#WeekendPlans: Annual Mtg. & 1st Sunday of #Advent (Hope)

Join us at 11:00 am (10:30 am for hospitality) this Sunday, November 29th, via Zoom church, as we celebrate the first week of Advent with a service centered around the theme of hope.

This is also the Sunday of our Annual Meeting. During this time, we welcome new members, evaluate how our year has gone, plan for the future, elect new New Church of Montgomery Board members, and commit to giving something of ourselves to the church, whether it be time, talent or treasure.

Lay-leader Gloria Toot will present our service for this “Hope Sunday”. Please join us.

Candle Burning

Harvest Feast Reimagined: 11/15/20

This Sunday, 11/15/20, join us for church with Rev. Dr. Sherrie Connelly, over zoom. Her message is “Grateful For Our Gifts”

Gather at 10:30 am for conversation, and 11:00 am for the Worship Service. We will have our service and then afterwards, attendees can eat a piece of pie or whatever treat they would like, while we reflect on our “Gifts.”

This would have typically been the weekend of our Harvest Feast. In lieu of sharing a meal together, please send a check to the church for whatever amount you would’ve spent on your contribution to the Harvest meal, and New Church of Montgomery will match that and make a donation to the Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati.

Thank you for sharing your gifts with others.

#WeekendPlans: Zoom Church 9/6 “Between the Rivers”

The Title of 9/6’s service delivered by Lay-leader, Pete Toot, is “Between the Rivers,” and is a follow-up to Rev. Renee Machiniak’s Service last Sunday. Between the Red Sea and the Jordan we wander. This Sunday we will look at some of the happenings on the journey of the Israelites and what they mean to us on our journey. We will explore the why of the Ten Commandments, and the tension between following the law and following our heart, and what it means to symbolically take 40 years to bring them together.

Photo by Stevan Aksentijevic on Pexels.com

#VirtualChurch this Sunday, May 3, 2020

Please join us for a Zoom Worship Service this Sunday at 11:00 am. Gloria Toot will be delivering our service.

It is entitled, “When Thoughts and Prayers Don’t Matter (and when they do.)

Please email newchurchofmontgomery@gmail.com for the zoom login.


9/29 Sermon: “Listen to the World! – Revelation 1.0”

SERMON, by Pete Toot


Today we will be exploring the realm of creation we are most familiar with – the natural universe – the universe we see around us, that we live in day to day, that is fairly stable and doesn’t change much or quickly because of things we do.  This theme anticipates two things that are coming up, the Feast of St. Francis – celebrated officially on October 3rd – next Friday, and the Ohio Association meetings coming up next weekend, where the title is “Caring for Creation”.  Our worship theme introduces us to ideas common to both those, and especially leads into our Blessing of the Animals, which later in the service today.  So we’ll get things moving here and start our explorations momentarily.



Revelation is tricky.  God probably doesn’t think it’s tricky, but since the ways of the Lord are usually pretty obscure to us, human beings certainly do not come to an agreement about what is and what is not revelation, or whether it exists at all.  But we can simplify this discussion considerably.  First we will limit the topic to a Christian perspective – that we have a God who has a message for human beings and it involves Scripture, in our case the Bible.  I don’t think there is a church that disagrees with the idea that God had a great deal to do with what is in the Bible, though there is a lot of difference in what parts of the Bible serve this purpose, and how they got that way, and what we are supposed to do with them.  


Some 300 years after the life of Jesus on earth, the established church made the serious decisions about what writings are part of what is called the canon.  The canon is the bible we see today.  That left a lot of things out that even today theologians wonder if they didn’t take out too much or too little.  There are several different recognized bible versions in existence today that include or exclude some books.  But we won’t go very far in that direction.  In a revelation discussion there are a few key words that stand out as important.  I will give you three: Revelation, Inspiration, and Illumination.  All three have religious meanings.  This will get all on the same page – I hope.  There is no quiz.


Revelation: Revelation is the word of God as it is delivered by communication to persons.  It comes in two flavors, General Revelation, which we will get into in some depth later on, and Direct Revelation.  Direct Revelation is by words, visions, dreams, or face-to-face meetings and there are no middle-men, no messengers involved – just God and human beings.  Examples of Direct Revelation are God instructing Adam in the Garden of Eden, and God giving Moses the Ten Commandments.  The God-side of the conversation – the words, visions, dreams, etc., are infallible (the absolute Truth by definition), but you may not always be able to count on their reception to be accurate.  Or, it is admitted, God is not the only one out there communicating like that, so be careful what you hear, it could be angels or evil spirits, too.  There are several accounts of angels delivering messages, like to women informing them of their upcoming motherhood; and there is the account of the devil speaking to Jesus in the wilderness, just to name a couple of many. Nevertheless, this kind of thing is Direct Revelation if God is doing the communicating, and it’s the Truth, regardless of whether or not we can figure it out.


Inspiration: Inspiration, in particular Divine Inspiration, is what the Holy Spirit does so that the receiver can recommunicate the Truth to other people without losing it.  It is this that makes the Bible able to speak God’s words to those of us who didn’t get the message first-hand.  How this works is through what we call Divine Providence, whereby He can arrange for a person or persons to grow up with the attitude, skills, and inclination to receive the communication accurately and pass it along without adding in opinion, distortions, or other influences not intended by God.  These communicators are groomed by God to deliver the message in certain ways to obtain particular ends.  We call these people Prophets and Seers.  However, in Scripture, while the message they write down is indeed the Truth, it may not be in the style or context that is meant for everyone else to understand, and though they are God’s words, we may still not get the message if it is targeted to a different reader, or if we aren’t inclined to listen.


Lastly there is Illumination, literally shedding light on something.  In church-speak Illumination is what happens in the readers of Scripture that allows them to understand and believe passages that they need to hear.  When that happens, it may seem like God is speaking to them, but technically it is not a new revelation, it an old one now open to them.  I don’t know how universal this thinking is, but using this definition, we do not risk getting a swelled head thinking God has picked us out as special and is giving us original stuff.  But that may be a doctrinal viewpoint to help keep pride in check.


Those are the definitions.  Revelation is communication to man.  Inspiration is preparation of the receivers to prevent truth from being corrupted; and illumination is opening the final reader to an understanding related to the immediate need.  


Before I talk about General Revelation, a word about how our denomination understands Revelation.  To be clear, Swedenborgians do not all agree – no great surprise there.  One thing Swedenborg would say is that only certain books of the Bible are divinely inspired, those that have an inner meaning that is understandable only to the reader searching for it.  (I included notes on the back of the Readings insert where he addresses this.)  Swedenborg saw himself as chosen to be a receiver of Direct Revelation, but not as a perfect communicator of it.  And he would claim much of what he wrote is not Direct Revelation from the Lord, but what he was told by angels and spirits and what he was permitted to observe during the period where his senses were open to the spiritual realm. Also, he would say that we as receivers of Scripture can, and should, be looking for the inner meaning to aid us in our spiritual growth and understanding, and he offers as much help as he can, where he felt he could.  Nevertheless, he tells us that we are not to accept his teachings because he says they contain truths, but because we have found his lessons to make sense in our lives.  Meanwhile, revelation via Scripture is very valuable to us as we strive to build a good relationship with God, and the parts that speak to us can be illuminated when appropriate, to the extent we are open to receiving them, and that interchange is between us and God.  Intermediaries like Bible study guides, Bible school, and spiritual advisors can be very helpful, too, but are not a requirement.  It is also important that we can go to Scripture to look for God because it is easy.  It is available in English, familiar to us.  It speaks our language, whatever our language is.  That’s its disadvantage too – it’s a limitation to try to squeeze immense meanings into words than cannot hold them all.


But fortunately, God is not limited to reaching people by any particular vehicle of revelation.  Regardless of what devout Christians may sometimes perceive, God doesn’t choose certain people he wants to bring into heaven, so She will use all possible ways to give the invitation to all people, all the time, whether they want to listen or not.

So, on to General Revelation.  General Revelation is revelation available to everyone, sometimes called Natural Revelation.  It the communication of knowledge about God and spiritual things that can be discovered through observing creation, and the workings of the universe and our world.  So, when I titled this message “Listen to the World! – Revelation 1.0” I was restating that idea –that we should look to the creation itself for knowledge about God and spiritual things, and as this knowledge is embedded in creation from the very beginning, before Scripture was ever seen by man, it is indeed Version 1.0.  God does not have to lead us to find the Bible or the Quran or the other sacred texts – tough work we are – we are stubborn and resistant creatures.  And I’m not advocating avoiding Scripture by any stretch of the imagination.  But nature is right there before us – it is difficult to avoid it, and at least some of the messages there are obvious to one who looks for them.


[reference to today’s reading from Job 12: 1-12] In the reading from Job 12, Job says much the same thing.  Even though he “called God and [God] answered, [and Job] is innocent and blameless”, he is a joke to his friends.  Have you seen or experienced this kind of behavior yourself?  He goes on rather sarcastically to describe people’s response to God, then says “ask the beasts … the birds … the fish”.  “Talk to earth”, for they all know that the Lord’s hand made them.  What will the earth say?  The earth cannot help but bear the signature of God in every part.   [reference to 1 Corinthians 15:35-39 & 42-46] In the reading from 1 Corinthians we hear more about the correspondence between the natural and the spiritual.  Paul uses the term “resurrection of the dead” as he describes how the transition between the two realms are experienced by us, “the physical body comes first, not the spiritual one – the spiritual body comes later.”  He speaks of the natural and spiritual being sequential, but as he talks about the seed, he says essentially that it has the potential to be raised to a form much more wonderful.  That’s us he is talking about.  He speaks of humans, animals, birds, and fish each having their own kind of flesh, their own place in the natural world, and each illustrating spiritual principles that are embedded in all creation, here and beyond – the idea that all living things grow and mature from simple things, barely alive, to creatures that all fit into one orderly creation.  Many places in Scripture the animal kingdom and the plant kingdom are used as lessons on growth.  But only man, who has the greatest potential of all, is stubborn, resistant, and inherently selfish.  Aren’t all creatures selfish?  Indeed, they are in physical sense, but it is their nature to survive, to be prey or predator, to procreate, to provide and protect their successors.  They can also be generous, and as we see in our domestic animals and pets, friendly, useful, and companionable.  They are also innocent.  They were never made to be able to reject goodness, though they also are not able to see what is good beyond the physical.  They are not made to accept Christ as Savior or even understand such a thing.  That is both our challenge and our blessing.  


[reference to Arcana Coelstia, n.6323] Swedenborg also writes of this in the reading we used today.  Not in the plainest language for us 21st century people, but clear enough when you get familiar with his vocabulary and style.  He starts right out saying let’s look at things in the natural world, (which we can see), that illustrate the spiritual world (which we do not see, or rarely see).  He talks about the animals, birds, and insects, who, just like us, who are filled with love and to varying extents can choose paths in their lives consistent with that love.  They fit into the grand design of the world.  Man has the potential to do that too, but also the ability to turn away from it.  We make  those kinds of choices.  We can learn or not, we can behave well or not.  We can discern the truth of ideas or not.  We can express love or not.  We are indeed, as Swedenborg says, “born into a contrary order.”  


One outcome of this is that revelation is of no concern to animals.  Yes, they can be taught new things, yes, they can be trained to behave well, but they do not need revelation for that, to achieve their potential, to become what they are created to become.  That’s good news for the other creatures – but what about us?  What can we do? In particular what can we be taught by observing nature, or by observing society, or by exchanging deep ideas with other people? I’ll stick to observing nature, and we can exchange deep ideas later as we like.  Here are some thoughts on the matter, following Swedenborg’s invitation to see where some natural things illustrate spiritual things.


The universe is an orderly place.  It obeys the laws of nature.  Not that we know them all, but the evidence is that chaos does not reign, one set of rules applies to the whole shebang, and always has.  That lines up with the theological idea that God is Order itself.  I am guessing here, but I suspect a God of Whimsy would not lead to such a neat result.  Perhaps a committee of gods would?  I have imagined that those would be pretty small gods, maybe we could call them yes-gods – gods created in our image perhaps, and if they are anything like us at all, there still has to be a blueprint or committee charter to lead to total order.  I find the idea of multiple gods to not be in the evidence offered by an examination of creation.  So I see here two possible messages that I think are comforting –first, there is One organizing principle for all of creation – we call this God, One God and that one organizing principle is indeed very organized.  Perhaps even strict.  Have you ever tried to disobey a law of nature?  Like gravity?  It would also be awkward.  We do not need to choose between multiple gods to try to build a relationship with or an allegiance to.  We do that in effect by putting other things before God without any need to label them as gods.  The second message is that any approach to make changes in our lives, is a stable process – it has unchanging rules like the rest of the universe, whether we grasp them or not.  So those two ideas are big messages that are consistent with how we understand Scripture, and for that matter consistent with many sacred texts. They may enough, but wait there’s more.  Stick with me – this is good stuff, and not too long.


What else?  How about the idea that all living things start out small, dumb, and simple and then they grow up?  Can we then be confident that we are also meant to grow up?  Well, we do grow up physically.  We also grow in knowledge, hopefully in responsibility, possibly in social skills, in making decisions on what is important to us.  So, I see a lesson here that as creatures with conscience, we can grow in the direction of increasing understanding and goodness.  That is again consistent with Scripture – the idea that we are created for heaven and can get there as long as we pay attention to our moral compass, and we do the work.  


What else?  We look at the world and see that everything is connected to everything else.  Not just are there rules for each thing, there are rules to make sure each thing affects everything it touches, and as one thing touches the next, everything gets connected.  Our thoroughly inter-connected environment is therefore very interactive.  There is sunlight for all.  Plants compete for the sunlight to grow.  Grazers and gleaners compete with one another to feed on the edible plants.  Nesters and burrowers compete for space to live in trees, bushes, and fields.  Predators compete among themselves for prey.  Tiny livings things prepare the soil for plants.  Animals take in oxygen and breathe out carbon-dioxide.  Plants take in carbon-dioxide and breathe out oxygen.  Get the picture?  It is a huge system.  Herds cooperate to protect themselves from predators.  Packs of predators cooperate to capture enough food for their kind to survive.  These ways of life all fit together like puzzle pieces, each actor fulfilling the uses they are adapted to fulfill to make it all work together.  Are we connected?  We are, like it or not, though not always well-connected.  But we are human beings and not created to do that from birth, but only by choosing how we fit in.


What else? We’ll do one more.  Plants get their growing power from the sun.  Herbivores get their nourishment from the plants.  Carnivores get their food from the herbivores, and each other.  Man relies on the sun to tell time, to tell when to plant and harvest, and all living things rely on the sun to stay warm.  If there were no sun in the center of our solar system, there would be no physical life.  The analog is that we can understand the sun to be a correspondence of God – not God, but a representation of God – there would be no spiritual life (I would say any life) without God in our center.  The light and heat of the sun delivered to the earth are like the wisdom and love that enlightens our minds and warms our hearts.  The sun is also a great constant reminder that God is with us all the time.  Wisdom at one level – the fact of cosmic rules – is the same every morning.  Love at one level – the material presence of creation – is there every morning.  We take it for granted.


Actually, there are many many more passages written in nature.  These are just a few.  I summary…  One God, however one understands God; an orderly arrangement of all things natural and spiritual; growth as a universal life pattern, natural and spiritual; the interconnectedness of all things over space and time, above and below the firmament so to speak; and then reality of the power for life flowing from one center to everywhere around us and within us.  Maybe we can see that the revelation messages are not all that different.  They should be consistent, shouldn’t they?  It may be easier for some to look into nature than to look into Scripture.  For others it may be the other way around.  Here’s the rub – we are contrary creatures – if we seek answers, we may find them.  A risk for sure, we would not want to be jokes to our friends like Job was.  I say, let’s look anyway.


This exploration is just that, a look around, a wakeup call to see how the visible and invisible are intimately connected.  Scripture and nature can both guide us to the same place, what is this place???  It is the present point in space-time we each occupy – the here & now.  The past behind us, done and gone – the future before us, the next frontier, opportunity just waiting for us.  It is the present state of our love and understanding.  It’s where we are on our path in Life 1.0 – the life in the physical body – the one that comes first.  The one that we occupy just for a short time before we graduate to eternity. Some churches noting that we don’t know when our graduation will be would ask “Are you ready”.  Being one of the denominations that teaches improvement is an eternal process, we ask it differently: “Are you making progress or are you stuck?”  Today’s message has been an exploration of revelation, maybe a clue how to look for it, but not a recipe for dealing with it.  I think that ultimately the recipe is personal and resides in what revelation has to say to us.


A last word on the animals, the closest animals, the animals who we commune with as pets, or as creatures in our neighborhoods – our yards and ponds and birdfeeders.  Think about why we love them.  Even if sometimes they can be dangerous, one thing is sure – they are never out to save our souls or convert us.  They do not disagree with our ideas.  They may want to have something their way, however.  They can accept us as we are, and we can find peace and comfort in their nearness.  They can interact with us in many ways.  Some understand us pretty well, can detect our moods, can help us out, can be partners in family life or for life support or for specialists as career partners.  They too fit into the patterns we have talked about today.  


In many ways they model good behavior.  You may have heard the adage, perhaps it is a t-shirt or coffee mug slogan, “be the person your pet thinks you are”.  Why does that make sense?  Because they are not human beings that can conceive of a behavior that honors one person and puts down another, or that can see infirmities as defects, or that can make spiritual judgments about others.  They do not recognize those as possible places we can go and sometimes do.  It is nice they don’t judge us, and after all, those judgments we should make ourselves, about ourselves if we want to grow up to be who we are created to become.  Amen.


Last Week’s #Sermon: “What Did You Say”


Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Pexels.com

“What Did You Say”  Message for August 18, 2019.  Laity-led service by Pete Toot.


Today we are going to have a conversation.  I have several readings which we will use, but a portion of the service is going to be a dialogue.  I get to pose situations and you get to tell me what you think, or what you would do.  We are going to be dealing with how we handle offensive or disturbing statements that just pop up in the course of conversation, or in reading, like in sacred texts.

We’ll start with a well-known Bible story.  It is the story of Noah, but I’m not going to include the parts about Noah and his family, or the construction of the ark, but just focus on what God is trying to accomplish.  Genesis 6 reveals what God is saying about how poorly the people of the world turned out.  Does it disturb you that God is planning to murder everyone on Earth?  Well, let’s hear the story.

Genesis 6:5-7, 17-21, 7:21-22  read by a volunteer.

I put in the bold font in verse 17.  God says,  “I will bring a great flood of water on the earth. I will destroy all living things that live under heaven. Everything on the earth will die.”  This reading says plainly that God murders every living thing in the creation but for a few individuals and creatures.  The men and women, the children, babies, puppies, cattle, and so forth killed off.  But we see it as a simple story.  Are you shocked that a God of love can do such a thing?  Probably not.  Why not?  At the very least, the Bible says this is OK for God.  Is it OK for the rest of us, too?  Discussed the questions briefly.


Let’s do a follow-up reading from Swedenborg.

Secrets of Heaven n. 591 read by a volunteer.


So Swedenborg has a different take on the flood story.  He has tons to say about it, but the gist of it is that God doesn’t actually murder all the people and animals and birds.  If you get into it further, it isn’t talking about a physical flood, and it isn’t talking about a physical killing either.  It is about people becoming dead, spiritually, and he goes on to describe the flood as representing the end of one kind of church and the start of a new church, one person at a time; a new dispensation called “Noah”.  The dead animals and birds are the already dead ideas, affections, and motivations that have departed from truth and goodness, and they need to be replaced.  It is the deterioration of these ideas, affections, and motivations that led to the spiritual death of the people.  Is that less shocking?  Does it make you feel better about what the Bible says about God’s actions?  What do you think of Swedenborg’s view?

Maybe we can say that most of the meaning of Genesis is hidden in the parable form of the story.  Now let’s try one more reading from the Old Testament, the genocide of the Amalekites from Samuel.

1 Samuel 15:1-3, 7-11,14-16, 22-23 read by a volunteer.

So, here we find God wanting to destroy people again.  He and /or She gives commands to Saul by way of Samuel.  Now these Amalekites were descendants of Esau, the legitimate firstborn of Isaac, so, family.  They did mess with Moses coming into Canaan, but that was around 300 years earlier, and they have been a real pain ever since.  In this story, Saul, recently anointed king by the Prophet Samuel on God’s instructions, carries out most of the commands, but just killing the men, women, children, babies, and a bunch of the livestock doesn’t seem to be acceptable to God.  Now it’s all about obedience!  So, some questions to think about: Did Saul do a good thing or a bad thing?  Where he followed orders, he did atrocious things.  Where he spared King Agag and some prime livestock to be killed later, it isn’t much better and in addition he disobeyed the highest authority he knew.  Do you think Samuel had it in for the Amalekites?  How do you respond to the idea that God not only orders the destruction of the Amalekites, but is so displeased with Saul after the fight that God won’t accept him as king anymore?  Discussed the questions briefly.

Song, then the Message

Swedenborg only mentions the passage from Samuel briefly in a long discussion of the Amalekites.  It is not quite as clear cut as the story of the flood, but suffice it to say that the Amalekites represent at an inner level a continuing spiritual threat to a person’s worship of God, and so to Truth and Caring.  There probably was an actual battle in the physical world, but Swedenborg is silent on this and seems not to be concerned.  He focuses on the message in the inner meaning of the Word, and it addresses spiritual things.  But the literal story is still there and it is still disturbing.  When someone says to you that they are not religious because the Bible shows explicitly that the God of the Bible is unpredictable and can be quite terrible, I can understand that.  What do you say?  Wait for responses.


We are told the Old Testament is intended for a people who needed to have a simple and easy to understand set of lessons to present the Law and teach in familiar contexts.  We would say it is only an Old Testament appearance that God is angry or malicious.  Is the New Testament free of such statements?  Does the idea of “love your neighbor” fail to show up somewhere?  Yes.  Not quite in the same way that it turns up in the Old Testament.  The selections that seem offensive are not explicit about what God will or will not do.  These New Testament passages relate more to putting people in their place – namely, Jews who get in the way of the disciples teaching, and women in general who are told they are subservient to the men.  Told by men, of course.

Here are three short readings from the New Testament, and one from the Quran.  After hearing these we will look at how people deal with such statements.  Volunteers read them.

1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 – Bad Jews are to suffer God’s anger.

Ephesians 5:21-32 – Wives…serve their husbands in everything.

1 Timothy 2:8-15 – Instructions for men and women.

Quran 4:34 – What men are to do if their wives are not loyal.

I should point out for clarity that in the Quran – An-Nisha’ 34 that some translations describe that the punishments for disloyal wives are to be applied sequentially, only as the previous punishment clearly fails.  We can talk about the messages in these readings more, but not right now. – I want first to have a look at the methods people use to deal with what “objectionable material”.  Rebecca Esterson, who spoke at Convention on a similar subject taught in her mini-course taught me that there are four primary ways that difficult Scripture passages are read, to which I added one more.  One or more of them should sound familiar.  I do want to go through these rather quickly, to get to the next part of the our conversation – on how we deal with real life encounters of offensive situations.

  1. Charitable Reading – Involves asking “how could this be true?” The assumption is that it is true in some way, but it is not obvious.  An example is when Swedenborgians look to the inner sense of the passage to find a more understandable meaning in it.
  2. Historical Critical – Here the passage is determined to be no longer pertinent. So it may have been true or less objectionable at one time, but history has changed that.
  3. Dialogical – This approach is to consider the passage as a challenge or an opportunity to engage with God. It is OK to accept or reject it, but it is there to create dialogue, to lead the reader toward some unstated truth by forcing him or her to wrestle with it.
  4. Avoidance / Editing – This is the simplest approach. Just skip the difficult passage, do not let it bother you.  Or edit it so that it does make sense to the reader.  This happens a lot when sermons are written.   Pieces of passages are left out, not only the ones that just make the reading too long, but also those that do not make the point the pastor is trying to make.  I have it on good authority that this is very common.  Less than orthodox, the assumption here is that the text as we see it written is no longer, or perhaps never was, error-free; and as additions as texts were assembled into Bible we use today, some of these actions could have been wrong.  But a lot of editing strictly deals with making a particular point, context notwithstanding.
  5. Mythology – Rebecca didn’t mention this one – perhaps because it is not really interpretation. In this case – throw out the whole book as mythology, invention, and not worthy of much further consideration.  The passage is considered disturbing because it isn’t supposed to be taken seriously anyway.


So that speaks to dealing with text – interesting to some of us, but text does not talk back.  It isn’t going to change.  It is not as “live” as a personal experience with people around us.  However, I think there are similarities to how we deal with offensive statements in everyday conversation, and here are some.  Upon hearing such a statement, one might think to themselves…


  1. “Some people think that, though I do not.” Offensive perhaps, but more a matter of opinion than of fact.  The usual response, if any, is to point out that not everyone agrees with position, and sometimes possible reasons for that are suggested.  As in politics.  Or,
  2. “Maybe true once, but not now”. A response might be to present some recent, new thoughts on the subject that “add to” the no longer widely held position.  Or,
  3. “That is just plain wrong! And I need to object.” The usual response is to enter into debate, or argument, to educate the speaker, or at least take the high ground as you see it.  This is not always useful, but could be if planting a different idea bears fruit.  This internal response is often accompanied by outrage or disgust, it may not go well.
  4. “This has no place in polite conversation.” Usually due to crude or inflammatory language, and the usual response is to change the subject or drop out of the conversation while it continues without you.  The hope is that no one will encourage the speaker.
  5. “I can’t believe they said that!” Maybe this is where you say, “What did you say?” hoping you heard it wrong.  Text: if you read it wrong, just read it again.  Not as easy in real time.



We have an exercise here to experiment with these ideas.  In these envelopes we have instances of what I am guessing are statements that some of you will find offensive.  Of course, I could be wrong, which might make this more interesting.  Do not expect that your reactions will be simple. I have never met anyone who does not have some degree of prejudice that affects their behavior, whether they know it or not, and whether they express it or not.  That includes myself.  We all shy away from things or people we don’t understand.  It is called pre-judgment and is rooted in ignorance of those who are different from us.  That is a completely different very large topic we will not get into today, but you may find it creates some ambivalence in your reactions.  I want you to select an envelope or two, read the situation described there, and see what reactions you have.  Think about how you would respond if the situation were real.  Then if and when you’re ready, share with us what you’re feeling and thinking about.  If you have run into a similar situation before personally, how did it go?


That ends the message.

The exercise followed, and it depended on the congregants’ reactions and the envelopes they choose.  Each envelope described a situation in which one person’s prejudice and tendency to place some group of people into second-class, less-than human, or terrorist stereotypes was spoken aloud, which allowed the reader to be witness to and in a position to react to the statements.  Such “others” in the situations were derided using stereotypes related to sexual preference, gender, age, ethnicity, or religion.  In the exercise as it was done, most were able to identify their possible responses, some their attitudes, but none spoke of their feelings (nor were they prompted to do so), and only one presented an actual case experience that I recall.  The exercise was not conducted under explicit confidentially rules, but I have chosen not to include any of the conversation here.

“What Did You Say?” Answers Sunday.

How do we respond to offensive material in conversation or scripture?

We’ll talk about it Sunday, August 18, 2019, at the New Church of Montgomery, in Glendale. Laity-Leader Pete Toot will present.

10:30 Hospitality

11:00 Worship

845 Congress Avenue, Glendale, OH 45246

Come, His Arms Are Open Wide: Sunday’s Service

New Church of Montgomery Welcomes You!

Sunday, June 23, 2019, Kris Mangan, Laity Leader

Service Focus: Come! His Arms are Open Wide.


Lighting of the Four Candles

  • We light the first candle to honor the good and truth to be found in all spiritual traditions, including our own.
  • We light the second candle to honor the earth and all of life as the creation of the Divine, the one Lord and God of us all.
  • We light the third candle to honor and support the variety of individual paths which, together, make our one spiritual community.
  • We light the fourth candle to honor and provide an open and safe space for all who seek greater understanding and a life of deepening spirituality.


Scripture Readings: The Lord our teacher

“Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.  Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old.”

Psalm 25:6 & 7 (NRSV)


“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28 (NRSV)


(Jesus describing the father’s embrace of the prodigal son)

“So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion: he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.”

Luke 15: 20  (NRSV)


Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg: The Lord extending love and teaching through His creation

“The universe is something to which God could extend His love and in which He could put His love into action and so find rest.  We read that after God had created heaven and earth He rested; and that He made the Sabbath day for that reason.”  

True Christianity 46

“Spiritual warmth and spiritual light flow into and affect not only angels but also us, precisely to the extent that we become receptive.  Our receptivity develops in proportion to our love for the Lord and our love for our neighbor.”

Divine Love and Wisdom 5


“All the things that have been created reflect the human in some respect.  There is evidence for this in every detail of the animal kingdom, in every detail of the plant kingdom, and in every detail of the mineral kingdom.”

Divine Love and Wisdom 61


Setting the Table


Kris the Dog Trainer – in training.   Teaching the dog to come.


Open sharing of experiences, thoughts and feelings:

What makes you feel weary?

What is it like to experience rest for your soul?

Why do you think that it was important that Jesus described himself as “gentle and humble in heart?”

Have you ever met anyone who was very much alive and also very much at rest?  

Can there be rest in action?  

Have you sensed moments where you were receptive to the Lord’s teaching?

What was that like?  

What kind of tangible effect might our love for our neighbor have on our spiritual, mental and physical heath and, subsequently, on the health of our local communities and the world at large?


Music:  Please Come by Nicole Nordeman

Oh, the days when I drew lines around my faith.

To keep you out; to keep me in; to keep it safe.

Oh, the sense of my own self-entitlement.

To say who’s wrong; or won’t belong; or cannot stay.

‘Cause somebody, somewhere, decided we’d be better off divided.

And somehow despite the damage done –

He says “Come.”  

There is room enough for all of us.

Please come; and the arms are open wide enough.

Please come; and our parts are never greater than the sum.

This is the heart of the One

who stands before an open door and bids us “Come.”

Oh, the times when I have failed to recognize how many chairs are

gathered there around the feast.  

To break the bread and break those boundaries that have kept us

from our only common ground.  

The invitation to sit down if we will come.

Come, from the best of humanity.  Come from the depths of depravity.  

Come now and see how we need every bead on this same string.



Prayer Requests

The Lord’s Prayer

 Our Father who art in heaven; hallowed be thy name.  Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.


Time to Come before the Lord and learn from Him.

Go now in peace.  Shalom!