Hope: 1st Sunday of Advent, Sermon

Advent Message from Rev. Catherine Lauber

“The Lord’s advent is only with those who receive Him, who….believe in Him and do His commandments….The advent of the Lord is with those who conjoin heat to the light”  TCR 774

So….how do we….in our time of waiting (during this Season of Advent)….conjoin heat to the light….and thus receive the Lord?

Our Scriptures this morning are pointing us in the direction of action, of movement, and of change.  We are reminded that “in days to come,” so at a time when there will be a change of internal state, “the Lord’s house will be established as the highest mountain.”  The imagery in this passage, speaks to an elevation, a movement upwards, and a transition where people will flock to the mountain, and rise up it, to receive wisdom.  And, having received that wisdom, the people will make a dramatic change in the way that they have been living, and in the way they have been perceiving the world around them and determining what is of importance.

Isaiah declares, “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”  Obviously, at some point in the past it was important to the people, that they fashion swords and spears.  Sometimes there is a need to protect that which is innocent, or new.  That which is just beginning to emerge and flourish into something amazing.  But today we are looking to “the days to come” and through an active movement up the mountain to receive the Word of the Lord from Jerusalem, the people are inspired to take action and shift their perspective of what is important to them now. “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.”  That’s a major transformation of resources, shifting from the manufacture of weapons, to utilizing the same materials as instruments of development, and growth.  A plowshare is the cutting edge of a plow.  It is sharp and it follows behind the spikes of the plow that first break the ground.  The job of the plowshare is to enter the cleft of the earth that has already been made, and then to turn the soil over, and get it ready for planting.  So a plowshare is used in the preparation stage — it is a necessary step in order prepare the ground for growth…it’s not the growth….but the chances of successful growth are diminished if this step is missed.

A pruning hook.  Also a sharp blade, used for pruning small trees – cutting off dead parts or cutting back certain growth in order that the plant will be able to flourish.  Again, it is a step in the growth process which allows for growth and change to happen in the most healthy and productive way.

The people, moving up the mounting, rising in wisdom and conscious awareness, will be so motivated by an affection for the truth that they are learning, that they shift their focus from a place of fear and the need for protection, to a place a hope and a desire to create, to grow and to fashion something new.  And the affection, which is the heat that is conjoined to the light, is the motivating force that fuels the change and allows for the shift in perspective to take place.  “The Advent of the Lord is with those who conjoin heat to the light.”

But, there is another aspect to this process and our Gospel passage today highlights the importance of being ready.

The Lord himself tells us in the Scriptures,

Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.  24:42

He then tells a parable.  Two will be in the field —— the field corresponds to doctrine…..it is the working foundation for the growth of the spiritual life.  The field receives the seed, and it is nurtured and watered, and germinates in a supported environment so that it can grow into it’s full potential.  So it is with us…we work our field, and we learn and we study, and we surround ourselves with wise and kind people so that we can grow in our faith and become a more conscious and spiritually aware individual.

“One becomes spiritual by the light preceding from the Lord as a sun, which one receives in the understanding.”  TCR 774

And as two are working in the field, under the light of the sun, one will be taken and one will be left.  Two who are receiving doctrine and learning and studying and receiving all the information about a life of faith and what it means to be a person of faith and to live a good life.  But one is taken and one is left.  So, what’s the difference in those working in the field?

“The advent of the Lord is with those who conjoin heat to the light.” 

Conjoining, or adding heat to the light, is like taking the information or the prescription or standard operating manual that we have been given, and charging it up with emotion and the power of experience.  Swedenborg says, “The heat is an affection for good, and when we add heat to light, we move from obedience” – obedience to the facts, patterns, and prescriptions of our doctrine and our life and faith, – and we move into “an affection for the life of faith”, based on our understanding of the doctrine.  There is now an emotional connection behind the decisions that we make and the actions that we take.  And we are strengthening our power centre, by making conscious and informed choices about what we value and how we are going to live out our values on a day-to-day, choice-by-choice basis.

Transformation comes about when we apply our wisdom to an actual experience in life and in relationships.  So for example, if we are having an argument with a loved one, and we know that this is going end in a distance between the two of us because that’s our pattern, and this is how our ego’s interact during an argument.  But what if, in the middle of that argument we pause….in a moment of anger or frustration we pause, and we consciously choose a response of compassion or forgiveness, or simply non-aggression.…in this one moment.  And in doing so, we change the course of the argument, and we now experience the changed relationship.

Rather than perpetuating an argument, we’ve managed to diffuse an escalating situation, and we can feel not only the relief that that brings for us, but also feel that reestablished connection with another human being.  And it’s a connection based on love and respect and compassion.

That is the source of the heat, that we conjoin with the light.  Wisdom tells us to be respectful when we disagree, and to be kind when we argue – but in the ‘heat’ of the moment (and notice that common phrase….we use ‘in the heat of the moment’ to suggest a time when emotions are running high and when we are out of control, and that in the heat of the moment, ‘I behaved badly’).

But, our lesson today is asking us to take that heat, take that emotional energy, and use it for good…not for evil.  Conjoin that heat to the light of the wisdom we have learned, and experience the changed relationship that has now been created.  And when we experience that change, and connect relationally even more deeply, we begin to develop a love or an affection for the good can be created through our conscious, faithful actions.  And this, my friends, is the Advent of the Lord into our own hearts and minds, and through us, spreading out to touch our relationships, our communities, and our world.

“The Lord’s advent is only with those who receive Him, who….believe in Him and do His commandments….The advent of the Lord is with those who conjoin heat to the light”

In this season of Advent, as we engage in our waiting, let us also keep watch.  Let us be active in our waiting, and embrace the opportunities that we will have, to conjoin the heat to the light….to add the emotion to the wisdom, and in so doing transform our relationships, embrace the spiritual path and engage the process of regeneration.

May your Advent Season be blessed as you wait in Hope and in Love for the coming of our Lord.

Amen.

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