#WeekendPlans: Keep Moving Forward w/Rev. Machiniak 8/7/22

Please join us Sunday, August 7, 2022, for an entirely virtual (zoom) presentation on the theme: Keep Moving Forward, with Rev. Renée Machiniak. Fellowship begins at 10:30 am, worship at 11:00 am.

Rev. Machiniak will present a sermon entitled “A Scary Crossing”.

Do you ever panic in fear, try to escape from your circumstance and feel trapped? When we are taking our first spiritual steps to make positive change in our lives, sometimes our ego begins to change its mind and we feel overwhelmed. This is a common experience. Moses, the truth within, speaks to us strongly. Join us as we explore higher truths that will assist our understanding when we are ready to “cross over the Red Sea” to a new land, a better life waiting for us.

Rev. Renée Machiniak
Sound Sunset by Marguerite Panyko 2022

#WeekendPlans “Humble Beginnings” w/Rev. Renée Machiniak

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed? I don’t get it. Those who take every
word of the bible literally have a bit of a problem with this parable because
modern understanding has shown that the mustard seed is not the smallest of all
seeds. In fact, the orchid seed is as small as a speck of dust! So, was Jesus not
telling the truth? Have you ever wondered about the deeper truth of this parable
and how it relates to your life? Join us on Sunday morning via Zoom, as we reflect upon the
encouraging story of the mustard seed and the potential that lies within us all. ~Rev. Renée Machiniak

Sermon Title: “The Parable of the Mustard Seed: Humble Beginnings”

Sunday School 9:45 am

Fellowship: 10:30 am

Worship Service 11:00 am

Zoom link provided to church members and their contacts

#Cincy #VirtualChurch Service Recording & Sermon: 8/30/20


If you missed it, here is a link to our 8/30/20, zoom church service with Guest Minister, Rev. Renee Machiniak from MI. We had a great virtual turnout and enjoyed a lot of food for thought even if we couldn’t join each other for lunch afterwards. Have a beautiful Wednesday.


August 30, 2020 Sermon

“Crossing the Rivers: Following God in These Challenging Times”

by Rev. Renee Machiniak (Resource: The Dole Notes, Vol. 2)

Scripture Readings
Exodus 14: 15-22; Joshua 1:1-9
Reading from Swedenborg: A.C. 8403

“No one is regenerated without temptation; many temptations succeed, one after another. The reason is that regeneration is effected for an end; in order that the life of the old person may die, and the new life is heavenly insinuated. There must certainly be a conflict; for the old person resists and determines not to be extinguished; and the life of the new person can only enter where the life of the old is extinct…there is an ardent conflict on both sides because it is for life.”


We are all on a spiritual journey; the road of life and the choices we make take us
through many twists and turns, experiences and challenges. Day by day, in obvious and
subtle ways, our choices lead us either toward God or away from God. Emanuel
Swedenborg suggests that we become heavenly beings – or hellish in nature – not all at
once, but through an accumulation of choices over the course of a lifetime. Ultimately,
what matters at the end of our earthly lives, is what direction we face, i.e. toward a loving perspective greater than self – or – toward inward and closed-off self absorption.

And in the course of this life journey, there are two basic dividing lines to be
crossed: at some point we must cross the “Red Sea” and, much later on, the “Jordan
River.” What does this mean for us, especially in these challenging times? Crossing the
Red Sea means accepting God’s invitation to follow the Divine way; we “follow Moses,”
a higher spiritual law as we understand it. We obey spiritual law, not because we really
want to, but because we are told it is right and we believe that we will find happiness if
we do. Usually, we decide to live by our higher spiritual principles when we are tired of
the effects of our selfish living and we are weary of the consequences i.e. others move
away from us, we move away from them, we lack inner peace or we may simply feel
unsettled, living without a sense of purpose or meaning. We are ready for a change.

So we cross the “Red Sea,” we follow God and begin the transformation. We
invite God into our lives. This may mean incorporating prayer into each and every day,
listening more for God’s guidance in our closest relationships, praying for our “enemies,” perhaps political or more personal, reading the Word for understanding, leading a more useful life, choosing to vote or getting involved with a worthy cause, holding the light for someone who is struggling with depression and loneliness in this time of pandemic isolation. We “cross the Red Sea” when we do these things, even when we do not feel like doing them and cannot see our way through the “wall of water” that seems overwhelming and daunting. But, gradually, we see that the higher spiritual life is worth following. We are moved at the changes happening inside of us and we continue on.

What then lies in between the Red Sea and the crossing of the second line, the
Jordan River, is the long wilderness journey, the forty years of struggle and trial, which
ultimately bring profound inner transformation and “a new generation” of faith. I believe that we, as a nation, are experiencing a cycle of the wilderness journey right now and a new generation is crying out for change, for racial equality, social justice and much more. Many struggle to understand this cry, this new vision. The forty years in the desert correspond to the years in our lives when we wander, wonder and test God; we break the rules and rebel against God, rebel against each other and our own values. We do so because, at this period in our lives, we tend to see the laws of God as a hard taskmaster and we even take credit for the times when we actually flourish from following them. Clearly, at this stage for us, God is outside of us in our experience and we rely on sheer determination to obey – so that we can get what we long for…the promise of happiness and peace, the Holy Land that often feels just beyond our reach. We must go through the desert. We must. And generations that came before struggle to understand.

Forty years of wilderness wandering eventually pass and the new generation
emerges, one that is necessarily different than the one before it. In the biblical story,
everyone, except Joshua and Caleb, passes away and we come to the crossing of the
second major body of water under Joshua’s leadership. This marks the period for the
Israelites, and for our own lives too, when we follow God’s laws not because we are told
to or think that we should, but because we have changed; we now LOVE the Lord and we WANT to follow. This love is our strength. In our hearts, we feel much closer to God.
Through courageous effort to change what is out of order and through faithful living, a
new Spirit of truth now guides us and fights for us. Joshua represents “truth fighting;” he was given the Divine charge: “Be strong and of good courage.” The Lord’s guiding
principles give us strength and they are ours to use in more genuine spiritual living. At
this point in the biblical story, the Israelites have learned to trust their leader, Joshua, and to no longer fear and doubt where God is leading them. Of course, deeper trials lie ahead within the Holy Land and there will be even harsher enemies to face, but these enemies, our lower inner motives, will come face to face with our higher truth that we have now acquired and these truths are gaining strength in us.

Crossing the Jordan River into the Holy Land is a time when we willingly and
gladly follow God. We have learned that, with God, all things are possible and worth the
effort we put into them. As we strive to follow the great Commandments of life and keep steady on our spiritual path, we experience glimpses, or tastes, of heavenly joy that reassure us that heaven is present in this world, as well as beyond this world. Heaven is real, within our grasp and attainable. Today, these moments inspire and sustain us as we actively seek change for the good in a world in great need of hope, connection and faith.

Once we cross the Jordan River, we learn that a life of heaven is an active and
advancing life; with God we cross the great transitions of life with increasing trust and
courage. A life of heaven is constructive and requires the highest form of humility to
follow God and to act for the good at any moment. And, at the same time, we must pray
for the strength to say “no” to temptation; to actually resist the lures of our lower nature. Crossing the Jordan River means we are ready to face our weaknesses in the light of the Lord’s infinite mercy and loving kindness and we then choose a more loving approach to life, we forgive ourselves and others knowing that with God we can overcome and rise up.

So, where are we today? Together, with the Lord, we can ask ourselves the tough
questions. We can ask the Lord if we are still rebelling and complaining in the wilderness. Or perhaps we are determined to obey God’s universal laws out of habit and sheer willpower and we are gaining strength in this effort. Or, could it be, that we are bravely beginning to cross the Jordan, bathing in the genuine love of God and entering into heaven on earth. Let us remember, for ourselves, the Lord’s words to Joshua as He opened the way to cross the great river: “Be strong and of good courage,” and remember to “meditate on the Word day and night.” Within the Word of God lies the truth for your life. Each and every day, you will be guided to the exact message you need to understand.

Interestingly, the name “Jordan” means “the descender.” In a little more than two
hundred miles, the Jordan River descends from the mountains of Lebanon to the Dead
Sea, the lowest spot on the face of the earth. The Dole Notes remind us that, in
Swedenborg’s theology, this pictures the truth from the Lord flowing down to us in the
very lowest possible spiritual states. No matter how lost or despairing we may find
ourselves, the Lord will meet us there and lift us up.

The Jordan is also the boundary of the Holy Land on the east, and the east is the
direction of the sunrise, representing the rising of the Lord in our lives. So the truths
pictured by the Jordan River are those truths which introduce us into the land of heavenly living. These primary truths of the Word might be – knowing the Lord as our Heavenly Father/Heavenly Mother, that all goodness and truth are from God, and that the Lord can help us only as we are willing to follow the Divine way.

Those of us gathered here in worship this morning, we all want to enter the Holy
Land. We want to be happy, useful, prosperous and at peace. So what is it that gets in the way? What is it that sometimes makes truth appear as a barrier, just when we are ready to enter the spiritual land of promise, the time of harvest? It is the enemies in the land, the enemies in us; the deeply hidden dark tendencies we harbor and feed within. Because our “Holy Land” has destructive forces within it, our lower appetites make the introductory truths of heaven seem false and undesirable. We can fool ourselves into thinking that what is true is false and what is false is true. This “smacks” of our political scene today, doesn’t it? No matter what perspective or side we choose, we can get confused. Our lower nature can interpret and distort reality into perceptions that cloud higher truth. And even after all of our life experience with the Lord’s goodness shown to us, we struggle to believe that the Lord will bring good through it all, that there is still hope and a bright future ahead of us. Rest assured, the Lord will not abandon us. The Lord is faithful to us.

So long as we keep God central in our lives, the Lord can keep the way open before us and deliver us, even when we cannot see any way at all. Perhaps this is how you feel sometimes? Lost and alone, downhearted, or perhaps living with little or no hope? Heaven is sending signals, sending help, as we pay close attention and act with courage. Swedenborg reassures us that God’s Providence is ultimately friendly. But it can be challenging to believe this reassurance – in the face of so many who suffer today from racial injustice, violence, existential loneliness, as well as environmental and health threats. Life today can be so overwhelming. We all feel the stress of these times.

The difficulties and despairing moments can strengthen and gird us. Remember
that the stones in this story represent foundational truths, higher truths that hold us
together. Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan and twelve stones from
Jordan to Gilgal, their first encampment in the Holy Land. These were to serve as
reminders, forever, of what they had been enabled to do that day. Think of this for your
life and reflect upon the Lord’s charge to Joshua:

“Be strong and of good courage. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord
your God will be with you wherever you go.”

This is a charge to you, to everyone, who wishes to achieve a heavenly character through the journey of life and so live in heaven, both here and in the life beyond the veil. Just imagine a life guided by love and not fear, a life so connected with God that we include the Lord in everything we do. We still have our moments of struggle, we still wrestle with ourselves and others, but we turn to heaven’s strength to persevere and grow. In Swedenborg’s Arcana Coelestia, we are given heavenly wisdom about personal, spiritual growth that illuminates the truth that we all must, indeed, change:
“The life of the old person resists and determines not to be extinguished; and the
life of the new person can only enter where the life of the old is extinct. It is plain that
there is a conflict on both sides; and an ardent conflict, because it is for life.” (A.C. 8403)
It is a part of being human that we experience these internal and external conflicts; it is a part of the journey of life. Let us seek the higher path, the road less traveled…

Robert Frost:
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
and sorry I could not travel both.
And be one traveler, long I stood
and looked down one as far as I could
to where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

#WeekendPlans: “Crossing the River” w/Rev. Machiniak

Join us for zoom church service 11 am in Cincinnati or wherever you are, on Sunday 8/31, with Guest Minister, Rev. Renée Machiniak. The sermon title is: “Crossing the Rivers: Following God in These Challenging Times”
We will reflect upon the two basic dividing lines everyone must cross at some point in our lives as we find our way to true happiness, a heavenly life. Especially during these challenging times, it is helpful to understand the overall map or path that God gives us in the Word to lead us “home” to the Holy Land.
Reading from Swedenborg: Arcana Coelestia 8403:
“No one is regenerated without temptation; many temptations succeed, one after another. The reason is that regeneration is effected for an end; in order that the life of the old person may die, and the new life is heavenly insinuated. There must certainly be a conflict; for the old person resists and determines not to be extinguished; and the life of the new person an only enter where the life of the old is extinct…there is an ardent conflict on both sides because it is for life.”

#MindfulMonday “Gentleness of Spirit” Sermon

Cincinnati Church

Sermon August 25, 2019

Rev. Renee Machiniak  “Gentleness of Spirit”

Psalms 18:35; Matthew 11:29-30, 26:52-53; Galatians 5:22-23


Call to Worship Written by Joanna Harader, a Mennonite pastor, Lawrence, Kansas


Call to Worship Litany (based on Psalm 133, revised)

Though we may be inclined to boast and brag,

let us come together with humility.

How good a thing it is when all of God’s people live together in unity.

Though we may be tempted to use harsh words,

let us come together with gentleness.

How good a thing it is when all of God’s people live together in unity.

Though we may want everything to happen quickly,

let us come together with patience.

How good a thing it is when all of God’s people live together in unity.

Though the world around often encourages hate,

let us come together in love.

How good a thing it is when all of God’s people live together in unity.

In humility, gentleness, patience, love, and unity,

Let us worship the God who has called us together.


Psalm 18:35 (NKJV)

35 You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great.


Matthew 11:29-30  (NKJV)

29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am [a]gentle and lowly in heart & you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 26:52-53 Jesus said to Malcus, the servant of the high priest, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. “Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?

Galatians 5:22-23  (NRSV) The Fruit of the Spirit

22 …The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

Reading from Swedenborg

“Worship does not consist in prayers and in external devotion, but in a life of kindness.” ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

“The speech of heavenly angels is like a gentle stream, soft and virtually unbroken …” ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

(The Heavenly City: A Spiritual Guidebook (1993) Crysalis Books)



Our message today is about GENTLENESS.


Earlier this summer, while working as a chaplain at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, I was paged by nursing staff to the pediatric unit regarding a 4 year old boy with a heart condition. The staff was struggling because this 4 year old kept bumping into them, throwing himself, whole body, into them. They couldn’t stop the behavior. So, then, something amazing happened. God gave me the idea to get down on my knees, on his level, and look him straight in the eyes. It’s amazing how little ones interact with us when we do that. So now, I am not a giant above him, I am on his level; I bend low; I am gentle. Interestingly, one of the meanings of gentleness, in Hebrew, is to “bend low.”

I asked him how he was doing; he laid his head on my lap and cried. His aggressive behavior stopped. He just needed someone to be very gentle with him.


God is Gentle: “Lord, your right hand has held me up, your gentleness has made me great, humble, kind, favored, meek, merciful and tender” (Psalm 18).

This is the attitude of those who are people of “the way;” the way of God.



In 2010, a stirring article was written by a man named Paul Tillman. He wrote about the true story of a cowboy who learned the power of gentleness when training his horses.


This cowboy had been breaking horses since he was a child. But about 25 years ago, Grant Golliher changed his method. His old method was tried and true. “Make ’em do it, show ’em who’s boss. If the horse gives you any grief, whack ’em with a two-by-four.” He admits to ruining many talented horses with that method, and one horse even strangled himself trying to escape from the cowboy’s breaking method.


Golliher changed his methods when he met Ray Hunt, an original horse whisperer. Hunt taught Golliher to tame horses by building trust instead of fear. This six foot tall man, with rough leathery hands, is now a gentle man. He uses love and discipline. The discipline now takes the form of a white flag on a stick, which he uses to get the horse to overcome its fear.

As he pats Chestnut the horse after a productive session, Golliher says, “See him lick his lips? That’s a good sign. That means he feels good about what just happened. Horses really love you when you help them get through their fear.” Golliher says what astounds him most is not the changes in the horses, but in the people who watch and practice horse whispering. Some abused women have told him they see themselves in the skittish horses. Some men affected by the program have begun to use gentleness rather than fear in their relationships…and their relationships blossomed.

In Matthew 11:29 Jesus said,”Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentile and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

In our world today, we are bombarded with harshness and violence everywhere we turn…and this harshness and violence is tearing us apart, individually and collectively. Too many are “strangling themselves” to escape this planet, like the horse trained with brutality.

In our world today, sometimes those with the greatest opportunity to help, offer only harsh & biting word & we close up inside & disappear.

Most of the world lifts up the conquering hero who refuses to submit, and who exerts his or her interests against anyone who might challenge those interests. Rewards are for people who compete successfully through strength of will and superior power. In contrast, the meek and gentle person is ridiculed for being weak and soft, and of no real value in society.

Often, the most rewarded sales people are those with the most aggressive methods. The politicians most often voted into office are usually the biggest liars, and the most ruthless of men and women. Today, frequently, the heads of large corporations are those who have robbed others blind, stolen secrets, and cheated people of their retirement funds.

Jesus, however, portrays that the ideal follower is someone who is meek and gentle. The promised reward that such a person will inherit the earth is a bold contradiction of the worldly wisdom we encounter.

The apostle Paul, who was formerly a harsh persecutor of the church, a murderer, recognized that gentleness does not come naturally for many. He explicitly lists gentleness, or meekness, as a fruit of the Spirit, a virtue that is planted and flourishes where God dwells.

Gentleness or Meekness is listed in Galatians as the eighth fruit of the Spirit; it is a gift we “put on,” if you will – with the Lord’s blessing. In Swedenborgian phraseology, we “put on” a new will from the Lord and gradually grow to love the gentleness we choose in life.

Gentleness or Meekness is thought to be an elusive virtue, in that few people know how to define it. Many people incorrectly equate it to weakness. In the English language, it includes such virtues as: humility, mildness, modesty, unpretentiousness, tolerance and tender heartedness. Gentleness has come to mean soft or weak in our culture today.

But, the Greek word for gentleness or meekness does not express this. Gentleness or meekness manifested by God and given to the saints, is the fruit of power. * It is enduring injury with lasting patience and without resentment. Resentment is a feeling of indignant displeasure or persistent ill will at something regarded as a wrong, an insult, or an injury. The spirit of God cannot dwell in the heart of someone who is harsh or resentful. This is reason enough to be more gentle in our lives – God can live in us when we are.

Gentleness is not a false modesty or a spineless refusal to stand for anything. It is strong and is never a cowardly retreat from reality. Neither is gentleness a false humility that refuses to recognize that God has given us gifts, talents and abilities, or that refuses to use them for God’s good purposes and plans.

Speaking on the level of community and loving the neighbor … it is impossible to have true unity with one another without gentleness. Remember, that genuine gentleness comes from God’s love and there is nothing stronger than God’s love. Though very strong, gentleness is a softness of manner and disposition; there is a total absence of harshness, fierceness, or violence in it.

We see how important gentleness is for the future of the human race and planet. We inherit the choices of those who came before us. Consider Matthew 5:5 where the Lord says: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Our very future depends upon re-claiming and returning to our gentle natures, deepening our relationship with God.

In the New Testament, Jesus is never described as weak, or mild. He was sometimes quite the opposite, both forceful and authoritative from love.

While discerning the Pharisees’ harsh, hypocritical intentions Jesus called them “brood of vipers.” He also overturned the tables of the money changers at the temple in Jerusalem.

So, we see there a contrast between our Lord’s gentle approach, but with authority, and the Pharisees’ harsh, hateful, condemning approach.

A weak & mild Jesus is not in our Bible. A strong, yet gentle, Jesus, is.

Jesus gathered children around Him and reminded us that we must become like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven, gentle and innocent, without guile.

Remember in the Word…

1. Jesus was gentle in his treatment of the woman caught in adultery that the Pharisees wanted to stone.

2. The way he treated Thomas, who refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead until he saw Jesus with his own eyes.

3. The way in which he associated with the outcasts of society, the sinners, the prostitutes, and the tax collectors.

4. The way in which he healed people who were suffering.

5. His conversation with the woman at the well in Samaria. Jesus engaged her in conversation that drew her close rather than alienating her. He allowed her to admit her sin rather than condemning her from the start. The conversation was a gentle conversation.

We can learn from all of these examples how to communicate in love and wisdom with others of varying backgrounds who are different than we are. Jesus was the truly powerful one and yet He was gentle.

When the Lord was being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of his disciples, Peter, pulled out a sword and struck Malchus, the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.

But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?

You can hear his firmness, but yet also gentleness in what He told Peter.

Jesus had massive strength at His disposal, but He restrained His use of power because He knew that He must die to bring freedom and salvation to all people. He put aside the strength and power of a king for the benefit of the weak.

He was gentle and lowly of heart.

As human beings, it is so hard for us to live the right balance of gentleness and firmness in truth.

So, what can we do to subdue a harsh nature and develop gentleness? Aubrey Andelin, in his book Man of Steel and Velvet, suggests three things. I thought this was very good advice:

1. We must work to have restraint and self-control. As Swedenborg invites us to consider: We must act “As If” we are gentle and bring our actions and emotions under the Lord’s will. We must bridle our tongues as one would bridle a horse and lead it gently where it should go. Our words can either kill or they can help to give life.

2. We must work daily to develop a gentle character. We will never be gentle in nature until there is a change in us that takes place – within our character. We must choose a life of gentleness until we have a gentle character that automatically prompts us to deal kindly with people. Swedenborg promises that in time – it becomes easier and easier to do the Lord’s will. Gentleness comes as we grow spiritually; as we develop loving kindness and forgiveness and learn to concentrate on people’s goodness rather than their faults.

3. We must develop humility. The key to humility is in learning to see our own mistakes and weakness and begin to change our ways, i.e. Swedenborg’s concept of repentance. When this occurs, the Lord softens our hearts and our attitude toward the errors of others. Grace softens us and we are never the same again. We are made new and speak and see through the softness of the angels, as Swedenborg illuminates for us. As we are being made new, we must subdue our will more and more.

Jesus speaks to you and to me today in our world in such great need: “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” “Blessed are the meek/the gentle,” “Blessed are the merciful,” “Blessed are the pure in heart,” “Blessed are the peacemakers.” For theirs is the kingdom of God.

• A gentle spirit is very precious in the sight of God. AMEN.


(Selected portions taken from: “A Gentle Spirit Is Very Precious to God” Martin G. Collins)

“Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon” mural, designed by wildlife artist and conservationist John A. Ruthven

#FridayFeeling #VisitUs this Sunday

This Sunday’s message inspires us with true stories of how gentleness
transforms our lives and reminds of the power of our Lord’s gentle strength
as we face challenging times in our world burdened with violence and hate.

We will consider ways to subdue a harsh nature and develop gentleness as we
strive to grow spiritually and work for peace in the world.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

10:30 am: Hospitality

11:00 am: Service

Guest Minister, Rev. Renée Machiniak

#ThursdayThoughts: “Gentleness of Spirit”

Ponder this quote for Sunday with Rev. Renée Machiniak, when she delves into the gentleness that comes from Spirit.

Galatians 5:22-23 New International Version (NIV)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.