Category Archives: Uncategorized

“Fear Neutralizer” – Rev. David Brown

 

In this sermon, delivered at Wayfarer’s Chapel, the National Memorial to Emanuel Swedenborg in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA, the Rev. David Brown explores the theme of fear and insecurity, and insights into how we can cope with the spiritual challenges arising out of them.

 

Click below for a PDF version of Rev. Brown’s sermon:

Fear Neutralizer – Rev. David Brown

 

Rev. David Brown has been serving Wayfarers Chapel as lead chapel minister since his ordination into the ministry of the Swedenborgian Church in 2006, and currently oversees rites and sacraments there.

In 2004 Rev. Brown received a Master of Divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California and is currently enrolled in their Doctor of Ministry program with a focus on applied spiritual practice.

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“Spiritual Struggles” – Rev. Susannah Currie

 

In this sermon, delivered at the New Jerusalem Church (Swedenborgian) at Bridgewater, MA on March 19, 2017, the Rev. Susannah Currie explores the theme of spiritual struggle, as illustrated by the mythical struggle between Jacob and the “angel” in Genesis 32:

 

“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans,and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.”

-Genesis 32:24-29*

 

Click below for an AUDIO version of Rev. Currie’s sermon:

 

Rev. Susannah Currie has served as pastor of the Bridgewater New Jerusalem Church since 2009. She served three terms as Treasurer of the General Convention of Swedenborgian Churches and five years as Recording Secretary for the denomination. She holds a BA in Accounting, a Masters of Divinity degree, a certificate in Swedenborgian Studies and is a Board Certified Chaplain through the Association of Professional Chaplains.

 

 

 

 

*New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

 

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“Resurrection Within: The Invitation of Easter” -Rev. Thom Muller

 

In this Easter sermon, Rev. Thom Muller explores Swedenborg’s esoteric interpretation of the Easter narrative, and how it relates to our own inner life.

 

Click below for a PDF version of Rev. Muller’s Sermon:

Resurrection Within: The Invitation of Easter

 

Rev. Thom Muller is pastor of Hillside, an Urban Sanctuary, in El Cerrito, California, as well as junior editor of Our Daily Bread. His passions include the intersection of spirituality and psychology, interfaith theology, and the Western esoteric tradition. He was ordained into the ministry of the Swedenborgian Church of North America in 2016, upon receiving his theological education at Bryn Athyn College of the New Church and the Center for Swedenborgian Studies / Pacific School of Religion at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA.

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ODB Blog: “Do Good Works Matter for Salvation?”

Do Good Works Matter for Salvation?

Rev. David J. Fekete, Ph. D.

April 26, 2017

 

You hear sometimes that faith alone saves, and that being good, doing good works—good deeds—don’t contribute to salvation. Sometimes you’ll even hear that good works don’t really matter. I’ve heard someone put it, “You can’t work your way into heaven.”  

Then some bring up—out of context—Isaiah 64:6, “all our righteous deeds are like a filthy  Cloth.”*

But good works and being good do matter in salvation. To children and common sense, a person needs to be good, and not evil, in order to be saved. Almost everything Jesus said was about how to love and be good. Even Paul talked about the importance of being good in order to be saved (though some might not want to say he did).

Here are just a few Bible passages that show how important good works are for salvation. These are all from the Gospels and Paul’s letters. There is the whole of Hebrew Scriptures to consider, as well.

 

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.**

(Matthew 5:8)

 

Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? […] For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: To those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.  There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,  but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.  For God shows no partiality.

(Romans 2:4, 6-10)

 

You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles?  17  In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  18  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will know them by their fruits.

(Matthew 7:16-20)

 

And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

(John 3:19-21)

 

Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.  For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.  Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

(Galatians 5:16-24)

 

See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all.  Rejoice always,  pray without ceasing,  give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  Do not quench the Spirit.  Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good;  abstain from every form of evil.

(1 Thessalonians 5:15-22)

 

My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

(John 15:8-12)

 

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the

one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

(Matthew 7:21)

 

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What do you read there?” He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”  28  And he said to him, “You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live.”

(Luke 10:25-28)

 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.

(Matthew 5:43-45)

 

Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

(Luke 15:7)

 

Shun youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who

call on the Lord from a pure heart.

(2 Timothy 2:22)

 

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow. If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit. So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.

(Galatians 6:7-9)

 

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

(Mark 1:4)

 

But strive first for the kingdom of God [l]  and his [m]  righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

(Matthew 6:33)

 

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who

built his house on rock.”

(Matthew 7:24)

 

The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

(Matthew 13:41)

 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’”

(Matthew 25:31-40)

 

*New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

**Ibid.

 

 

Rev. David J. Fekete, Ph.D., is senior editor of Our Daily Bread, as well as pastor at the Church of the Holy City, a Swedenborgian community in Edmonton, Alberta.

His particular interests and areas of passion include comparative religion, literature, the arts, as well as interfaith work and ecumenism.

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Rev. James Lawrence: “Heaven on Wheels – The Inner Dimensions of Ezekiel’s Visions”

 

In this sermon, Rev. Dr. James Lawrence, dean of the Center of Swedenborgian Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, explores the inner dimensions of the visionary experiences described in the Book of Ezekiel.

 

Click below for a PDF version of Rev. Lawrence’s sermon:

Rev. Dr. James Lawrence: “Heaven on Wheels”

 

 

Rev. Dr. James F. Lawrence has been an ordained minister in the Swedenborgian Church of North America for several decades. A native of Texas, he currently serves as dean of the Center for Swedenborgian Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA, where he is a core doctoral faculty member, as well as assistant professor of Christian Spirituality and Historical Studies at Pacific School of Religion.

 

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ODB Online Course: “Foundational Teachings in Paul’s Letters”

 

Although one can find disparaging passages in Swedenborg’s writings about Paul, we need not assume prejudice against him ourselves. We will attempt to be a fair reader of both Paul and  Swedenborg. When we find doctrinal opposition, we will lay out both sides of the argument. In this way, one will be able to see how and where Swedenborg’s theology differs from Paul’s, and where the two are in accord.

In this 10-week course, we will encounter Paul as we find him in his letters, and also as the history of Christianity has interpreted him. It will interest those who have a background in Paul, and also those who have never read Paul and had little exposure to Christianity.

Click below for a PDF version of the first segment of the series:

Paul, Week One -Rev. David Fekete

 

Rev. David Fekete is senior editor of “Our Daily Bread”, as well as pastor at the Church of the Holy City, a Swedenborgian community in Edmonton, Alberta.

His particular interests and areas of passion include comparative religion, literature, the arts, as well as interfaith work and ecumenism.

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Colin Amato: “The Ecological Samaritan”

 

In this message, delivered at Hillside, an Urban Sanctuary in El Cerrito, California, Swedenborgian seminarian Colin Amato addresses the global ecological crisis through a Swedenborgian lens.

 

Click below for a PDF version of Colin’s message:

Colin Amato: “The Ecological Samaritan”

 

Colin Amato is a current student at Pacific School of Religion and the Center for Swedenborgian Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Colin has previously earned a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy, and seeks to integrate the spiritual insights of Emanuel Swedenborg with Depth Psychology and the Western mystical tradition, and is preparing for ordained ministry in the Swedenborgian Church of North America.

 

 

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“Holy Mother – Wholly Human” -Rev. Thom Muller

 

In this sermon, Rev. Thom Muller discusses the significance of the character of Mary, the mother of Jesus, in Swedenborgian theology and spirituality, and how the inner dimensions of biblical narrative can impact the way we view this archetypal image of motherhood.

 

Click below for a PDF version of Rev. Muller’s talk:

Holy Mother – Wholly Human

 

Rev. Muller is the pastor of Hillside, an Urban Sanctuary, in El Cerrito, California, as well as junior editor of Our Daily Bread.

His passions include the intersection of spirituality and psychology, interfaith theology, and the Western esoteric tradition.

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ODB Blog: “Where Are Films, Society, Going?” -Rev. David Fekete

Where Are Films, Society, Going?

Rev. David Fekete, Ph.D.

March 2017

 

I write this blog not as a film critic, nor as a religious authority, but as a spiritually-minded individual who likes watching movies. I am troubled by two of the highly-acclaimed Academy Award winners, “Moonlight,” and “Manchester by the Sea.” What I find troubling is how grim these two films both are, and the vision of life that they present. Tragedy is a well-established theatrical genre. But these films did not seem tragic to me as much as miserable. Tragedy is propelled by a strong plot to a tragic denouement. To me, these films were a succession of miserable scenes with no denouement, no conclusion, no climax—they just ended. I sought something redemptive, something positive in them, but failed. What bothered me, in other words, was the utter lack of imago dei—there was no presence of God, of the good, that I could discern. And that’s what troubles me.

It is true that the Bible contains horrific episodes. Indeed, horrific images of God. But it also contains episodes of redemption and the transcendence of horror, even in horror. The Christian story is essentially tragic, but for the transcendental messages of Jesus, forgiveness, and resurrection from death. I was unable to find any of these in the films in question.

I am troubled by suggestions about the nature of society that these films raise. What does an individual seek in films like these? What makes these films great? What view of reality do they portray? What do they give the viewer? I will not venture to stab at answers to these questions. I don’t know the answers, which is why I raise these questions. I do not condemn these films. I simply find them and the world-view they offer objectionable. It does not meet with the world-view and reality I know. Certainly, there are single-parent families with substance issues. There is bullying. It is true that victims become the very image of their persecutors. Merely depicting these risks cliché. I didn’t find the cry for personal or social action that would have brought some kind of redemption. There was only portrayal of misery and then the film ended.

50 years ago, “The Sound of Music” was released and received five Academy Awards. That film was uplifting, happy, and showed positive character development. Since The Sound of Music, we went through the tumultuous ‘60’s, social challenges to authority– including religious authority, rise in drug use and the creation of horrible drugs, the ascendency of psychology as the legislator of ethics, unbridled greed in the ‘80’s, the fall of the Iron Curtain and the rise of terrorism,– and the death of God as a social belief, perhaps. Are these some of the forces that have moved Hollywood from The Sound of Music to Manchester by the Sea and Moonlight?

I am not making assertions as much as expressing bewilderment. If anyone reading this has some reflections, I sincerely invite replies.

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Rev. George F. Dole: “Answers and Questions”

 

In this sermon, delivered at the Church of the New Jerusalem in Bath, Maine, Rev. George Dole speaks about Swedenborgian epistemology, and the need to approach existential questions with humility.

 

Click below for a PDF version of Rev. Dole’s sermon:

Rev. George F. Dole: “Answers and Questions”

 

Rev. George Dole has been a renowned scholar of Swedenborg’s works, as well as an ordained minister in the Swedenborgian Church of North America for many decades. He lives in Bath, Maine with his wife, and continues to contribute immensely to Swedenborgian scholarship, ministry and discourse.

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