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Love is Life

Sermons

Love Yearning to be Born

December 15, 2002

Bible Reading

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God's love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.

God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, "I love God," and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters, also. (1 John 4:7-21)

Reading from Swedenborg

The Lord became wise from the Divine itself, which was his inmost. . . . and thus from the divine love itself, which the Lord alone had, and which was his desire to save the entire human race. (Arcana Coelestia #2500.2)

Sermon

This world in which we live, this life that we have been given, is awesome, extraordinary, the depth and breadth of which is beyond our wildest imagination.

For example, while we are all gathered here in this sanctuary, we are at the same time on this Earth spinning around at the speed of about 900 miles per hour. And while we are spinning, we are, of course, also orbiting our sun at about 66,000 mph. At the same time, our solar system is moving towards the star Vega at about 31,000 mph. And at the same time as all that, Vega along with our solar system is moving around our galaxy at about 700,000 mph. And at the same time as that, the entire galaxy is rotating at about 600,000 mph. And if that wasn't enough, our entire galaxy is racing through the universe in relation to the other galaxies at a speed in excess of 1,000,000 mph. So while we're all sitting here rather comfortably, we are also moving wildly in at least six different directions at a cumulative speed of roughly 2.4 million miles per hour.

There is so much more to life than meets the eye. While all of this is occurring, what is happening inside our own bodies is equally wondrous. Our hearts are beating, blood is flowing through our veins, our synapses are firing, and we're functioning as complete and whole beings; yet we are made up of units so small that we can't even see them. Biologists tell us that we have within each one of us about 100 trillion living cells.

Our bodies also share something in common with the cosmos. Astrophysicists tell us that every atom in our being was at one time part of a star. And these atoms that were once part of stars aren't just staying put within our own skin; they are moving through us and becoming part of the wood of this sanctuary, part of the poinsettias, part of the candles, part of another person, and moving on and on.

Scientific knowledge has been exploding for the last couple of hundred years--and the rate of increase in knowledge is accelerating. When I was a child in school, the idea of a subatomic particle being in two places simultaneously would have been considered ludicrous. But now, to physicists it is considered common knowledge. Last September I read in Discovery magazine an interview with world-renowned theoretical physicist David Deutsch, of Oxford University. Although he's a world-renowned theoretical physicist, what he was saying in that interview was considered pretty far out. He was postulating that given all the evidence, it is most likely true that there are uncountable parallel universes occupying the same physical space that we presently inhabit.

Just three months later, I heard the physicist Fred Allen Wolf say in a lecture that already many physicists are coming to that same conclusion. Dr. Deutsch's theory goes on to suggest that a particle can not only be in two places at once, but that particles together making up all sorts of objects, and human beings themselves, may be present in many parallel universes simultaneously. (But then, we Star Trek fans have known that for a long time!)

I love studying science, even though I understand only a tiny fraction of it. I love studying it because it helps me to see and remember the extraordinary depth and breadth there is to physical reality and human life. Back at the beginning of the scientific revolution, the scientific discoveries being made were discrediting the more superficial religious beliefs. And as late as the 1960s, many people believed that science would soon eclipse religion altogether. They believed that because scientific knowledge was expanding so rapidly and we were learning so much, there would soon no longer be any need for religious philosophy or understanding; it would become obsolete. Religion would not be an issue in either our personal lives or in the political sphere.

Clearly these prophecies were wrong. And I think part of the reason they were wrong is that the more scientific knowledge and understanding we gain, the more awesome and inspiring our experience and relation to life can become. When I'm awed and inspired, it often leads me to think about questions of meaning and purpose. It makes me think about good and evil, about hope and love. And the exploration into those questions is outside the purview of science. To address them, we do best to turn our attention to the wisdom of the ages.

Dr. Roger Walsh, researcher of spiritual traditions, says that there are four main tenets of ancient wisdom shared by all of the world's major religions. The first tenet is that the physical world we live in and see and touch is not all there is to reality; at its source is another world, a sacred world, a world of spirit.

The second tenet is that we human beings hold dual citizenship in the physical world and the spiritual world. We have a part of our life and being in this world that we can see and touch, and at the same time, in the core of our being we are at home in the world of consciousness, of spirit.

The third tenet is that the realm of spirit is one that we can connect with, one that we can reach, one that we can explore, one that we can tune into and know about.

And the fourth tenet is that by becoming more aware of the inner spiritual state of reality, by growing in kinship to it, and by realizing our unity with it, we are best able to discern how we can serve one another with respect and compassion. We are able to explore and discover what the meaning of our life is, and we are able to find within ourselves the deepest experiences of being human.

This spiritual realm of which I have been speaking is where love resides. And it is central to the Christian faith that this love knows each one of us intimately, personally, and completely--and that this love loves each one of us intimately, personally, and completely. This love is yearning to be received. This love is yearning for us to receive its holy gifts of hope, peace, joy, and love. This love seeks to be born into the manger of our lives.

Love is the most powerful force in the universe. The eighteenth century cosmologist, philosopher, and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg wrote that the smallest possible particle of physical matter (only a vibration, really)--what all else is made from--is literally love. So the spiritual and physical worlds are not so distant from one another. Heaven and earth not so far apart. By the state of our world right now, and by how we treat one another, it can certainly seem that these realms are very far apart. And that is why love is yearning to be born into the manger of our lives.

We are invited in this holy season to receive this love, to allow it to touch us in a new way, and to allow it to give us just what we need to live our lives courageously, hopefully, peacefully, and joyously. This love invites us to experience the awesomeness of being a human being; to experience the privilege of being here on earth where it is our job and our task to grow in our capacity of love. Let us accept this challenge joyously. Amen.

Prayer

O Lord of love, as we enjoy the light of this season in celebration of your advent, touch us also with its warmth. As we delight in the Christmas lights and decorations, let its melodies also penetrate our shell, and move through our hearts. Touch us with the incredible wonder that is your love yearning to be born into us every day and every moment. Thank you Lord, that in the vast complexity of this universe, you tenderly love even the least one of us. Amen.

Rev. Rachel Rivers