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Sermons

Meditation on the Constancy of God

January 09, 2011

Bible Reading

Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. The name of the first is Pishon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it is the one that flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it.

And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.”

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.” So out of the ground the Lord God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner.

So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; this one shall be called Woman, for out of Man this one was taken.”

(Genesis 2:7-23)


Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits—who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

(Psalm 103:1-5)

Sermon

There are times in life when we wish we could think more seriously about things. Now, I don’t mean that we wish we could be more serious, but that we wish we could think more seriously—that is, that we could concentrate on a particular issue or subject until we fully understand it.

Sometimes our need for deeper understanding is connected with intellectual pursuits, such as in studying and attending classes, or writing essays or papers for a class. Sometimes it is in the realm of technical things—perhaps in our work or if we are trying to fix something that is broken and we need to remember where all the pieces go. Most often, though, we feel the need for concentration, focus, and clarity when something is bothering us emotionally, and that seems to be the hardest time to really concentrate. We may be feeling angry or anxious or fearful or guilty, and we want to understand why we have these feelings so that we can deal with them.

Religious people often turn to God to ask his help in overcoming their feelings of anxiety or guilt. Often when we ask for forgiveness or understanding we don’t feel that we have received an answer. We don’t hear a loud, clear voice that says to us, “I heard what you confessed and I forgive you, so now you are clean—just don’t go out and do it again.” More often we don’t feel anything more than a small sense of relief, which we credit to simply having admitted that we have done something we shouldn’t have. Also, we often do not really get rid of the guilt or anxiety because even if we believe that the Lord has forgiven us, we have not yet forgiven ourselves. We are not yet ready to let go. Maybe we feel we should be punished a bit more, or should feel more repentant, so we won’t let go. But what right do we have to overrule God’s forgiveness? What right do we have not to forgive ourselves when God himself has already forgiven us our trespasses?

Letting go is difficult. Letting go of fear, letting go of anger, letting go of blame, letting go of guilt or sorrow or jealousy, and letting go of tension all seem so hard to do. Religious people look to the Lord because God offers relief from tension, anxiety, and pain. He says, “I am the Lord your God who brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that you should not be slaves; and I have broken the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.” Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

We look to God for comfort, but when we hear his voice speaking directly to us we sometimes doubt. We sometimes wish that we knew more about God and how he communicates with us. We would like to understand him better, and we have this strong desire to have a personal relationship with him, a little “one-on-one” time with the Savior. But we are so unsure! We are overawed with our own imagination and concept of God, so we feel that understanding him is not possible. The Hebrews regarded him as being unknowable and his name as being the unutterable YHWH. When we personify God we are attempting to put him into a form our finite minds can relate to, a shape and size that will fit the dimensions of our minds and hearts, or the scope of our imagination.

Why shouldn’t we see God in the shape of a man? After all, were we not made in his image and likeness? Did he not appear as the Divine Human? As long as we are stuck with this physical notion of the nature of God we will have trouble in communicating with Him, for not only are we working with a misconception of the nature of God, but we are also working with a misconception of our own real nature. It is not our physical shape or body that makes us human. If you take this body and lengthen the arms and back, extend the spine so it has a tail, then shorten the legs, flatten the head, broaden the jaws, and cover it with a thick coat of hair, you no longer have a human, you have an ape. Then if you take the ape and tip him onto his arms and legs, and change his neck and features a bit, you have a dog. And if you take the dog and reduce it down to one twentieth of its size you would have a mouse, and that mouse still has most of the physical aspects of the human we started with. No, the human form that is in the image and likeness of God is not our physical shape; rather, it is our spiritual form. It is thought and affection that make us what we are, and it is the spirit within us that thinks and loves that is the real human form.

Meditation

(You may wish to have someone read this portion to you):

I am going to ask you to use your imagination for a while. I would like you to visualize a mirror in front of you. It is a full-size mirror. Now see your self reflected in that mirror, see the whole body, all of you, top to bottom, and hold that image for a moment. Now wipe the mirror clean and see your image of God in the mirror—your own personal idea of what God looks like or how he appears in your mind.

(Pause)

How did you visualize God? Perhaps as a bright light. Or maybe you envisioned an old person with long white hair and a flowing gown, or perhaps you saw an image such as the ones Daniel and John saw, with eyes like flames and legs of bronze, or maybe a picture of Jesus. Perhaps you did not see a person, but rather a book or some printed words. Each of you has your own vision that springs from your mind, imagination, and understanding. But such images do not have much substance to them, and if you try to hold them for any length of time, you may find that they start to change and other images come into view.

Now relax a moment and then once again visualize yourself back in the mirror, but this time let’s look much more closely. First, look at your feet. What is distinctive about them? Next, see your legs and hips, and then your waist. What color is the skin? Now see your chest and arms and shoulders. See your neck: is it tense, or is it relaxed? Let the muscles relax. This is not a painful exercise. Now see your hair—its color and texture, the way it fits your head. Last of all, see your face. That is the face you see every morning in the mirror. Why is it so hard to make out the details—the line of the lips, your smile, the bump of the nose, the lines on your forehead, your frown? Look closely. You see that face several times a day, and yet it doesn’t seem to come into focus very well. Is that you? Look into the eyes. See how they fit into your face. See the color. See the expression in them. Let your eyes become larger and clearer until you can see within them.

(End of meditation).

We have a physical body that we identify as being our self. But that is the self that is seen by others from a distance. As people get closer to you and get to know you, they become aware of your inner person. You too see yourself as far more than that reflection in the mirror. You can look within your mind, and there you are no longer flesh and bone. You see joy and sadness, you see laughter and gladness, you see your affections, you see love. You see anger. See your feelings, all of your feelings. Are you angry, are you disappointed, are you elated, are you content? Yes, you are all these things and more, and they are not abstract ideas. They are really you, these feelings, and you express them every day. They are your affections, sometimes warm and sometimes cold, sometimes on the surface and sometimes very deep within your soul. These are your affections, these are your loves.

In addition to being fully aware of your affections, you can also look within and be aware of your thought. Look further back into your eyes and see your mind, your thought, your thinking processes. Here is a storehouse of knowledge and facts and data. It is filled with impressions that your environment has made on you: 2+2 = 4, 10 x 10 = 100.

Truth is the knowledge that you believe. Truth is the information you are sure of. Truths are the ideas you can rely on to get you through each day. Truth, knowledge, and wisdom: we see them within, and we see ourselves. The form of our self is affection and thought; it is what we love and what we understand. If we are affection and thought, we therefore are reflections of the love and wisdom of God.

We are made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 2:7-23). If we look at the Divine Trinity as explained by Emanuel Swedenborg, we see that God is Divine Love and Divine Wisdom and Divine Action. Love is the divine substance from which all things are created. Divine Wisdom planned the creation of the universe, and Divine Action is the spirit or activity involved in the whole process. See your love and affections; see your knowledge and truth. Expand your vision to include the love and truth of everyone in your life, and then expand it to include everyone in your community and everyone in the country and everyone in the world. How tremendous a vision that is: billions of people, all with affections and thoughts drawn from one source—God! One constant source of love and wisdom, ready to fill every human vessel as required.

The constancy of God is a comfort to us. He is always there, never changing, no matter what our circumstances might be or might become. We can depend on the Lord to be with us, ready to give us more love and more wisdom, ready to fill us, to sustain us, to bless us. He is ready to make us fully human, an image of himself.

Bless the Lord, O my soul;
And all that is within me, Bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits,
Who forgives all your iniquity, Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
Who satisfies you with good as long as you live
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.

- Psalm 103

Prayers

Lord Jesus Christ, you are the sun that always rises, but never sets.

You are the source of all life, creating and sustaining every living thing.

You are the source of all food, material and spiritual, nourishing us in both body and soul.

You are the light that dispels the clouds of error and doubt, and goes before me every hour of the day, guiding my thoughts and actions.

May I walk in your light, be nourished by your food, be sustained by your mercy, and be warmed by your love.

- Desiderius Erasmus (c. 1466-1536)


May I, may you, may we not die unlived lives.
May none of us live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
May we choose to inhabit our days,
to allow our living to open us,
to make us less afraid, more accessible,
to loosen our hearts until they become wings,
torches, promises.
May each of us choose to risk our significance;
to live so that which comes to us as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which comes to us as blossom
goes on as fruit.

- Dawna Markova, author and editor, Utah

Rev. David Sonmor