Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

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.

 

 

“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.

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.

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.

“Blind Faith – Not!” – Rev. Jane Siebert

 

In this sermon, delivered at the New Church of the Southwest Desert in Silver City, New Mexico, Rev. Jane Siebert reflects on the Swedenborgian idea of “faith”:

 

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

“Blind Faith – Not!” -Rev Jane Siebert

 

Rev. Jane Siebert is the current president of the Swedenborgian Church in North America.

Jane lives in Kansas and enjoys the opportunities to visit Swedenborgian churches scattered around the United States and and Canada. This sermon was given on a recent trip to Silver City, NM where we have a growing church.

 

 

He Lived for Others: The Spirituality of Johnny Appleseed -Rev. Kit Billings

 

 

In this message, Rev. Kit Billings, pastor at the LaPorte New Church in LaPorte, Indiana, reflects on the Swedenborgian spirituality of John Chapman, more commonly known as Johnny Appleseed, called “the American St. Francis” by some.

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

“He Lived For Others” – Rev. Kit Billings

 

Rev. Kit Billings, his wife Penny and their daughter Julia moved to LaPorte, Indiana in 2012. He is Pastor of the LaPorte New Church, and also Chair of the Committee On Admission Into the Ministry of the Swedenborgian Church. Kit enjoys ministering with people of all ages, and supporting others in their journey of growth with the Lord.

“The New New Church” – Interview with Curtis Childs of “Off the Left Eye”

In this online conversation, Rev. Thom Muller, Junior Editor of “Our Daily Bread” talks with Curtis Childs, who has been working with the Swedenborg Foundation, running the “Off the Left Eye” YouTube channel, which features videos about subjects related to the works and thought of Emanuel Swedenborg.

 

What are your thoughts about the “New New Church”? What relevance does Swedenborg have to you, and to the broader human community in the 21st century? Please feel free to leave a comment below.

ODB Blog: “Language Games and Multiculturalism” – Rev. David Fekete

 

Language Games and Multiculturalism

Rev. David Fekete, February 2017

 

I am deeply committed to interfaith ideals and multicultural societies.  But I just had a striking experience with the tranquil quiet of an acupuncture treatment that raised some vexing questions. But what if being deeply immersed in a culture that values stillness and quiet is incompatible with other cultures that are more boisterous, aggressive, and stressful?  I ask, can one be open to intercultural ideals while being committed, oneself, to a deep tradition and culture? Jean-Francois Lyotard asserts that there are modes of communication that don’t translate into other systems of meaning. He talks about “the heterogeneity of language games”.

We cannot assume we understand another’s system of symbols; in fact, we do violence to the other’s system of meaning when we try to impose our understanding—still worse, our own meaning—onto the other’s world.  I wondered if the meditative music they played for me during my acupuncture treatment is more than aesthetics?  What if the music embodies a culture, a philosophy, and an ethics? I like classical music, jazz, blues, and rock.  But these are aesthetic judgments.  I suspect that the Chinese music I heard during my acupuncture treatment may well reflect the ethics of stillness, meditative quiet, and tranquility of Chinese culture.  It is akin to Palestrina’s choral music, which one could say does embody a Christian ethics. So, in short, I wondered if the world of the Chinese music I heard was compatible with Z. Z. Top?

I went to the acupuncture center because I had stiffness in the neck and shoulders due to all the typing I do and piano I play. The treatment was deceptively simple. I was instructed to lie down on a table, and a few needles were inserted in my feet, legs, arms, abdomen, and one in my third eye (forehead) and a final one in the top of my head. Then I was left on the table with dimmed lights and soothing music featuring the sound of waves. The stillness, lack of stimulation, and the needles completely stilled my restless mind and stiff body. Not only did the tranquility of the treatment relax my stiff muscles, it helped me with concentration, alertness, my sinus condition, and mood– it put a spring in my step. It accomplished all this as I lay on a table with a few needles in me, listening to meditative music with ocean waves.  My body healed itself. Or, as my doctor said, it restored the flow of ch’i. The philosophy behind the acupuncture treatment was to still my mind first, then my muscles would relax.

This got me to thinking.  Lying on the cot, stilling my mind and muscles, listening to quiet music made me think about life outside the doctor’s office.  I thought about the stillness, the absence of stimulation, all quieting my mind, relaxing my muscles in the acupuncture clinic.

Then there is the hectic pace, the over-stimulation of our society, the noise.  If it is therapeutic to be in a still, quiet environment, what about the frenetic pace and stresses of my life in the Western world?  I saw that I would need to adjust my lifestyle, of course, and not let stress and stressors into my mind.  But the contrast of cultures, and their potential incompatibility, was what I especially wondered about. I thought also about the Chinese music they played when I practiced Tai Chi at a different Chinese studio.  It would be hard for me to listen to Chinese music alone, if I weren’t doing Tai Chi, due to the music’s simplicity and meditative quality. Tai Chi, the acupuncture office, Chinese music are all products of a culture that values quietness, I think. Is it possible to live within the norms of a deeply held culture, and also hold multicultural ideals?  That would be quite a feat.

I once heard a Christian minister speak at an interfaith gathering.  She was so sensitive to interfaith values, and  so anxious not to offend anyone, that she didn’t even pronounce the name, "Jesus." And yet she was representing the Christian religion at an interfaith event. That is interfaith at its worst.  That is multiculturalism eroding one’s own norms and values.  Interfaith means different faiths living in mutual respect, not watering down one’s own faith to include everyone else’s.

Swedenborg’s idea of heaven is radically multicultural. Heaven is in the form of a human body, complete with all the organs. And all the humans there—humans who have become angels—live in a given region of heaven. There are angels of the heart, the lungs, the eye, the ear, the feet, the arms, the generative organs. The various regions represent corresponding aspect of the human soul: angels of the heart are loving; angels of the lungs are wise; angels of the arms are strong in their faith, etc. Each region is comprised of communities of like-feeling and thinking individuals. Of course, Paul suggested something like this in 1 Corinthians 12:12-21:

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot were to say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear were to say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body’, that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’, nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’“*

As Paul suggests, things are better when there are differences between us. The fact is, not one of us is the same as another. Nor should we be. God is infinite and each human reflects a unique sparkle of divinity.

When the whole is made out of a variety of parts, it is more perfect, 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. They said that every unity is formed by a harmonious agreement of many constituents and that the nature of the unity depends on the nature of the agreement.”  -Swedenborg, Heaven and Hell n. 405

In the Lord’s prayer, we say, “On earth as it is in heaven.” This is eminently the case with multiculturalism. We live in a multicultural world. And the world is better for it. We are left, though, with the question of how to operate in a multicultural world. Let’s return to my opening picture of the acupuncture treatment. Can I live with tranquil Chinese music and all that it represents, and also enjoy Z.Z. Top?  Or does one preclude the other?

I affirm and celebrate cultural pluralism. I don’t necessarily think that ethnic communities have to be a bad thing. They preserve cultural traditions, art, and norms. What I do believe that matters, and matters emphatically, is that all cultures have access to public spaces. Equal access to workplaces, education, civic and political participation, and to the streets, parks, countryside, and any and all public spaces. One thing I do know for sure, life is richer for me dwelling in the multicultural city in which I live.  Without multiculturalism, a white man like myself wouldn’t have been able to experience Chinese healing…

 

*New Revised Standard Version Bible, Anglicized. 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.

**Swedenborg, Emanuel. Heaven and Hell. Trans. George F. Dole. New Century Edition. West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 2010. 316. Print.

 

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.