Archive for July, 2010

Really Enjoying NewChurch LIVE. What more could I read?

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Many folks who enjoy NewChurch LIVE ask what they could read. Not everyone is a reader, but if you are, these are my recommendations on where to start.

The Bible
I recommend starting with the New King James Version of the Bible. My favorite book in the Bible is the Gospel of John. It is often called the Gospel of Love with good reason. The New Church really are Gospel of John Christians with a twist in taking as truth Jesus’ words in that Gospel, “I and the Father are one.” No angry God, angry Father sacrificing His Son for our sins but a loving God come to earth in the form of Jesus Christ to save us by showing us how to live.

If you like history, go with a study bible that adds notes to flesh out the reading.

New Church Theology
I would recommend the New Century Edition of “True Christianity” by Emanuel Swedenborg. Volume I is currently available in the NCE. Volume II will be out shortly.

Notes About Canon
Religious Canon is a different kind of literature. It is not written with the consistently of a linear, narrative story being its primary concern. The primary concern is connecting God and man, to give us ideas by which we can live our lives. Therefore much of revelation is more closely attuned with poetry than prose. (Think, who can better describe the beauty and wonder of a sunset – a poem or a scientific article. I vote for the poem.)

Also, do not expect “perfection.” Theology is not about a perfect “answer” to every question in the world. It is not a mathematical equation. It more closely aligns with a compass than a map. Therefore don’t be thrown off by dated language or statements obviously well ensconced in a certain historical time period. Look for the deep ideas – the themes – underneath. Those “compass points” are where the transformation lies.

Finally, New Church Theology was drawn out of revelation based on the Bible and circles back to the Bible. New Church Theology is about “True Christianity” – a return to the roots of what Christianity truly means. Though we call ourselves the “New Church” the reality is that we are rather old and believe that in returning to those roots, we create something new.

Enjoy reading!

Am I part of Creation or apart from Creation?

Monday, July 19th, 2010

With “Footprints” wrapped up, a few closing reflections.

From a Christian New Church/ Swedenborgian perspective, we as human beings were created as part of creation not apart from creation.  At one time we did live as placed creatures within creation.  That meant we could see God everywhere in creation – the two being inseparable.

Humanity however chose a different path – to place ourselves outside of creation.  So we held God with one hand and creation with the other.  With ourselves encamped in the middle so to speak, we now can “dominate” creation and yes even “dominate” God.  We can push both to the edges of our lives.

What does it mean to have pushed creation to that edge?  What does it mean to have God pushed to that edge?   As I understand NewChurch theology, when we become the sole and only reference point, our lives in a sense collapse in on themselves.  True happiness is when we bring God and creation back to the center.

Emanuel Swedenborg wrote extensively about that connection.  Want to know about the course of our life?  Look at a tree. Want to know how heaven is organized?  Look at the human body.

When we put ourselves on the circumferance, we can then look with awe, wonder, and curriousity into the center.  Ironically, we will then find ourselves not “lessened” but “strengthened” as we act in more integrity with the great notes of the Universe.

So that is where we choose.  Shada Sullivan offered moving reflections at the close of Footprints to that effect.  Yes, we can avoid leadership.  If we are honest with ourselves, as she said, that avoidance often stems from a desire to avoid responsibility.  Stepping up is challenging.  And we need to step up.  We need to really figure out our place in creation.  We need to candidly look at areas in our lives which are driven by greed and envy and obey God’s command – “Thou Shalt Not Covet.”  We need to take seriously the Sabbath – 1/7 of our lives dedicated to the active rest the Sabbath calls us to.    We can do all this with a smile on our face -with grace and elegance – with joy in our heart.  Those changes – a part of the Jesus’ 3rd way – in the end may actually be a part of returning home.

“I Know” and Blindness

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Jesus warned – because we “know” we are blind. Interesting stuff especially given our immersion in a culture where knowledge is critical. What then is Jesus really saying?

He is warning us I believe in the kind of “knowing” that morphs into a rigid “rightness” – one in which no spaciousness exists.

That type of rigidity actually leads to ignorance. We avoid the question, “What can I learn from this person, from this situation?” and replace it with the need to convince the other, to make the other wrong, to prove ourselves right.

By its very nature that perspective pushes the world into smaller and smaller slices of “rightness” in which “wrongness” is discounted.

That is a daily battle – knowing what we know, standing for what we stand for, while at the same time retaining the plasticity of spirit that allows others to feel safe and at home even in areas where perspectives differ. That kind of grace is the grace whose light we can rest in!

Self Image or Self and Image

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

I spent this week working with teenagers at a local summer camp.

Stories (and sermons) divide into three part – context, conflict, resolution. These young adults broke into groups and discussed what they saw as the essential conflict of adolescence. Restated, if adolescence was a “story”, what would the conflict be?

Interesting responses. The key appears to be self image. I love that phrase. It is the problem and the solution all in one.

The challenge is when we hold self image as one thing. The solution is breaking self and image, noticing that the two are actually different.

Richard Rohr’s words ring true – “God does not love us if we change, as we almost all think; but God loves us so that we can change.” This is the very nature of God’s unconditional love. From that place we can divide self from image in a healthy way, learning to spend a lot more time looking out the window at others vs. gazing in the mirror at ourselves.

Is it possble to live an “unsurrendered” life as a Christian?

Monday, July 12th, 2010

The short answer – no.

A remarkable piece of Christianity is the concept that we must surrender our lives up. It is a surrendering however to God in a way that helps us to uncover our true selves.

It is so easy though to play with faith. We live in a culture that worships the individual. And of course, that is a source of strength in many instances – loosing ourselves to a “system” is Orwellian.

But there are limits. As Tutu said, thankfully there really is not a “self-made man.” We are where we are by the grace of others and the grace of God. None of us got here “alone.”

A hope – that Christianity rediscovers its heart. We have played such games with faith. Games that include the view of a Church as a club, as a “golden ticket.”

Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to the door to protest the Pope’s use of indulgences. Emanuel Swedenborg, the New Church’s Martin Luther, figuratively nailed progressive Christian principles to the door of the Protestant Church to protest the concept of salvation by faith alone. Faith needs trust, compassion, kindness, service to be real. It is far more than belief.

Recapturing the heart requires surrender.

Expression vs. Achievement

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

A friend sent me a link in which someone talked about the difference between two possible life goals.

One goal is to “Achievement.” As a goal, one can’t say achievement is a bad thing. It certainly is not. But is it the only thing?

That is where “Expression” comes in. What if our goal in life is to be, as best we can, an expression of God’s love? That expression, important to note, is realized in us being our best selves, the self that is most clearly and closely connected to the “image and likeness of God” – the mold in which we are cast.

Achievement comes and goes. More and more of our life over the years I believe is about finding peace and joy both inside and outside of “achievement” – a peace and joy that is not reliant on a particular outcome but that exists simply because it exists. From that place, we can be a settled expression of God’s love, a love that is constantly looking out at others with the tenderness of God.

Funny what you can achieve with that perspective!