and actually brought some level of calm to my sermon writing process, but is also a really important concept for anyone engaged in a regeneration endeavour, or spiritual growth journey. The signs that are now appearing in physical form, are a reflection of a spiritual reality that already exists.
“When you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near”
Words of hope…….from Jesus himself. Using a simple, and short parable to make His point.
And the parable has significance. Here Jesus introduces the trees (which are symbols for the human being) and he specifically mentions the fig trees. The fig tree, as Swedenborg suggests, symbolizes goodness that is earthly, the type of goodness found in the lowest heaven. Earthly goodness is found in the lowest heaven.
Again, we have a concept that is crossing over between states of existence – the physical and the spiritual, between the earthy and the heavenly. And yet, they’re connected. Earthly goodness….is found in the lowest heaven. How does that work.
The passage begins, “The three levels on which the heavens exist, and therefore on which the human mind exists….”
As a psychotherapist I love this concept, that heaven is found within the human mind. The question of ‘what is the mind?’ is an open and debated one within the world of psychology. There is an understanding that the mind is something different from the brain, and yet is related to the physical functioning of the brain and nervous system, and is also often considered the seat of consciousness – but consciousness is a big question, which also has a couple of levels of understanding attached to it. So, the question of what is the mind is still a pretty open question.
Swedenborg suggests that the mind exists on a higher plane of existence than the physical body, and acts as a mediator between the body and the soul. I think if Psychology could accept a level of spiritual understanding, then this theory of the mind could be easily integrated into the science. But, ES suggests that the mind is made up of both earthly substances and spiritual substances. And so the mind exists, in part, in the spiritual world. While existing in, and being embodied in, the physical world. And, the three levels of heaven relate to the three levels of the human mind, or different levels of consciousness.
This is why we can understand, Our regeneration is a process of engaging with those levels, expanding our consciousness, or growing the church within, and opening up the higher levels of the mind, connecting with the higher levels of heaven, and thus allowing even more Divine Love and Divine Wisdom to enter in.
Like the fig tree, and it’s tender branches sprouting leaves, when we are
regenerating, we are entering into a new state of spiritual awareness, a New Church in Swedenborgian terms, and there is a physical expression of that new state. And often that physical expression of the new spiritual state, is either uncomfortable for us, because we’re breaking a long-held pattern of behaviour or habit, or reactive way of engaging with others…..Or, that physical expression of our new spiritual state, is uncomfortable for others. Sometimes our change disrupts the comfortable
world of those around us, and all of our actions have consequences. And
sometimes consequences can rock our world.
“….and on the earth, distress among nations confused by the roaring of the sea and the waves. People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” Luke 21:2-26
Change can often feel this way. The transformation of the spirit can shake loose some of our more selfish natures, and can challenge the Ego, which….you know, the ego just wants to do what it deems best for us, but it doesn’t operate at a moral level, we need the higher functionings of the heart and mind to help us grow and mature spiritually. And the Ego will follow along, but when we’re in those first stages of a new spiritual awareness or awakening, it can be scary for the Ego and fainting and foreboding of what is coming in not an unreasonable response.
Which is why it is often said, Faith requires courage. It’s the courage to face ourselves, to sit with the uncomfortableness; the courage to accept the immediate and often reactive consequences of our changed actions; and the courage to trust in God, to have faith, and to hold on to the HOPE of the greater benefit, the higher Good, which connects us to God and to heaven.
And so, at this time of year, when we are thinking about the birth of Christ and what that means not only for the world, but what that means for us, Let us remember that we work to prepare the way for the Lord to be born within us, within our own hearts and minds, bringing in the Divine Love Divine Wisdom, into the highest levels of our minds that are open to receive, And be in awe a the fact that this process and this connecting heaven and earth, is through the human mind. That earthly goodness is
found in the lowest heaven. And that Christ our Lord came to show us the way.