“One Born Blind” -Rev. Robert McCluskey

In this sermon, Rev. Robert McCluskey explores the Swedenborgian inner meaning of “blindness” in the Word. How can the spiritual concept of blindness found in Swedenborg’s interpretation of the Gospels help us grow spiritually and become more fully receptive of Divine light, even amid troubling circumstances?

Click below for a printable PDF-version of Rev. McCluskey’s message:

Rev. Robert McCluskey, B.A., M.A., is a graduate of the Swedenborg School of Religion, and was ordained into the Swedenborgian Church of North America in 1984.

Rev. McCluskey has pastored Swedenborgian churches in Portland, Maine and New York City, and for 17 years served as Swedenborgian representative to the National Council of Churches. 

He currently serves Wayfarer’s Chapel, the National Monument to Emanuel Swedenborg, in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

ODBlog: Easter and the Coronavirus

-Rev. Paul Martin

Why did the Corona Virus happen? Perhaps, correspondentially it has to do with our weakened overall health and immune systems (spiritual health), especially as related to the lungs (understanding). In general I would say this is more of a medical question than a spiritual one, however. Why do things happen? Wrong question! The spiritual question is, what can we learn from what is happening, or how can we use what is happening for good?

Chaos and Order

For things to reemerge on a higher level, first there has to be a breaking down of the old ways. When we are ready, though we may not feel it, we have to let go of the way things have been and flounder a while, until we find a new order. The Israelites had to leave Egypt behind and wander in the desert for 40 years before they could find the Promised Land. 

What can we learn collectively from this experience to improve our world? What do we need to leave behind? Can we become more compassionate toward those with the disease, their families, those out of work, and those countries and communities of color and low income who are hit hardest by this, as they once again take the worst of the economic, environmental, and health consequences of global affairs? Can we become more tolerant, less divisive and more unified? Belden Lane, wrote “What we’ve never been able to confess together in creed, we’re now able to pray together in need.” A crisis that affects all of us can bring us together.

Death and Rebirth

How does this affect each one of us individually. Easter is all about Death and Rebirth. Old habits, ways of relating, being, and living have to die, to be released, before we can be reborn into a new way of living. How are you using this time to reorder your own life? I hear stories of some people overeating, overdrinking, and watching TV all day. Others are using this as a time to reflect and reexamine their lives, to think how they want to come out of this a new or better person.

Crisis and Opportunity

At Mosswood Hollow all of our workshops have been canceled for at least four months. Although we are worried from a financial point of view, we are choosing to look at this as an opportunity. There are so many things we have not had time for while hosting workshops. We are clearing decades of collected papers, books, clothes, and unnecessary and unwanted junk, making our living environment cleaner and more sacred. We even took everything out of the first floor of our house and had our floors refinished. We are putting together a green house and planting a large garden. We are taking a break from alcohol after years of overindulging. We are turning off the TV and talking and reading more. I am taking long walks through uninhabited woodlands and watching spring come, as it will, blissfully unaware of the pandemic.

The natural world is almost unaffected, in some aspects better off, as the air quality improves as a result of less burning of fossil fuels.We don’t choose or cause everything that happens to us, but we do choose how we are going to respond. As our daughter, Hilary, wrote in a recent email, “The virus is clearly contagious, but so is panic, fear, hysteria, care, love, enthusiasm, kindness, joy, levity… I’m doing my best to take all responsible precautions while choosing wisely from that list.”

Recovery or Rebirth

Perhaps the most important question is whether we will simply recover or be reborn? Will this be remembered merely as a sickness we all endured, before recovering and getting back to our old routines and ways of life? Or we will we emerge from this as a different world, a different country, and different people? This is quite a powerful and profound opportunity to examine our lives and our relationships to each other, to our communities, to our world, and to the earth.

Let us choose this Easter to be reborn!

Rev. Paul Martin is a minister in the Swedenborgian Church of North America, and, together with his wife Sandra directs Mosswood Hollow Retreat Center outside of Seattle, Washington, of fulfilling a longtime vision of providing a space for people to comoute to for learning, healing and renewal. Rev. Paul is also involved at Swedenborgian Church of Pudget Sound.

ODBlog: Some Swedenborgian Truths in a Time of Crisis

Rev. David Fekete

Religious people may have mixed feelings about the Covid-19 virus. In addition to the strange new restrictions on our social life, the growing numbers of sick, and the death toll, religious people may want to force meaning onto this pandemic.

I think that we are in a kind of state of shock as we try to understand what is going on. Religious people may ask why this is going on. But asking theological questions while in a state of shock, or panic, is not wise.

The first thing that Swedenborgians would assert is that this is not punishment from God. God doesn’t punish. From one way of looking at it, you could say that God can’t punish. God is good and can do only good. God can do only loving things. God does only loving things. God does only good to us. Consider this quote from Swedenborg,as He wills only what is good he can do nothing but what is good. . . .

From these few statements it can be seen how deluded those are who think, and still more those who believe, and still more those who teach, that God can damn any one, curse any one, send any one to hell, predestine any soul to eternal death, avenge wrongs, be angry, or punish. He cannot even turn Himself away from humanity, nor look upon anyone with a stern countenance.” (True Christianity n. 56).

So Swedenborgians would say that the pandemic is not punishment from God. The pandemic is not a sign of the Last Days. The Book of Revelation talks about a plague coming in the Last Days. Swedenborgians say that the Book of Revelation is about what goes on inside us. The battles and plagues and earthquakes are symbolic of our spiritual struggles. After all, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God does not come visibly. Neither will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is.’ For the kingdom of God is inside.”

There have been several “plagues” in my lifetime. There was h1n1, swine flu, and the sars virus. Either one of these could have been called the plagues pointing to the end times. Then there was the Black Plague of the middle ages. That happened in the 14thcentury. People then thought that they were in the end times. But we got through all these plagues and forgot about them and the end times. And we will get through this.In these hard times, more than ever, we need to think about our neighbor.

We need to practice social distancing to protect ourselves and our neighbors. Many of us will experience financial hardships. Those of us who are fortunate financially are in a position to wisely help out when they can and as they are able. I don’t mean to minimize the difficulties we will go through in the months ahead. But we will get through it.

Now, more than in times of prosperity, neighbor love is needed. As we all struggle through the uncertainty, fear, and hardships, love will get us through. And though we practice social distancing, we are not alone. God is going through this with us. “Behold I am with you always.” Let’s be with one another, too, always.