#ThursdayTheology: Zoroastrianism, part 1

Back in 1893, the Swedenborgian Judge Charles Bonney initiated the first World’s Parliament of Religions, the largest of all the congresses held in conjunction with what we think of today as a world’s fair. Swedenborgians are still recognized today as a strong proponent of interfaith efforts, and the New Church of Montgomery’s programs are flavored with the basic idea that all religions can be honored for the wisdom they offer, and for their various approaches to encouraging a universal friendship across peoples. Our own faith celebrates the infinite expressions of the kingdom of heaven, as Christians call it, and those who inhabit it, and those who, knowingly or not, grow towards it as they live the best they know how. Here we shine a light upon one of the world religions represented among the many presented at this 1893 exposition, and with which we maintain connections in 2022.

Consider this little piece of historical text

This letter is used as the preface for an essay reprinted as part of the Kessinger’s Legacy Reprints, A Brief Sketch Of The Zoroastrian Religion And Customs, An Essay (1893), by ErvadSheriarji Dadabhai Barucha. While the essay itself is quite long and provides much historical and theological perspective, one thing that can be easily found is some basic ideas that 129 years later still can be found to apply to the local Zoroastrian Community in Cincinnati.

In this posting we include a few excerpts from the essay, and some commentary on our recent interaction with the Zorastrian congregation some of our parishioners participated in a few weeks ago.

First some historical notes right from the essay: “While other religions of the ancient world, such as those of ancient Egypt, Chaldea, Assyria, Babylon, Greece, and Rome have disappeared from the face of the earth, this [Zoroastrianism] has survived many trials and vicissitudes and still flourishes, if not in all its pristine vigour and glory, with many of its distinctive features preserved practically intact. In the earlier days of its greatness its adherents were counted by millions, and it had a considerable body of renowned literature.” Today most of the literature has been destroyed or hidden, and only now (in the 2000’s) are recent finds coming to light that can shed some light on the history of both the life of Zoroaster and the development of the religion. The number of adherents has dropped to a quite small number, due to repeated persecution, mostly situated today in India and the United St ates. “…this religion and this ancient customs of its followers … possess certain striking and interesting features which have always excited the admiration and respect of those who have brought a liberal and sympathetic spirit to bear on their study…”

The essay goes on to speak about what little information is known about Zoroaster, rather, Zarathushtra in ancient Iranian, and about the early personages involved in supporting or denigrating his teachings. However, in this short offering we’ll just point to it’s peak time and influence in the world, and what things the events of those times reveal about the religion.

“Leaving aside the prehistoric times and coming to the historical, it may be confidently asserted that the kings of the Achaeminian Dynasty such as Cyrus, Darius, Xerxes, and others (B.C. 559-329) were Zoroastrians, for they emphatically speak of Auramazda, the greatest God, as does every Zoroastrian…” For a thousand years it was the dominant religion during three mighty Persian empires, that stretched west towards Rome and Greece, east to India, north into Russia, and south into Egypt. At that time it was the largest empire geographically that had ever existed in the world. When Cyrus conquered Babylon, during the time the Jews had been held in captivity there, he returned the jews to Israel and financed the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. This illustrates one of the principles of Zoroastrianism, namely its openness to other religions and cultures, and those dynasties of the Persian Empire were (like the later Roman Empire) largely successful due to their integration of conquered peoples into the empire, rather than practice subjugation and oppression, as many other conquerors did.

Being one of the other faiths (meaning similar to our own) that has a particularly universal perspective on how God and the world’s people operate in a cooperative fashion that includes everyone as a worthwhile and loved child of God given the opportunity to strive for the success of goodness over evil, it is instructive to learn how similar and different our two faiths really are in practice. In a future post we will examine this and other faith groups that can be working hand in hand to advance our common missions.

Presentation/Sermon Notes from 2/7/21: “All God’s Critters”

New Church of Montgomery, Presented via zoom and Google Slides

Feb 7, 2021
“All God’s Critters”
11:00 am, Lay-led Service, by Maggie Panyko


Opening Prayer:
Oh Dearest Lord, may the food we eat nourish us and treat the earth kindly. May its nutrients transform into food for thought. May every bite we take bring us joy, and reflect our gratefulness to the earth and its caretakers.

Lighting of the Community Candles

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

Opening Statement:
Inherent to a vegetarian diet is usually a conscious decision about avoiding meat and animal products for the purpose of compassion for animals and creating a more sustainable system of raising food which is also kind to the earth. 
The purpose of today’s lesson is to teach a little about some of the history of the Swedenborgian church as it relates to vegetarianism and Christianity.


Genesis 1:29, New Living Translation
29 Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. 30 And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.

Job: 12, 7-10
But ask the animals, and they will teach you; the birds of the air, and they will tell you; ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of every human being

Matthew 14, 13-17
13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Secrets of Heaven, 1002 Swedenborg
[6] The reason blood is called soul and symbolizes the holiness of charity, and the reason it represented the holiness of love in the Jewish religion, is that it constitutes the life of the body. Since blood constitutes the life of the body, it is the body’s outermost soul, so that we can call it the physical soul, or the vehicle of our physical life. And since external objects represented inner attributes in the representative churches, blood represented the soul, or heavenly life. The symbolism of not eating as not mingling now follows. 1002 Regarded in itself, eating meat is a profane custom, since people of the very earliest times never ate the flesh of any animal or bird but only grains (particularly wheat bread), fruit, vegetables, different kinds of milk, and milk products (such as butter). Butchering living creatures and eating the flesh was heinous, in their eyes, and characteristic of wild beasts. It was only on account of the menial labor and the functions the animals performed for them that they captured any. This can be seen from Genesis 1:29, 30. But when time passed and people turned as savage as wild animals and in fact more savage, for the first time they started to butcher animals and eat the meat. In view of the fact that people were like this, practice was also tolerated, as it still is today. To the extent that people follow it in good conscience, it is permissible, because everything we consider true and consequently allowable forms our conscience. For this reason, no one these days is ever condemned for eating meat. 1003 This now shows that not eating flesh in its soul, [not eating] blood means not mingling profane things with holy. Eating blood with flesh never mingles profane things with holy, as the Lord also taught explicitly in Matthew: It is not what goes into the mouth that renders a person unclean but what comes out of the mouth; this renders a person unclean, since the things that come out of the mouth come out of the heart. (Matthew 15:11, 17, 18, 19, 20)


From Swedenborg.org: Jonathan Rose explains that Swedenborg mentions the eating of meat several times in his writings, but he doesn’t appear to come down on one side or the other. In one passage, he seems to imply that eating meat is savage (Secrets of Heaven §1002), and this has influenced a number of Swedenborgians to become vegetarian. In another passage (Divine Love and Wisdom §331), though, Swedenborg refers to eating meat as a normal practice, with no reference to his earlier remarks.
What about Swedenborg himself? According to the anecdotes left behind by those who knew him, Swedenborg was primarily a vegetarian who occasionally ate fish, but he would only eat red meat if he was offered it as a guest in someone’s house or at some type of public function.

-Other accounts by his maid say he ate eel and pigeon pie – wikipedia, Sigstedt, C. The Swedenborg Epic: The life and works of Emanuel Swedenborg Bookman Associates, 1952, p. 476, # 642).

1745 – Swedenborg begins to have visions. His first: Swedenborg was dining in a private room at a tavern in London. By the end of the meal, a darkness fell upon his eyes, and the room shifted character. Suddenly, he saw a person sitting at a corner of the room, telling him: “Do not eat too much!”. – ” Small Theological Works and Letters” by Emanuel Swedenborg. Edited and published by the Swedenborg Society (London, 1975)

The New Jerusalem inaugurated (in Heaven) in 1757 was to become the experience of all who would discipline the flesh … Bible Christians embraced with equal conviction any secular goals which seemed to fulfil their beliefs.-Lineman

In 1772, Swedenborg dies

In approx 1794, several societies form for the study of Swedenborg’s writings

1809 – The Salford Bible Christians of Northwest England are founded by William Cowherd, a Swedenborgian who broke away to form his own church. They come to be known as the Cowherdites; their chapel, Known locally as the Beefsteak Chapel, urged its members to participate in a meat-free diet as a form of temperance.  They are one of the philosophical forerunners of the secular Vegetarian Society formed in Kent, England in 1847. According to PJ Lineman, a writer on the English Swedenborgians, he notes that  “the Bible Christians ‘ saw the death of Jesus as a symbol of the destruction of man’s body so that his spirit could be set free’.14 These beliefs influenced Cowherd’s teachings on vegetarianism and temperance. Lineham considers that Cowherd ‘thought that meat eating and the drinking of intoxicating liquor excited man’s animal nature and prevented him from recovering his infinite nature’.15 Dietary reform was primarily for man’s spiritual development. He also notes that Cowherd criticised other Swedenborgians for believing that ‘ so long as a sinful brutal nature continues within us, it is still permitted’.16 Swedenborgian principles were desacralised, and coupled with the social movements of the age.

1817  Reverends William Metcalfe and James Clark, followers of Rev. Cowherd, cross the Atlantic with 40 followers and form the Philadelphia Bible Church – wikipedia; Bible Christian church

1825 a group of people attempt to form an Owenite colony in Yellow Springs, OH. It is attractive to local Swedenborgians, but dissolves after a few months, though they were, “intelligent, liberal, generous, cultivated men and women,” – ysnews.com

1838, a boarding school in Surrey, England, founded by the Owenites, was called the Concordium, and also known as Alcott House, served their pupils a meat-free diet. Owenism was a utopian social experiment designed to do something with the poor after the Napoleonic Wars, “to place the unemployed poor in newly built rural communities.” -Wikipedia, Owenism

Congregational Response:

Meditation Hymn:

The Lamb 1826
“The Lamb” by William Blake
, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Pastoral Prayer:
Dear Lord,
We pray for our church family all over the world, past, present and future.
We thank them for their knowledge and the good things that have been passed down for the good of humanity. We pray that compassion for all souls is always foremost in our mind, Whether we speak of animals in the field awaiting slaughter, or our neighbors without food. We pray that our choices are kind ones, and that our imprint upon this world is light unless it is in the form of giving and generosity.
May we kindle kindness in our hearts to feel and share the warmth of love, Love that comes from you.

Prayers of the People, Silent or Aloud:
Let us now pray, in our hearts, for our neighbors, friends, and loved ones in distress and need and express our thankfulness for the abundance with which we are blessed.

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, the Power, and the Glory now and forever. Amen.

Closing Song:
“GO NOW IN PEACE,” Written by Joe Wise

For Fun: DIY Impossible Burger Recipe













Secrets of Heaven, Swedenborg: https://49lirp3us0hl3fg75c1nefee-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NCE_SecretsofHeaven2_portable.pdf 

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.


#ThursdayThoughts: Faith, Doubt & Fear

Readings to think about for Sunday:

There are those who are in doubt before they deny, and there are those who are in doubt before they affirm. Those in doubt before they deny are those who incline to a life of evil. When that life sways them, they deny things spiritual and celestial. But those in doubt before they affirm are those who incline to a life of good. And when they allow themselves to be turned by the Lord, they then affirm things spiritual and celestial and think about them. AC 2568

The only faith that endures within us springs from heavenly love. Those without heavenly love only have knowledge that is empty, for believing in truth and the Word is not faith. Living faith is to love truth by willing and doing it from an inward affection for it. H&H 482

Following the death of Jesus, 10 of the disciples hid in the upper room out of fear. Jesus had already told them to go forth and proclaim the Good News. But Thomas was the only one who listened and understood. Swedenborg noted that among the disciples, it was Thomas who was blessed.

Finding things in Common #FridayFeeling #ReligiousPlurality

from Swedenborg.com

Zen meant giving up the love and sense of a separate self and living passionately in the moment so as to leave one open to the influx of wisdom and enlightenment. Zen included the notion of work or service. This was at the very core of the Zen monk’s education known as the “Meditation Hall.”


two sitting man praying inside building

Photo by Anton Trava on Pexels.com

#PalmSunday #Devotional @Swedcomm

close up photo of coconut tree

Photo by Suparerg Suksai on Pexels.com

from SwedenborgianCommunity.org

Often, our first sense of God is a glimpse of something beautiful and peaceful calling to us. To respond to the call feels joyous and liberating. At the beginning, there is excitement about beginning a new journey. There are so many hopes and dreams that lie ahead. Following God’s will is easy on Palm Sunday; riding a donkey into a cheering crowd! It’s like romantic love early in a relationship. It’s easy to make a commitment in the midst of romance. It’s harder to maintain the commitment through the years ahead filled with conflicts and compromises. Yet, it is in working through the conflicts that a much deeper mature love can blossom many years later.

#MindfulMonday Sunday’s Inspiration

sharing-inspirationYesterday, we gathered virtually (over Skype with one of our members) and bodily at our worship space, the Glendale New Church.  We brought in things that gave us hope during our childhoods and adulthoods and that continue to give us hope that God exists, is present in our lives, and accepts us fully for who we are, faults and all.

We discussed God’s love, using it to combat the seemingly simple, yet endlessly prevalent things in our life that bog us down, like workplace gossip.  Remember the old bumper stick WWJD? 🙂 We spoke of taking our own disappointment in the drudgery of mundane tasks by feeling that all activity can be something that is done for God.

And how about negative inner messages?  By feeling good enough in God’s eyes, feeling that we are enough as children of God; sensing that negativity comes from external sources, we send these thoughts to the background and replace them with good. We end by feeling worthy and whole; accepting ourselves as works-in-progress.

Here are some of our examples of inspiration. May they inspire you, too.

Quote: “We are born for no purpose but to be useful to the community we live in and to our neighbor as long as we are alive in the world, and to serve at the Lord’s good pleasure in the other world.” Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 1103:2

Just as I Am” song by Charlotte Elliott which was Billy Graham’s signature hymn in his crusades.

Observing Spirit” book by Peter Rhodes

Small Enough” song by Nichole Nordeman

Unknown author Quote: “Prayer is the only power to which God surrenders.”

Quote by St. Teresa of Avila “The closer we get to God, the simpler we become.”

What is it to be spiritual?

Victoria Falls Rainbow_Feb 8 2018 blog

“No one can be regenerated unless he knows the things that compose the new life, that is, spiritual life; for it is that life to which regeneration leads a person. The things that compose the new or spiritual life are the truths he ought to believe and the good deeds he ought to perform. Those truths are matters of faith, the good deeds are aspects of charity.”–Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia, n. 8635 (Elliott, trans.)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

“From this one may now see what spiritual life is, namely being in possession of truths rooted in good which come from the Lord.” Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia, n. 6685 (Elliott, trans.)

Loving Our Neighbor

11-9-17 Love pic

Unselfish acts are the real miracles out of which all the reported miracles grow.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

From Heaven and Hell, Emanuel Swedenborg (trans. Dole), n. 15):

15. There are two quite distinguishable loves in heaven—love for the Lord and love for our neighbor. Love for the Lord is characteristic of the third or central heaven, while love for our neighbor is characteristic of the second or intermediate heaven. Both come from the Lord, and each one makes a heaven. In heaven’s light, it is easy to see how these two loves differ and how they unite, but this can be seen only dimly in our world. In heaven, “loving the Lord” does not mean loving him for the image he projects but loving the good that comes from him. Further, “loving one’s neighbor” does not mean loving companions for the images they project but loving the truth that comes from the Word. Loving the truth is intending and doing it. We can therefore see that these two loves differ the way “good” and “true” differ and unite the way these two unite.(c)

All this, though, will not conform to the notions of anyone who does not know what love is, what the good is, and what the neighbor is.(d) Loving the Lord and our neighbor means living according to the Lord’s laws: 10143, 10153, 10310, 10578, 10648.

8122. Loving one’s neighbor is not loving the image he or she projects but loving what is within one’s neighbor and is therefore one’s neighbor’s source, namely the good and the true: 5025 [5028], 10336; if people love the individual and not what is within the individual and is therefore the source of the individual, they love the evil as much as the good: 3820; thoughtfulness is intending what is true and being influenced by things true for their own sake: 3876, 3877; thoughtfulness toward one’s neighbor is doing what is good, fair, and honest in every task and in every office: 8120, 8121, 8122.



God’s Peace in a Troubled World

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
~~ Psalm 91, 1-16

Laws of Permission Are Also Laws of Divine Providence
There are no “laws of permission” that are simply that, or that are separate from the laws of divine providence. They are the same thing; so saying that God allows something to happen does not mean that he wants it to happen but that he cannot prevent it because of his goal, which is our salvation. Whatever happens for the sake of this goal, our salvation, is in accord with the laws of divine providence, since as already noted [183, 211], divine providence is always moving away from and contrary to our own intentions. It is constantly focused on its goal; so at every moment of its work, at every single step of its course, when it notices that we are straying from that goal it leads and turns and adapts us in accord with its laws, leading us away from evil and toward good. We will see shortly that this cannot be accomplished without allowing bad things to happen.
~~ Divine Providence, 234, Emmanuel Swedenborg

In one of our recent services at New Church of Montgomery, the lay leader, Gloria, spoke about joy and read a quote from Desmond Tutu about how to deal with our violent world: “Start where you are. Do what you can.” ~~ The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World, Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu

In her latest book, Who Do We Choose to Be, Margaret Wheatley calls us to create “Islands of Sanity” amid the chaos.

What can you do today, where you are, to bring peace to a piece of our troubled world?~~Sue Marie

(Note: The idea and some of the content for today’s blog have been adapted from Rev. Dr. Wilma Wake’s Swedenborgian Community online service from October 15, 2017.)