#PsalmOfTheDay: Psalm 118

Psalm 118, New Living Translation

Psalm 118, Science of Correspondences

26-29. Happy is he who confesses and worships the Lord P. P.

Prophets and Psalms, Emanuel Swedenborg
Wilkie, David; The Confessional; National Galleries of Scotland; http://www.artuk.org/artworks/the-confessional-210852

#MondayMotivation: Sunday’s Sermon 11/17/19

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in Conversation with Swedenborg’s Process of Regeneration

Rev. Alison Moore, Nov. 17, 2019

New Church of Montgomery, Cincinnati, OH

Genesis 28:10-16; Luke 6: 46-49; Divine Love and Wisdom 330

I left my composed sermon behind, due to a lack of ink in the host’s printer, but also following my own deep sense that speaking from my heart was the better thing to do this day.

The Readings:

Genesis 28:10-16 10 Jacob left Be’er Sheva and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

After the reading from Genesis, I invited the congregation to reflect on the detail that Jacob was to be a blessing. He wasn’t just to be blessed, he was to be a blessing to others. The path of regeneration opens to each of us a connection with heaven, which is like Jacob’s vision of the angels ascending and descending between us and God. It is the gate of heaven.

Luke 6:46-49 46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on sandy soil. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”

After the reading from Luke I observed that I grew up believing my spiritual house was already built on a rock simply by virtue of being born into the right denomination. We “had” the rock, and it was everyone else whose house was built on the sand and that would fall. I now believe that we all build our houses on sand repeatedly until we learn what spiritual rock truly is. The process of spiritual growth and regeneration may mean that our spiritual house falls down several times, requiring us to re-examine the things upon which our beliefs are founded. I invited everyone to forgive themselves and be open to the times when the foundations of everything they believe seem threatened, because that is an invitation from God to grow.

Divine Love & Wisdom 330 The divine purpose of creation is that all humankind enter heaven. Every secondary goal in creation is in service to this primary goal. Because the whole focus of creation in on the regeneration of humankind, this focus breaks down into three areas of human life: our physical bodies, the development of a rational capacity, and ultimately our a spiritual life which grants us union with the Divine (which is heaven). We are united to the Divine by a spiritual life; but we cannot live a spiritual life without a developed rational faculty, and we cannot maintain a rational perspective when our physical life is unstable. Our body is like the foundation of a house; the rational faculty provides a sturdy dwelling; and because of these structures, spiritual consciousness flows in from the Lord, dwelling within them.

From this we can discern the priorities of providence regarding our lives: to support the health of our bodies, so that we can develop our rationality, so that we can be made spiritual and become joined to the Lord.

Following the reading from Swedenborg’s Divine Love and Wisdom, I highlighted that the very purpose of our lives on earth is to become angelic—that all of Providence is aimed at our spiritual growth—and that by engaging on this path of regeneration we are asking God to make us blessings.

The following is the best I can recall of what I said in lieu of a written sermon:

Welcome to this beautiful harvest feast celebration. It is a lovely thing to see the two congregations coming together in shared worship. As someone who left the one tradition in order to pursue ordination and the right to serve as a minister in the other, I know a bit about loss and about needing to find comfort within new traditions. And I imagine that, for some in this room, the ways we will worship this morning will feel unfamiliar.

I have come to understand the two traditions as representing the two directions of the cross. The Glendale New Church which comes from the “high church” or conservative branch worships in a very vertical way. The focus is on God. The relationship is between the individual and God, therefore there is discouragement of anything social and a preservation of what is called “a sphere of worship”. It favors silence in the sanctuary, and that all social conversation remains outside, in the hall and the rest of life. There is something beautiful about that.

The Montgomery New Church which comes from the original flavor Swedenborgians in North America is more casual. They hold the place of the horizontal bar of the cross, welcoming space for our connection with each other. There is hugging and quiet chatting in the sanctuary. Their art and music is more homespun. Their ornamentation and ritual tends to be simpler and their presence unpretentious. There is something lovely and comforting in that. It is unintimidating.

I see value in both. And I give each one of you here permission to be uncomfortable with things that are unfamiliar, and still to prefer what you prefer. I invite you to be curious about the unfamiliar practices, and to open in yourselves a way to appreciate the other without any need to feel inferior or superior. This is how we walk together. We can hold fast to what we love, without needing to invalidate things that are different.

So this morning, I want to talk about the way psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs can be in conversation with Emanuel Swedenborg’s foundations of regeneration. “Regeneration” according to Emanuel Swedenborg is the reason we are here—to become better people—to see the ways we are short-sighted and selfish and insensitive to others, and to make small changes daily as we seek to become better people. We are here to become a blessing to others. This process takes a lifetime of experience and learning (and sometimes big mistakes), and I think we are meant to be patient with ourselves, so that we don’t give up.

Maslow stated that there are five stages of human needs, each stage completely dependent on the previous stage for it to exist. The same way Swedenborg describes the health of the body and then a sound rational mind as necessary before a human can be regenerated, Maslow describes similar requirements that seem to map very well onto Swedenborg’s teachings.

Abraham Maslow’s most foundational human needs are the ones you might imagine if you were plunked down on an alien planet and knew nothing about how to survive. Immediately, you would need to know what is good for shelter, what is good to eat, and how to clothe yourself. You would need to be able to rest—to get sufficient sleep without needing to worry about remaining vigilant.

This leads to the next level of human need which is safety and security. Once our most basic physical needs are met, we need to know how to protect ourselves. What is dangerous? We need to know we can relax into knowing our physical well-being is not imminently threatened before we have time for higher pursuits. Security in today’s world financial security. We need to know where our next paycheck is coming from. And this brings to mind our many fellow citizens who are living paycheck to paycheck, trying to hold down three or more jobs to do so. This breaks my heart. This shouldn’t be. It seems to me that our duty, if we believe that all humans deserve the ability to be regenerated, is to see that many more members of society can earn a living wage with dignity, so that they can be freed up to grow spiritually, too.

The third level of human need, once our bodies are well cared for and our future is relatively secure, is love and belonging. We do better in a loving supportive community. We are designed to live in community, and it is life in community that invites us to see the ways we are falling short. I can’t help but think all of the people that I know who have been rejected from their family or community for reasons of gender identity, orientation, religion, skin color, or even their politics today. It is terribly hurtful, and reduces these people to a spiritual homelessness that can take a long time to recover from. I see so many people who have been rejected from their church communities, and the hurt is so deep, that they resolve never to be long to any church again. And I have to ask, if love and belonging in a safe social community is required for us to be able to regenerate, how are we serving these people by kicking them out of our churches and families? Ironically, these folks often go on to build for themselves a new social network that does love and support them. It does not reflect so well on the group that did the rejecting.

It is never simple. It is never black and white. It is usually in need of a lot more humility and love, regardless.

The fourth level of human need Maslow calls “esteem.” Esteem has recently been translated as confidence and could also be called faith. This “esteem” is not an arrogant certainty of one’s own correctness or superiority. This esteem is faith in the process of regeneration which could also be called trust in Providence.

“Esteem” requires first that we feel secure enough to face and acknowledge the ways we make mistakes without overwhelming shame. So many of us are prone to shame. Like Adam and Eve, we are more likely to cover up and hide our mistakes than be open and honest. This hiding and covering up prevents our growth. This hiding and covering up creates distance between ourselves and God, and distance between ourselves and each other. I submit that the real sin of Adam and Eve was not eating the fruit, but hiding and covering up out of shame. It was shame that made them hide. It was shame that made them distance themselves from God. They projected onto God an inability to forgive and stepped away. They didn’t even give God a chance.

This maps on to my experience of working with people trying to heal relationships. We seem so quick to blame, when in truth the one we find it hardest to forgive is ourselves. We use shame and blame outward to protect ourselves from feeling our disappointment with ourselves. We armor ourselves with feelings of superiority which are as fragile as glass. It is so easy to throw stones when we forget we also live in a glass house. Why is it so hard for us to see that throwing stones helps nobody? Our shame, like the snake, tells us we are not safe being open with God. Our shame is the opposite of the esteem we need to regenerate. We don’t need to be perfect to get to heaven, we need to trust that God’s providence, compassion, and wisdom are more than enough to get us to heaven if we would just stop hiding.

The fifth level and final level of human need according to Abraham Maslow is what he calls “Self-actualization.” In this state one become so connected with one’s gifts and abilities and loves that one serves intuitively and automatically and without self-consciousness. One is a blessing just in the way one shows up. That description sounds a lot like the outcome of regeneration. Regeneration removes the things that block our usefulness. “Usefulness” does not mean a sort of numb, endless serving out of some sort of obligation or selflessness. In heaven, “usefulness” means coming from joy to contribute to the joy around us. It is a way of being that is hard to imagine. But this is the promise of heaven.

Heaven means all of our basic needs are met. We are not struggling just to get enough sleep or enough food, or to pay the rent. We are supported physically and emotionally. We are safe and we are wanted. We are a desired part of our community where the things we contribute are valued and where we in turn value the contributions of others. The life of heaven will feel something like a really well executed sports maneuver (bump, serve, spike!), or being part of a really magnificent dance troupe successfully performing some brilliant choreography. Each person performs their part to their best, and because everyone is at their best, the combined outcome is brilliant.

This life on earth has only the rarest glimpses of what it could be. The path of regeneration gets all of us there faster and with less suffering.

So this is the summation of what I came to say this morning:

I came to say that we are here to become better people; that God is more than wise enough and powerful enough to lead us to heaven, even when we are having trouble forgiving ourselves and believing it is possible. Instead, let us love each other to bits. Let us do our best doing our own personal growth, and try to stay out of each other’s business. Let us do better at appreciating each other and not criticizing each other, the same way we each would really like it if others appreciated us more and criticized us less. Let us create together the world we need to bring heaven on earth.

Blessings as you go forward from this place. May you increasingly become blessings to each other. Amen.

Today’s topic was inspired by a TED radio hour on Maslow’s human needs.

#SundaySermon @JennTafel “Wrestling with God and Receiving Justice”

Listen Here or Read Rev. Tafel’s sermon from 10/20/19

Wrestling With God and Receiving Justice

October 20, 2019

New Church of Montgomery

Good morning! It’s great to be back worshipping with you all today.


Something you may not know about me is that I grew up in the Washington, D.C. area through pre-school and most of my elementary school years. When I was in Kindergarten my mom’s mother came to live with us since my mom went to work full time and I wasn’t quite ready for taking on the world of elementary school by myself yet—especially getting myself to the school. I have a few memories of what this time in my life was like. I remember my Grandma making peanut butter and jelly toast for me and she taught me how to play Rummy…which was really more for her than me I think—my Grandma loved to play cards.My Grandma would help me get on and off the bus each day and seemed genuinely interested in what was going on in my world. It was a great way to start off my school career. 


The next year was a bit dicey since the bus service was not available to those of us who weren’t in Kindergarten. I don’t know what the determining factor was for the school for children between the ages of five and six—but apparently it was a big difference. I didn’t feel the shift—but okay. I think my parents took me through the way I’d be walking so I had some kind of idea of what I was in for. I remember walking with my sister and that was difficult for both of us as we could think of about a hundred other things we’d both rather be doing than having to walk next to each other on the sidewalk going to school. The good news is that we made several stops along the way and gathered a bunch of people to share the journey. I don’t think it was a mile from our house to school but it felt like walking to the moon—and back…and yes it was significantly awful in the winter. At some point along the way I became I latchkey kid. I knew the way quite well after that first year of walking. I knew how long it took to meet up with each group of friends. I knew where the honeysuckles were for a treat walking into school. I knew which yards I could steal flowers from for gifts for my teachers (except for my second grade teacher). I knew who the crossing guard students were and the whole process of crossing large streets together and how big the pack of kids were as we finally made it to the school. It was a journey every single day and there was a particular way to go about it and I knew what the consequences were if any piece of the puzzle was missing. I don’t think I knew how dangerous this whole process was while I was experiencing it but it was made clear to me several times that we needed to stick together. 


This process became what I knew like the back of my hand. Whenever I engaged in a new project, going on a trip, or heck just running errands—this became my way of operating. There was a process of getting from point A to point B and it was detailed and organized. I would get super frustrated when I was younger if I was told we were going somewhere and we did not stick to a plan. There was more to the story but the summary is that I don’t deal well with chaos—or perceived chaos. There is a balance to be achieved between going with the flow and not having a sense of what is going on or what is expected.


This brings us to the lessons from Scripture. Ourstory from the Old Testament features Jacob wrestling with a figure through the night (some say it’s an angel or God but no one knows for certain). This incident takes place the night before Jacob is set to do battle with his brother Esau and Esau’s army (Jacob was on the run because he took their father’s blessing by deceit). There are several facets to this story: sibling rivalry, mysterious or other-worldly encounters, the birth of a nation, and our ability to make sense of it all—or not. In our theology the concept of wrestling (as Jacob did with the figure) “denotes temptation as to truth preceding conjunction with good.” 


As I mulled this over and thought about how our theology boils down to its simplest form to the marriage of Divine Love (goodness) and Divine Wisdom (truth)—I wondered what temptationsexist before truth and goodness can be united. In this particular story the temptation is to operate from our natural or rational self as opposed to our spiritual nature. This is where our story from the Old Testament connects with our story from the New Testament. The unjust Judge in the story with the persistent widow is also an example of operating from the natural self and not the spiritual self. 


In the example I shared above of what it’s like for me to go about my day or work on a project—I have had to do some serious unwinding of rigidity. I had the template of how to go to school imprinted young and hardwired from years of repetition. And so, it would seem I would be able to have a handle on life and what is thrown at me. And yet…I still struggle. As I wrestle with the theology and the point of existence—I work through the regeneration process time and again when faced with triggers and the curve balls thrown at me. What I am currently working on, is handing all aspects of my life over to Spirit. I mean, things go far better when I step aside and allow things to unfold but that is definitely not my default setting. An example, I was visiting with my Goddaughter last week and I was exhausted from working back to back overnights as Chaplain and it was pouring rain. I had to drive about a half hour north of Lansing to meet up with her at a local cider mill. I got to our meet up location way before she did and once she arrived we had a great time and got caught up with each other—and then I had to face the drive home still exhausted and still in the rain. I had flashes of which exit to take but it meant potentially more time on surface streets and so I ignored my gut instinct and the flashes that were coming to mind. Well, instead of dealing with more time on surface streets I had to deal with wasted time in a construction zone. Gee, was that my rational mind saying, “I got this!” only to be met with more frustration? What would’ve happened if I followed what I can only say wasSpirit communicating with me? I know this is how Spirit communicates with me and yet I dismissed it because I thought I knew better.


I would argue that this is the temptation that presents itself before truth can unite with goodness—the idea that “I know better!” based on life experience, our culture, family dynamics and advice, and whatever else stands as a barrier to God or Spirit’s operation in our daily routine which becomes the life we lead. So what do we do about it? As one who does not trust so easily I will say that it is an experiment in handing the reigns over to the Creator of the universe. My new life experience over the past couple years tells me that it works better when I show my gratitude, actively engage in the regeneration process daily or at least weekly, and witness to the positive changes that are unfolding around me. Again, this is not my default setting but it is quickly becoming so.


As one who has been standing with two paths before me I can say for certainty what life is like when I’ve been the one in charge trying to navigate what’s thrown at me, using faulty coping skills because that is what I’ve known (please hear I do not cast blame—this is rather a statement of awareness and observation), and doing my darndest to try and be proactive in ways that only trip me up constantly. As Robert Frost (yes a well known Swedenborgian) said—he took the road not taken and that it made all the difference. I am choosing a path unknown to me but boy is there more light and less chaos…and that is making a difference to me. It takes effort, courage, and persistence.


Coming back to the stories from Scripture—persistence is a key word or concept in both of them. Full disclosure: I gave the sermon title and theme to the folks here before I knew the direction this message would take—which happens more often than not but here we are. And as I am wont to do—I approach my projects and tasks with due diligence. The question I posed in the theme for this message (I know you all read the teaser on the church website!) had to do with wrestling with God and receiving justice…I mean I could’ve asked a larger question but not sure what that would be. I guess what I would ask is what does justice look like to you? Is it something you’re seeking in your daily life? Is it something you’re interested in pursuing on behalf of those who don’t have the ability to be heard…or even asked to the table? The persistence of the characters in both stories pursued their interests and ultimately interests beyond them…yes it seems like the answer was given to only them but Jacob fathered a nation and the widow’s persistence changed the mind of a city official which possibly had an impact on life beyond her story. When we actively engage our spiritual nature and the presence of God…truth and goodness unite and a legacy beyond us can unfold.


As I said, choosing a life unknown and unfamiliar and engaging God in all details takes effort, persistence, and courage. And when life throws curve balls and our circle tells us to get back in our comfort zone—we need encouragement. I look to folks like Brene Brown—a voice becoming well known in our culture—who is a researcher on shame, vulnerability, and courage. The title of her book “Daring Greatly” comes from the well-known (and especially now well-known) quote from Theodore Roosevelt. I will end with this quote that sticks with me quite often these days…



A Song of #Regeneration: A Personal #NationalAnthem

Quotes for your day:

“If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” -Gandhi

and via www.Swedenborg.com/product/regeneration  Regarding Swedenborg’s ideas on regeneration:

We are born with selfish impulses and desires, and while we may learn to act ethically, we don’t start growing as spiritual people until we transform our emotional side. That transformation, he says, happens from the outside in: first we decide intellectually to be more loving, and that decision leads us to choose consciously to act for the good of others. These external thoughts and actions gradually open us to a higher love, one that transforms our desires and ultimately our fundamental being. He calls this process regeneration.

A Song for your Heart:

“I Am Willing”

I am open and I am willing
To be hopeless would seem so strange
It dishonors those who go before us
So lift me up to the light of change
There is hurting in my family
There is sorrow in my town
There is panic in the nation
There is wailing the whole world round
May the children see more clearly
May the elders be more wise
May the winds of change caress us
Even though it burns our eyes
Give me a mighty oak to hold my confusion
Give me a desert to hold my fears
Give me a sunset to hold my wonder
Give me an ocean to hold my tears

~Holly Near, Composer

Performed and Recorded by MUSE, Cincinnati’s Women’s Choir, 2010. Conductor, Dr. Catherine Roma. Soloists, Lois Shegog, Leisan Smith, and Maria Kitsinis. Accompanist, Rachel Kramer.

Use this #MindfulMonday trick: Regeneration

narcissus-ncomIt’s Monday.  The weather’s a little blah, you woke up tired, your cat made a mess on the floor, there’s something nagging your brain.  How has your week begun?  Did you yell at your spouse or kids, blame someone else for a mistake you made, have thoughts that were other than kind?  These are the things that can set us back. But they don’t have to.

Regeneration is a sensible Swedenborgian concept that all people can incorporate into their lives to help move humanity forward, spiritually. After all, we all know how one person can affect everyone around them.  In not only recognizing our wrongs, but examining ourselves, praying, and vowing to do better, we are on our way to a better week and a better heaven.

Read more about regeneration or even watch a cool video on Spiritual Detoxing from the Swedenborg Foundation.

Rebirth in a New Year

1-11-18 pic

“Conception, giving birth, being born, and generations mean spiritual events that are matters of what is true and what is good, or of love and faith … . Begetting and being born mean regeneration and rebirth by means of faith and love.”

~ Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell, (Rose, J. S., ed.; Dole, G. E., trans.), §382g.(note)

Fun and Fruitful #Homecoming #Weekend Ahead

Looking for a weekend project? This Saturday, the Glendale New Church will have a work party from 9-3. If you have a mind for organization or a body for work, they’d love to have you! Any time you share is appreciated.

Sunday, the New Church of Montgomery @Glendale New Church hosts Guest Minister Chris Laitner and a Homecoming party! Come for fellowship at 10 am, church at 11, and a happy lunch and activities at 12. We want to reconnect and generally have a great time with long-lost friends and new friends! 845 Congress Ave, Glendale, OH.

RSVP: 513-630-8777, newchurchofmontgomery@gmail.com


#ThursdayThoughts: Be #Useful

Whether it’s giving your time or your money locally or abroad, being useful is one of the main ideas of the Swedenborgian church.


Being useful is also an important part of our spiritual growth. If we have chosen to embark on the path ofregeneration and work toward becoming better people, then an essential part of that process is trying to be useful to others. ~the Swedenborg Foundation