On Psalm one – Rev. Ken Turley


 “Blessed is the one

    who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

    or sit in the company of mockers,

but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

    and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

    which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

    whatever they do prospers.

Not so the wicked!

    They are like chaff

    that the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

    nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,

    but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.” *

-Psalm 1 (NIV)

“Everyone is formed from the harmony of many things; and such as the harmony is, such is the one:  A thing which is absolutely one cannot subsist; but only a harmonical one. Every Society in Heaven thus forms a one; and all the Societies together a one; and this from the Lord alone, through love. **

-Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven §457

I hold the existence of God as the highest truth and being of useful loving and compassionate service to others as the highest good. The Bible is my foundation and ultimate source for guidance.  Not always...

Swedenborg’s portrayal of Correspondence has allowed me to reclaim the Bible for my own. Rather than just as a questionably accurate historical record of a people 2000 years ago in a far away place and a culture with which I have very little in common Swedenborg’s presentation of correspondence allowed me to hear the speaking to me about who I was becoming in  my relationship to God.

Let me share two fundamental concepts I have learned from Swedenborg...



If we accept that the Bible is The Word of God and read it as sacred text, it begins to speak not about then, but about now. It begins to speak to our own spiritual growth in our relationship to God and all that is divine and heavenly. It portrays through the characters, places and events of the unfolding story, the evolving and maturing relationship of humanity with the Divine, i.e. the relationship of our humanness with the divinity of God, and this from the moment the breath of God touches the surface of our consciousness to the point at which all that is not who we are is stripped away and we are left in our purest state before God.

The Old Testament is about agreeing to be in relationship with God. Getting to the place of learning and then out into the wilderness of life itself, of finding a sense of self and a center for our spirituality.  It portrays the guiding force in our lives changing in form from intuitive inspiration to regulated rules to the midlife crisis in which we look with mixed emotions at who we have been and where we are going.

In the New Testament, we can see the dramatic transformation of our relationship when the Living Word enters our life and we relate to God not so much by rules imposed as by love freely given. And then in the Book of Revelation, we see the final revealing of our true inner self and the annealing process testing our metal, and separating out within us the good from the evil.  When we make the final choice as to what we claim as who we are, what we let go of, and what we hold at our core being to be of ultimate value.

Somewhere in the middle of that long involved spiritual journey, which we are all engaged in right now, there are the Psalms.  A collection of poems, song lyrics which portray every conceivable thought, emotion and state of being a human can experience in life and in relationship with God.



Swedenborg says that the first of anything contains the seeds of all that follows. First words of the Bible:  “In the beginning, God created

What does Psalm 1 actually say and what does it actually mean? We have heard Psalm One read, we have spoken out loud, we have heard it sung, so let’s dive in!

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked”

  “walk” = To live, to make progress on the journey of life

“in step with the wicked” = the thinking and influence of those who promote  evil, cruelty

“stand in the way the sinners take” = life of those who knowingly do what they know is wrong, what turns one away from the way of God and all that is heavenly

“sit in the company of mockers”= to settle into cynicism and negativity, self sabotage, those who tear down others to bring them down to their own level

We open ourselves to God when we do not fill out time and attention with these kinds of influences.  We make room in our lives and in our souls for blessing from God.

Rather, “their delight is in the law of the Lord and on God’s law they meditate day and night.”  

What is the Law of the Lord? All the rules of the OT?  What does Jesus say?

“Love God Love the neighbor as your self.”  Is that hard to understand?  No.  Is it easy to forget?  Yes!  That is why it is a blessing in God’s eyes to meditate on this concept.  To empty the mind, open the heart and be with it as the guiding, uplifting, inspiring source of light and warmth in our lives.  To keep that concept before us all the time no matter what we are doing, in good times and bad.

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

    which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

    whatever they do prospers.”

“A tree” = A living being that starts as a seed, emerges young and tender and grows into maturity with many parts, rooted in the earth, reaching out and up to heaven, serving useful functions and bearing fruit which is of benefit to others.

“Streams of water” = the ever flowing source of truth, understanding and wisdom that gives, maintains and renews life.

“Whatever they do prospers” =  think of this not as other people, but as those parts of oneself that are drawing life from God and in turn serving others in love.  This phrase does not necessarily mean our jobs and our attempts at success in the outward arena based on worldly values and criteria by which we so often measure success and prosperity.  God cares nothing for that, only about the state of our souls. 

What is wealth without love and charity?  What is power without wisdom and understanding and faith?  What is success without caring for the well being of others?

“Not so for the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away.” 

Here too, we must read this not as speaking about “those other people who are evil” rather we must read this as speaking about those aspects, behaviors, patterns of our own selves that are not focused on serving God and the well-being of our neighbor, that put our own well being as what we serve as the highest good, and the neighbor being a concern only in as they serve our selfish needs. 

Each and every one of us, has our own wickedness, our own selfish tendencies that we struggle with.  Our tendencies are always there, and we are constantly making choices for God or for ourselves, to love the neighbor as ourselves, or to love the neighbor for what they can do for us.  It is such a subtle switch in values and priorities, and yet such a crucial distinction in terms of the spiritual results.  It is our hope and prayer that that which is evil in us will be blown away as chaff and leave what is of value.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous

Ask yourself  “why is this so?”  Is it because God will not allow it?  Or is it an affirmation of self selection?  I prefer to think the latter.  The wicked will not stand in judgment nor sinners in the assembly of righteous because those aspects cannot stand the comparison and will hide themselves!  All are welcome in heaven, its just that the wicked refuse to enter into heaven and reject the company of the good and kind.  It is not God’s doing, it is their own choice.  The love of evil causes them to reject and turn away from what is good and loving.

Judgment in the spiritual world is just an extension of what happens right here on earth.  Surely you have been with people who behaved in ways that made you feel isolated, afraid, anxious, self conscious and you self selected yourself out of their company.  And perhaps you have experienced being around people that made you feel uncomfortable because they were just too darned nice!   That is a subtle and gentle example of what happens in the spiritual world.  Souls gravitate to those who are like themselves, and away from those who are not.  

In fact, one way to look at the final judgment is that when you die, you are condemned to be in the company of people just like yourself!!!  Think about that for a moment!  Is not that motivation to make yourself a more loving, compassionate, accepting, kind and supportive person?  And motivation to train out our your tendencies to be impatient, judgmental , cruel, selfish?  Think about spending eternity with your good self and your not so good self.  Is that not reason to become that better self now, so you don’t get stuck in the company of your not so good self later!

What is more, to the degree you choose to cultivate your divine self, God will enter in and help you in that process.  As you embrace the Lord and the ways of heaven you are embraced in return and lifted up, even higher then you could image.  The ways in you that are evil will simply die away and be no more because they receive no life energy. But if you choose the way of evil, you turn away from and reject God and all that can be done for your benefit.  And then it is you that begins to wither and die away.  

This is portrayed in the last sentence

.  “For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to distruction.”

“Destruction”= to cease being, the way of the wicked, all life is of God, so ultimately what is not of God dies away, at best it is the hell of a living death

But when we welcome and make room for God I our lives,  that which is evil we let God destroy and it ceases to be a part of who we are.  And we are lifted up and made into the angel God intended us to be from the beginning.

That is Psalm One, the first Psalm that within its few lines contains the essence of all that is to follow.  It portrays our life journey, our choice to embrace God and goodness or self and selfishness, it puts before us our choice for life or death. 

There’s no question life is a struggle, filled with beauty and blessings, but also with trials, tests and  temptations.  God offers us heavenly life but requires us to choose of our own free will.  And it is through the evil we are exposed to and the trials we suffer through, that God ensures that we are making an informed choice.  It is all there for you in those few lines of Psalm One.  “Blessed are you”…

*Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblia.Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

**Swedenborg, Emanuel. Arcana Coelestia. Translated by John Potts. West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1998.


Rev. Ken Turley, now retired after 30 years as parish minister and serving as president of Convention, and his wife Laurie, live in Bridgton, ME. While she continues her career as a public school music teacher, Ken devotes his time to composing music, producing music videos, gardening and keeping house. Performing and rehearsing have ground to a halt with the isolation required by the virus, but the  more solitary aspects of his life continue unabated. 

“A Big Relief!” – On Conscience

A reflection by Rev. Renee Machiniack

“When we know what is true from our faith, understand it in our own way, and then want it to happen and act on it ourselves, we build up a conscience.”

-Emanuel Swedenborg, New Jerusalem §131

Everything changes when our faith becomes real, doesn’t it? When we finally “get it” that God is real? All of life changes, we are never the same. And once we have real, living perceptions of higher and deeper things in life, and we call this “true faith”, then a real conscience is built up in us over time. Interesting, isn’t it? Our conscience is “built up” over time…

Now, faith is not a creed. It is not a specific religion. It is not a specific theology or belief system. Faith is not “going to church every Sunday”. Faith is both courageously choosing to believe in God even when life is really tough, AND faith is having a real, living perception of higher and deeper things – which is a quantum leap from being just “inspired”. Once living faith comes, it is with you 24/7, although faith can and will be tested. 

My focus in this reflection is on conscience, how it gets built up, what it is, and how it functions in our life in real ways. 

Real conscience can stop a nasty argument, from the inside out! Real conscience gets us out of ourselves and into the larger, deeper issues. The spirit of truth, the Advocate, shifts us, helps us, to love. 

Let’s take a moment and look at what conscience is, and is not…

Is Conscience a guilty finger pointing in your face? 

Is conscience someone preaching at you moralistically?

Is conscience a “big voice inside” saying you’re a “bad person”?

I have news for you: all of these are from hell. They are not of conscience, they are not of God. Now that’s a big relief. God is not about pointing a finger, shame, etc. 

Real conscience is simply caring for the good and the true in all situations. In other words, it is not being concerned about your welfare only, or the other person’s welfare only. It’s about caring for the specific kind of good and truth that’s in any situation. 

For example: Think of police using too much force. Someone might focus too much on the fact that police simply shouldn’t use too much force and leave it at that… This is as far as they go in their thinking. But a person of living faith or perception will take it deeper and see the more important and deeper truth that black and brown people need to be cared for just as much as everybody else. 

Another example: Two people are having an argument and by the fact that they are arguing, they are not going deep enough with specifics in conversation, which means they are not caring about what’s good and true for the other person, what the other person cares about, what it is that’s actually hurting them. When they are arguing, they are caring about themselves… If they did care about the good and true, which is conscience, the conversation would take a very different course, i.e. focussing on what’s important and what cane be done to heal the situation (being heard, affirmed, supported, etc.)

Conscience can also be the little voice knocking at your mind’s door saying “pay attention to the deeper issue or reality that needs to be addressed.” How many times have we said “I should have paid attention to that inner voice!”…

Real conscience is the presence of God with us, telling us what is good and what is true in any given moment. It is the Advocate with us. It’s a God-light in the mind. At the center of conscience is always the Lord saying: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

We need to value REAL conscience more, especially in today’s world. And we should never, ever, identify God with guilt and shame, only with love and mercy.

Swedenborg is very positive about this. He really helps us here, this is a big relief.

*Swedenborg, Emanuel. New Jerusalem. Translated by George F. Dole. West Chester: Swedenborg Foundation, 2016.

Rev. Renee Machiniak has been the minister of the Royal Oak Church of the Holy City for the past 25 years, serving as a staff chaplain for both Beaumont Hospice and Oncology for 9 years and now a volunteer chaplain with Beaumont’s Ovarian Cancer Support Group and the Royal Oak Police Department. She resides in Royal Oak Michigan with her husband, Joe, her parents, Rev. John and Sharon Billings, and dog Gertie.

ODBlog: “Faces that Don’t look like me” – Rev. David Fekete

“When I even thought about two identical or equal beings, the angels were aghast”* 

-Emanuel Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell §405 

No two people are exactly the same. That may seem obvious.  But when we think about Indigenous Peoples, or African-Canadians, or Lebanese, it may not seem so obvious.  And then when we think about Muslims, or Sikhs, or Catholics, or Lutherans, again, it may not seem so obvious.  I think that deep down inside, we want people to be like us, think like us, be us.  That is a form of selfishness.  And it is not only dangerous, it is sinful.

Let’s start at the top.  Let’s start with God.  We are created in the image and likeness of God.  And God is infinite.  That is why everybody is different.  Each individual expresses a unique aspect of God.  There’s the Carol aspect of God; there’s the Linda aspect of God; there’s the Barry aspect of God; there’s the Ardith aspect of God.  There’s the African aspect of God, the Lebanese aspect of God, the Chinese aspect of God, the Russian aspect of God.  And there is the Muslim aspect of God, the Jewish aspect of God, the Buddhist aspect of God, the Hindu aspect of God.  When we see the world this way, we see God in everything, in everyone.

It takes self-confidence to look outside self and see God in others.  When I was younger, I was very insecure.  I wanted to educate others about Swedenborg because if they affirmed Swedenborg, they would be affirming me.  I even handed out Swedenborg books to my graduate school professors.  I don’t think any of them read the books I gave them.  I wouldn’t if someone handed me a book I wasn’t particularly interested in.  I no longer feel the need to educate everybody about Swedenborg.  And with that religious self-confidence comes a wonderful benefit.  I can appreciate the other, other religions.

I really enjoyed my time at the Edmonton Interfaith Centre.  There I met Jews, Muslims, Indigenous, Buddhists, Catholics, United, Reformed, Coptic Christians, Ukrainian Orthodox, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, and more.  First and foremost, we were united as friends.  Friendship came first.  Imagine an organization where Muslims and Jews met at the same table as friends.  Imagine an interfaith organization that had a Swedenborgian as its president!  And we shared our differing approaches to religion.  I grew spiritually through the mutual sharing of religions.  Instead of trying to make everybody into a Swedenborgian, I would say to myself, “Now that’s a good way of seeing God I hadn’t thought of.”  

One striking experience was when we visited a Coptic church.  Their sanctuary had several icons of saints on the walls.  Not only that, the stints were martyrs.  So the paintings were sort of gruesome as they depicted the way the saints died.  Now as a Swedenborgian, I don’t believe in saints.  In fact, I recall one member whispering to me that his Protestantism recoiled against all these icons of saints.  But I didn’t have a problem with it.  I kept an open mind to see the way they saw it.  I even noticed a pamphlet that read, “I will merit heaven by my good deeds.”  A cardinal Protestant doctrine is that claiming merit for good deeds defiles them with self interest.  I never saw it stated as clearly as this before and now I knew what Swedenborg means when he denounces the concept of merit.  But none of this offended me.  I saw how they saw faith.  And I learned another aspect of God, another way God is invoked.

Maybe these days my experiences with my Muslim friends is most significant.  In a time when Muslim extremists are getting a lot of media coverage, it was instructive to have friends who are liberal, moderate Muslims.  At a gathering of the National Council of the Churches of Christ, I recall talking with an Orthodox friend about Muslims.  He was genuinely surprised to hear that there are liberal, moderate Muslims.  In a time of war, refugees, and intolerance, the messages of Jesus and Isaiah are of particular import.  

Listen to Isaiah!  Really listen:

“Do not let the foreigner joined to the Lord say,

    “The Lord will surely separate me from his people; 

To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,

    who choose the things that please me

    and hold fast my covenant,

I will give, in my house and within my walls,

    a monument and a name

    better than sons and daughters;

I will give them an everlasting name

    that shall not be cut off..”**

-Isaiah 56:3, 6-7

The first verse in this passage includes foreigners in God’s kingdom.  However, it is not as sweeping as is the next verse.  The first verse says that the foreigners need to be bound to worship of Yahweh.  But listen to the second verses, “all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant—these I will bring to my holy mountain.”  Keeping the Sabbath means revering God and all that God stands for.  It means having a sense of reverence and a sense of the sacred.  Holding fast to God’s covenant means following God’s ways.  It means keeping the 10 Commandments.  It means loving the neighbor.  It means worshipping God.  Everybody who does this will come to God’s holy mountain and will find joy.  No matter what God they revere.

This openness to foreigners comes through in the story about Jesus.  A woman from ther region of Tyre and Sidon, which is modern Lebanon, begs Jesus to heal her daughter.  Jesus was a Jew from Israel.  And at first, he objects to the woman because she is a foreigner.  “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”  The woman persists and says that even dogs eat crumbs from the master’s table.  Jesus exclaims that this foreign woman has great faith and he heals her daughter.  

This is common in the Gospels.  The Gospel writers often use foreigners and religiously unorthodox characters to teach Jews about God’s kingdom.  We all know the story of the Good Samaritan.  But we rarely reflect that the Samaritans were foreigners.  Not only that, they had a different Bible than the Jews had.  Not only that, the Samaritans worshipped on a different mountain than the Jews.  The Jews worshipped on Mount Zion; the Samaritans worshipped on Mount Gerizim.  So the Samaritans used a heretical Bible, they were a foreign race, and they worshipped on the wrong mountain.  The Jews hated the Samaritans.  Yet Jesus uses the Samaritans to show the Jews what love for the neighbor is.

Paul went even further.  He said you don’t have to follow Jewish religion and rituals.  Then he invited Greeks, Romans, Galatians, Macedonians, and all kinds of non-Jews into this new Jewish offshoot religion.  There was great conflict between Paul and Peter about this, Peter being an observant Jew.

Swedenborg’s vision of heaven is a place of immense diversity.  “there are infinite varieties in heaven—since no community and in fact no individual is just like any other” (HH §20).  Both heaven and hell are comprised of variety, no one’s heaven or heavenly joy is the same as another’s, 

Almost all the people who arrive in the other life think that hell is the same for everyone and that heaven is the same for everyone, when in fact there are infinite variations and differences in each. Hell is never the same for any two people, nor is heaven. In the same way, no one of us, no spirit, and no angel is ever exactly like any other, even facially. When I even thought about two identical or equal beings, the angels were aghast.”

Heaven and Hell §405

Swedenborg explains why this is the case philosophically.  Perfection consists not in sameness.  Perfection is variety that unites for the common good:

A form makes a unity more perfectly as its constituents are distinguishably different, and yet united. . . . Still, the truth is that a form is more perfect as its constituents are distinguishably different but still united in some particular way. In support of this, angels have cited the communities in the heavens. Taken all together, these communities make up the form of heaven. They have also cited the angels in each community, saying that the more clearly individual angels are on their own—are therefore free—and love the other members of their community on the basis of their own affection, in apparent freedom, the more perfect is the form of the community. ***

-Divine Providence §4

The true nature of love is not to love self, but to love others outside of self.  Self-love is selfishness.  Loving others is neighborly love.  It’s a fact of life that no two people are the same.  No two ideas are exactly alike.  No two belief systems are the same.  That’s the way things are.  Real love is to accept this, in fact, embrace this.  That is exactly why we are instructed to love the neighbor.  Everybody is the neighbor.  Foreign races, foreign nationalities, and foreign religions.  God is so big no one person, no one race, no one belief system has it all.  We can learn more about God by learning from foreigners.  All who keep God’s covenant are invited to His holy mountain.  He’s got the whole world in His hands!

*Swedenborg, Emanuel. Heaven and Hell. Translated by George F. Dole. West Chester: Swedenborg Foundation, 2000.

** New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the 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.

***Swedenborg, Emanuel. Divine Providence. Translated by George F. Dole. West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 2010.

Rev. David Fekete, PhD, is pastor at the Church of the Holy City (Swedenborgian) in Edmonton, Alberta, and contributing editor of “Our Daily Bread” at spiritualquesters.org. His passions include literature, ecumenism, music and the arts, as well as interfaith dialogue.

“On Humility” -Rev. Julie Conaron

Humility is a very important part of our spiritual life… 

How is this achieved? 

Was it easier when we were little? 

How do our lives look to us? 

Do we feel we run our own life? That we truly only need our own choices, believing we have life of ourselves?

Quite early in our lives we start doing things ourselves. As we develop so does our Proprium (what is our own, another mixed blessing), but we still rely on our parents. 

In the teen years the process continues, but now we “really” know we are our own person! And we value and honor our peers more than our parents.

As an adult, some changes take place. As Richard Rohr writes in his book Falling Upward, early on, in our “first half of life” we are climbing up, battling through our lives “getting ahead.” However, we may be struggling to survive, rather than thriving.*

The first half of life is discovering the script, the second half is actually writing and owning it: “Falling Upwards” so to speak. Holding our inner blueprint, which is a good description of our soul, and returning it humbly to the world and to God by love and service is indeed of ultimate concern. One of the best kept secrets is “the way up is the way down”…

With aging, the changes can be sudden or gradual. Loss of our job, and with it our feeling of being worthwhile hurts. We can lose loved ones, health, maybe our home, losing our independence and needing to move into a facility. This can invoke feelings of isolation, loneliness, unworthiness and loss of our identity…

How do we achieve the balance of feeling worthwhile and yet being humble in our lives? 
We need to go through the process of repentance, spotting when the “Little Self” is trying to become the “Big one.” Reformation is acknowledging we really don’t have life of ourselves. It’s a wonderful illusion/paradox from the Divine. 

Regeneration is done almost entirely by the Lord. We have to meditate, pray and ask for Divine help to take away our evils. When that happens, God implants the equivalent good to the evil that is “taken away,” so to speak.

What do we read in in Swedenborg? 

Apocalypse Explained §291
“It is said humility, and then acknowledgment in heart, namely, that from the Lord are all good and all truth, and thence all intelligence, wisdom, and blessedness, since this acknowledgment is not given with anyone except in a state of humility; for when in humility, then we are removed from what is our own; and what is our own [proprium] receives and acknowledges nothing of good and truth from the Lord, for what is our own [proprium] is nothing but evil, and evil rejects all good and truth of heaven and the church. 
From this it can be seen why there must be humility, and why “falling down and worshiping” signifies humility, and then acknowledgment in heart.” ** 

Basically, the importance of spiritually falling on our knees to allow the Divine to change our hearts.

Arcana Coelestia §5135
“The things which we as little children in our first age learn eagerly or believe, and which we afterward either confirm, or doubt about, or deny, are especially these: there is a God, and He is one; He has created all things; He rewards those who do well, and punishes those who do evil; there is a life after death, in which the evil go to hell and the good to heaven, thus there is a hell and a heaven, and the life after death is eternal; also that we ought to pray daily, and this with humility; the Sabbath day is to be kept holy; parents are to be honored; and no one must commit adultery, murder, or theft; with other like things. 
These things we imbibe and are imbued with from early childhood; but when we begin to think from ourselves and lead ourselves, if we confirm such things in ourselves, and add to them things which are still more interior, and live according to them, then it is well with us….” ***

Return to childhood, but with the wisdom of old age not the innocence of ignorance is a long journey!

The take home message is humility is a journey to the Divine. We need to become like a little child, not in ignorance, but in wisdom: the wisdom to know we have no life of our own: everything we have is from God.

*Rohr, Richard. Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. United Kingdom: Wiley, 2011.

**Swedenborg, Emanuel. Apocalypse Explained. United States: American Swedenborg Printing and Publishing society, 1897.

***Swedenborg, Emanuel. Arcana Coelestia. Translated by John Potts. West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1998.

Julie Conaron is an Interfaith and Swedenborgian minister, after more than 20 years as a microbiologist. Now officially “retired,” she served as a Hospice Chaplain for 8 ½ years, an occasional minister for 5 years, and a volunteer in a local hospital in Pastoral Care and Hospice for 2 ½ years. She now provides short, virtual services for 2 facilities and others until she can provide actual services again.