#SundaySermon: “A Deep Sense of Awe” by @EcholsClark

Guest Minister, Rev. Clark Echols during Zoom Service, May 28, 2023

We experience secure attachment when we believe we have spiritual value as a human being, and believe that that value is a gift from God.

Rev. Clark Echols

1/29/23 #Sermon: “The Breath of God” by Pastor Robbin Ferriman

Pastor Robbin Ferriman

I would like everyone to just take a moment to relax and get centered. Close your eyes and open yourselves to the Great Spirit, the Divine, God, or whatever you want to call you higher power. Let us take a deep breath in through the nose. Hold it. Exhale through your mouth. As you do so, release any toxins and negativity, cleansing your body. Take another breath in through your nose. Hold it. Then feel your body relax as you exhale through your mouth.

Did you know there is an element/gas in the air or oxygen that we just breathed in that is called argon? It is an inert element, which means that it doesn’t interact with anything else. It stays just as it is. This argon stays in the air forever. It floats around through space and time. All over the world. We breathe this stuff in over and over. We breath in each other’s particles of argon. Over and over. All through time. That means our grandparents, our great grandparents, and so on, have all breathed the same argon. We are literally breathing the breath of our ancestors. It connects us, still. We could be breathing in argon that dinosaurs have breathed.

We are living in this vast sea of Divine Life Force, and we breathe it in and out of us, every single
moment of our lives, until we transition from this world to the next. It connects us to each
other and to all the living creatures plant and animal.

Swedenborg says that air corresponds to all things of perception and thought, thus of
our faith. Our respiration corresponds to the understanding and thus to perception, thought, and
faith. Everyone in the spirit world breathes according to his/her faith.

We are surrounded and immersed, in the infinite living Divine breath. It is our influx
from God, that teaches us and loves us, constantly. Even evil people are immersed within it. It is
only a choice to reciprocate this unconditional love and wisdom or turn away from it. It is
always there for us, waiting and still giving us life, no matter what we choose. Some indigenous
people consider the air to be very sacred, as is all of nature. You can feel, hear, and smell the
air. It is spirit as well as life. It envelopes, embraces, and caresses us. Yet it is completely
invisible. It slips into our mouths, down our throats, filling our lungs, feeding our blood and our
hearts. Without it, we cannot act, speak, or think. The sacred breath is not just for humans
either. It animates and sustains the whole created world. Like the wind itself, the breath of God
infuses all of nature.

What the plants are quietly breathing out, we animals are breathing in; what we
breathe out, the plants are breathing in. The air, we might say, is the soul of the visible
landscape, the secret realm from whence all beings draw their nourishment. As the very
mystery of the living present.

The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abram

The Hebrew language is one of the oldest languages there is. They have one word that is
used for both “spirit” and “wind”, ruach. In the Hebrew bible, this word, ruach, is used to
describe part of the creation of the world.

When God began to create heaven and earth – the earth being unformed and void,
with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind (ruach) from God sweeping over the water…

The spirit of God sweeping over the water, giving life. And later, God breathes life into
Adam’s nostrils. The Hebrew word that is used in this verse is neshamah, which stands for both
the breath and the soul.

The breath is very important in the Jewish mystical tradition. They believe that the
relationship between humans and God is best realized through the breath and breath work. It is
believed that King Solomon could lift nature’s physical veil from created things and see the
spirit within, by practicing breathing techniques that he learned from his father, King David. By
practicing these techniques King Solomon could invoke the holy breath, the inspiration of the

If prayer is pure and untainted, surely that holy breath that rises from your lips will
join with the breath of heaven that is always flowing into you from above. Thus, that part of God which is within you is reunited with its source.

A 19th century Hasidic master

This is why so many meditation practices involve focusing on your breath and breathing.
It physically relaxes the body and helps the mind to clear and focus, but it also helps to connect
one with the Divine.

In the Jewish tradition, God’s name was considered unspeakable. The word is Yahweh.
They would substitute that name with words like Elohim or Adonai, when they spoke or wrote
of it. They also didn’t use vowels, only the consonants. It’s original spelling is YHVH The name of
God was to be “breathed” when spoken. Consonants use mostly your teeth, tongue, and lips,
whereas vowels are breathier. For the Jewish community, you would have to engage in the act
of breathing to pronounce the name Yahweh. It is believed that the correct pronunciation is
meant to imitate the sound of inhalation and exhalation. The vowels were deliberately left out,
because of the sacredness and so as not to speak the Lord’s name in vain.

Swedenborg states that the vowels stand for the sound and in the sound, there is the
affection. The sound of angels’ speech is responsive to their affection, and the articulations of the sound, or the words, correspond to the individual ideas that stem from their affection.

Vowels do not belong to the language but to a raising of its words, by means of sounds,
toward various affections according to the state of each individual. So, in Hebrew the vowels are not written and are also pronounced variously. This enables angels to recognize what someone’s quality is in respect to affection and love.

Heaven and Hell, # 241

Breathing is vital to our biological as well as to our spiritual lives. God breathes life into
the nostrils of humankind. The Spirit is the “breath of God” the animating force that fills our
lungs, and Jesus, breathes on the twelve disciples, as he sends them into the world, as a ritual
to symbolize the presence of the Spirit with and in them. With every breath we take, we are
speaking the name of God. It is the first word we speak when we are born, and last word we
speak at the end of our life.


May God’s Spirit surround you,
and those whom you love.
Rest now, in that calm embrace.
Let your hearts be warmed
And all storms be stilled
By the whisper of His voice.

Epiphany Sermon 2023, “Shining Hope” by Rev. Dr. Sherrie Connelly

View on YouTube. Subtitles (Closed Captioning) available.

In addition…

“The magi were a Median Kurdish priestly caste, or tribe who rose to prominence in Ancient Persia.” –https://goldcountrymedia.com/news/71455/just-who-were-the-three-wise-men-from-the-east/

The magi were a Median Kurdish priestly caste or tribe who rose to prominence in Ancient Persia.”Matthew’s wise men, or magi–the only word of Persian origin in the original Greek Bible were evidently priests of Zoroastrianism, which was the official religion of Persia…” nytimes 

Missed Last Week’s Sermon? 1/16/22

Sermon from January 9, 2005

“Rare, Medium or Well Done?” By Rev. Ron Brugler

Photo by Ron Lach on Pexels.com

Scripture: Isaiah 42:1-9 Matthew 3:13-17

Good Morning Everyone! Most of you know that I use the Common Lectionary as the source for our weekly scripture readings and sermon topics. And for those of you who may not know what the Common Lectionary is suffice it to say that it is a series of scripture readings that in a three-year cycle leads one through the Biblical narrative.

According to this year’s series of readings, today, the second Sunday in January, is set aside for us to examine the meaning of one of the sacraments of the Christian Church, the act of baptism. And we are called to ponder the beautiful words that were heard proclaimed from on high — “that this is my own dear son, and I am pleased with him.” Beautiful words, indeed!

I also must state here at the start of this sermon that I believe that baptism is an important topic for us to reflect upon. I say this for several reasons. First, I say this because as one of the two Sacraments of the Christian Church, baptism is something that almost all of us have experienced — even if we do not remember it! And secondly, I say this because a baptism ministry will be a natural outgrowth from our wedding ministry. This has certainly been the case in my previous pastorates. In fact, during the 14 years that I spent at the Church of the Good Shepherd, I conducted over 900 baptisms, most of which involved couples that had been married there.But let me tell you how these ceremonies came to take place. Usually a month or so before their desired date, the mother would call the church and ask the secretary if she could speak to me. The conversation would go like this. “Hi Reverend Brugler. You married Steve and I last year and we now have a baby. We would like to get him done.” And although I knew that the term “done” meant that they wanted a baptism, I always had to resist laughing. I wanted to ask, “Do you want him “rare, medium or well done?” I’m not sure if the parents would have appreciated that humor.

But the fact is that this one word, “done”, speaks volumes about our perception and understanding of baptism. I mean think about it. Baptism is something that is done to you, whether you are an infant, or an adult. As such, it is different from Communion. We engage in that sacrament. We have to eat the bread and drink the wine, and as such, are involved in the process. But we don’t think about baptism that way. The minister is supposedly doing something to the person being baptized. And traditionally, what is being done is viewed as one’s ticket into heaven, so to speak. Yes, for many people, it is the church’s way of assuring parents that if their child dies, they will be admitted into heaven.

You may not know this, but during my first pastorate in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I worked for three years as a night chaplain at Allegheny General Hospital. During those years, there were several occasions when I would receive an emergency page to go to the nursery where a baby was dying. The parents would invariably want their children baptized. I always performed the sacrament, even though I was not sure that my doing so was doing anything for the child. (Our teachings assure us that children are immediately taken up to the highest heavens regardless of their being baptized.) It meant something to the parents, however, in that it brought them a bit of comfort into one of life’s most difficult and painful times. It was the least I could do for them.

But if the understanding of baptism as a ticket into heaven is not accurate, then what understanding is? Our Swedenborgian teachings make three primary points about this.

1. Baptism is “introduction” into the Christian Church on both an earthly and spiritual level.

2. It is an acknowledgement of our desire to engage ourselves in learning and living and following God’s ways. (except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.)

3. And lastly, it is an acknowledgement of our desire to know God on a personal level, allowing him to work through us. We know this as regeneration.

Let us look at these three points in a bit more detail.

First, Baptism is an “Introduction into the Christian Church, both on an earthly and spiritual level.”

In today’s scripture lesson from the Gospel of Matthew, our Lord went to John to be baptized. I hope that you can see the beauty within this event. John said the he should be baptized by Jesus. Jesus asked that instead, John baptize him. This simple exchange speaks volumes about the kind of church that our Lord wanted to establish, and he introduced it to the world in a very special way. It was to be a true community — a community built upon mutual support, encouragement and caring for all people. It was to respect everyone’s contributions, and all were welcomed and needed. This was affirmed when the voice proclaimed, “this is my son.”

The church was to be, and is to be, an institution of meaningful life relationships. And introduction into the church, through baptism, is meaningless unless that relationship is maintained! But what does this relationship do? This question brings us to the second meaning of baptism.

It is an acknowledgement of our desire to engage ourselves in learning and living and following God’s ways. (except a man be born of water and of the spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.)

Water, we are taught, corresponds to truths that we learn. The spirit relates to giving these truths life through living them. And Swedenborg wrote that “to simply bear the name of Christian, and not follow the Lord’s ways in life, is as empty as a shadow, as smoke, and as useless as a blackened picture.” (TCR 681)

For this reason, I always stress to parents that baptizing children, and having Godparents, is meaningless unless they are going to follow this up with action — and that they are to find a church home, teach their children well, and live a life grounded in love. And in a similar way, when an adult is baptized, it is meaningless unless they are willing to honestly and sincerely place before God their thoughts and attitudes and beliefs that need his cleansing power. And what does this do for us? The answer lies in the third use of baptism.

Baptism is an acknowledgement of our desire to know God on a personal level, allowing him to work through us. We know this as regeneration.

Swedenborg makes this point in the following passage, “If we believe that baptism does anything for our salvation, without learning truths and living a life according to them, we are greatly mistaken. Baptism is an external rite, which accomplishes nothing unless it has an internal life. This life stems from allowing the Lord to remove evils and falsities from our beings, so that we can be regenerated.”

This is an incredibly powerful teaching. I say this because regardless of what else happens during a baptism, and as a result of it, whether the water is sprinkled, or poured, or if the person is dipped under water, and afterwards, whether the person laughs or cries, or is simply carried away, the sacrament is ultimately about what God is doing — not what we have done!

I hope that today my words to you have accomplished two things. I hope that you have been reminded of the fact that very little happens to us when we are baptized. But in this sacrament, and especially as we remain open to what our baptism can mean, we can be about the incredible transformation that God can help us undertake.

In baptism, God claims us. Adopts us. Gives us a new name: My daughter! My son! I will take you by the hand and teach you everything you need to know. I will make you mine!

Let us be open to this. And doing so, may all of us be “well done!” Amen.