Posts Tagged ‘Second Coming’

A Second Conversion

Monday, March 5th, 2012

Church ended well.  The weekend started with a trip to the Pittsburgh Ronald McDonald House, wound through a Saturday night presentation to a gathered group on the changes in church functions moving forward, and ended with Sunday worship – a group of 85 of us in a small country church.

The congregation is going through all the pangs of finding a way forward in uncertain times.  Full time pastor?  Video services?  Traditional? Contemporary?

And yet the feelings underneath the “noise” are all true – true across churches small and large, growing and contracting, home and institutional.  Feelings that speak to God’s presence.

Many moments throughout the weekend left an impact – a testimony to that presence.  One in particular was a first time attendee to that church.  A middle aged man, he pulled me aside after the church.  Tears in his eyes, a tremble in his voice, – a man who had struggled with the concept of “God” – he told me he felt something cracking open in his heart.  We prayed.

There are few words to offer in the face of grace, in the presence of Spirit.  His face part of a phase many go through – a second conversion – a death and birth.  I smile at these well written words:

“The New Testament is a brutal destroyer of human illusions.  If we follow Jesus and don’t end up dead, it appears we will have some explaining to do.”

So I don’t know where this “second conversion” will lead him.  I don’t know what the future holds.  I do know once our hearts start to break open, there is no going back.  He may or may not realize it – but he is goner in a sense.  That breaking will grow.  The fissures will widen.  Eventually God will claim him to a new life.  A light that never turns Green, unexpectedly shifts.  Welcome to SURPRISE!

 

 

When you figure out what is important, you will realize you have just time to accomplish it.

Wednesday, January 11th, 2012

We awaken at different times.  In this denomination, the “Second Coming” we hold to be deeply personal – a “Second Coming” that is not a physical return of Christ but in a rebirth of God into our lives, a rebirth where we open our eyes for a second time.

Our lives desperately need that second opening.  We are so bloody self obsessed!  One friend told a rather pointed joke.  ”So this guy demands of God proof of God’s existence. God responded somewhat perplexed, ‘I thought creation was enough.’”  I certainly have been in that place and find myself in that place still, a place where  all the beauty around me lies unseen as I obsessively stare into the mirror, caught in the narcissistic hell of painting my own self portrait again and again.

Thankfully, that particular approach to life inevitably fails.  I know as a Pastor, that is why I am far more relieved when someone calls in tears than in almost any other emotion.  I know when they “break” and gaze up and beyond the canvas of their thoughts and feelings they will see – and experience – a grace and beauty beyond words.  Then we see what is important and we realize we have just enough time to accomplish it.

Rummage Sale

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Phylis Tickle in a recent podcast commented on the current historical period as being a “Rummage Sale.”  We are in “cleaning out” time, a time when many, many things are up for question, are open for evaluation.  What do we sell?  What do we keep?  We do we re-purpose?

In the late 1990′s, much was made of the “end of history.”  Liberal Western capitalist democracy was seen ascendant, victorious almost given the fall of Eastern Bloc.  There remained no truly viable “challenge” to the Western world view.  Amazing in a way to see where we are currently – 15 years later – where so many ideas are open to question.  Even look at our idea of market economics within the current economic crisis.  Given the excesses of Wall Street that fed into the “Great Recession” clearly even the idea of totally unregulated markets holding the key for society’s advancement is open for revision.  Hence the “rummage sale.”

The New Church, as is true for many (all?) other denominations is experiencing those very same cultural forces, forces that place what was a “tradition” into the market place of ideas where it must compete with many other allegiances.  As with all rummage sales, it is about cleaning out everything – the house, the attic, the basement – looking at the debris of life and choosing what stays and what goes.

It is easy to regard this societal shift as negative, as directly oppositional to the very concept of “Church.”  The Christian New Church perspective however reassures us that “rummage sales” are healthy.  Emanuel Swedenborg clearly saw that the world was not – in the 1700′s – or in the future, moving towards a homogeneous society.

The New Church then is not a promise of Christianity triumphant.  It is a promise of perspective – of being able to approach faith free from many of the trappings of traditional Christian religious order while being increasingly free to experience the deeper, transformative heart of the Christian faith.

As Swedenborg predicted, in the future, the existence of different denominations is to continue.  Variety absolutely would remain perfection.  This is the doctrinal absolute that we often miss.  Swedenborgian thought is NOT a perspective that narrows the church experience into a myopic trouping of set, creed-orientated faith statements.  It is actually an expansive perspective that holds all faiths as having value and utility for those who sincerely practice them.

The rummage sale is actually a time of great promise.

First Coming, Second Coming

Friday, October 8th, 2010

For many of us, theology around the concept of a Second Coming is far removed from the concerns of everyday life.  As a pastor, it does not often come up in questions.  Important though to think about it.

The First Coming was Jesus’ birth into the world.  For several Christian denominations, the Second Coming will be the end of history and Jesus’ glorious return to earth.  (Important to note that for some it is a return in love, for others a return in wrath as seen in the “slaughtering Jesus” of the popular “Left Behind” series.)  For those who subscribe to the Christian New Church angle on the Second Coming, it is seen as the deeper understanding of the poetic sense of the Word, a description of which Emanuel Swedenborg wrote extensively.  The key difference – in the New Church it is a Second Coming of ideas, not of Person.

And what is the key idea?  As Swedenborg noted, and as we celebrate on the 19th of June, it is the proclamation on earth and in heaven, “… the Gospel that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns as the one God of heaven and earth.”  Critically important stuff and topic I wrote of several posts earlier.

By allowing God in as Jesus, we do live into eye-level Christianity.  Want to walk as God walked, in His image and likeness, in other words, as He intended from creation for us to walk?  Follow the steps of Jesus, the Divine Human.

Follow those steps – walk the walk -  and what we experience is the most significant of Second Comings, the Second Coming of the Lord into our lives.

This in no way denigrates the theology around the Second Coming.  It is a fascinating, engaging, and fresh perspective on the Christian message that returns Christianity, I believe, to its roots.  If you struggle with the idea that of the New Church as instrumental to the Second Coming, so be it.  Focus on what the Second Coming is in your life is – where, with the help of the Word, the church, your community, your own experience – God can be born in your heart anew and you will find yourself in the most important place, the most blessed place – where God is.