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Love is Life

Sermons

The Deeper Truth

October 16, 2011

Bible Reading

For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her vindication shines out like the dawn, and her salvation like a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you. (Isaiah 62:1-5)

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now standing there were six stone water jars for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to them, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. He said to them, “Now draw some out, and take it to the chief steward.” So they took it. When the steward tasted the water that had become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the steward called the bridegroom and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and then the inferior wine after the guests have become drunk. But you have kept the good wine until now.” Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2: 1-11)

Message

Given how full of beauty this world that surrounds us is, it is a wonder that anyone could forget that God is present in our lives in the most loving way. On the other hand, it’s not so hard to believe, with all of the injustices and stress and tragedies we have to contend with. I think everyone gets overwhelmed from time to time, and angry and depressed over things that happen. God’s glory is not always obvious to us. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of reflection to recognize God’s providence in the events of our lives.

I believe life is meant to be this way—filled with things to make us stop and think, accented with challenges that push us to our limits and encourage us to find new ways of thinking and coping. Consider what life would be like if the answer to every problem was simply handed to us on a silver platter—if the key to every puzzle were given without our ever having to expend any effort at all. Actually, there’s a part of me that doesn’t think that sounds all that terrible, but providing easy answers to the difficult questions would not be an act of love on God’s part because it would interfere with our spiritual freedom to choose our own way in life, and exercising that choice is what teaches us better than anything. Freedom of choice is what powers our development as spiritual entities. Getting there may not always seem like half the fun, but it is the point of our existence. I think this is especially true of the Word.

Before I explain that any further, I’d like to lay a little Swedenborg on you for the sake of clarification. The tome that we find sitting on our altar is a Bible, otherwise known as “Scripture.” It is composed of paper upon which is printed, in ink, words, which were written and compiled by human beings over the course of several centuries.

“The Word” is something deeper. The Word is nothing less than divine truth expressed in love, and it has been in existence for eternity. The Bible is our clearest expression of the Word, and for that reason deserves our respect, but it is important to remember that a Bible is the Word in the same way that a picture of a cube is a cube. We’ve all seen two-dimensional representations of a cube that we can refer to as a cube, but which nonetheless fall one dimension short of being an actual cube. In much the same way, the Bible is a lower or more concrete expression of a higher reality and a deeper truth. Swedenborg maintained that even though the Bible has been rewritten and reorganized many times throughout history, the Word has remained present in it so that deeper truths is not always easy. For example, let’s take a look at how Swedenborg uncovered deeper meaning in the story of the wedding feast at Cana. This is how Anita Dole sums up the story in her Bible Study Notes:

The scene was in Galilee, symbol of the plane of outward conduct, and the place was Cana. Cana means “reedy.” Reeds are the symbol of the simplest and most elementary truths. There was a marriage in Cana of Galilee, and the Lord, His disciples, and Mary were invited. Marriage always pictures the union of good and truth—a time when our desire and our understanding agree as to what we are to do. So this scene pictures a person who wants to do right in his outward life and has learned and obeyed at least the simple precepts of the Word, and who recognizes the Lord and wants His presence. The disciples here picture the means by which the Lord reaches out into the various fields of thought and desire in us, and Mary pictures the church. These were all present at the wedding. And there were six waterpots and plenty of water to fill them all to the brim. The waterpots, like all containers in the Word, picture general doctrines we have in our minds, and six pictures the orderly steps in the development of a good life—we may here go back in our minds to the six days of creation. The water is the truths with which these doctrines may be filled if we apply ourselves to studying them as the Lord commands us to do. The Lord’s words to Mary, “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” are not a rebuke or a refusal. A more literal translation of the Greek is “Woman, what [belongs] to me and to thee?” The Lord was merely pointing out that the power he exercised did not come from the heredity He assumed through Mary.

The Lord gave two commands: “Fill the waterpots with water,” and “Draw out now.” We are not to be satisfied with merely knowing our doctrines in a general way; we are to learn all the truth we can possibly “hold.” And then we are to use this truth in our lives and to do our best to give it to others. And it is in this drawing out that the “water” is turned into the best “wine”—spiritual truth which will delight our souls more than anything we have tasted before. (vol. 6, pp. 23-24)

Does this make sense to anyone? Does it reveal something to you that you hadn’t seen before? If it does, that’s fantastic! Go out and use this new insight in the context of your own life. If it doesn’t or if you disagree with what you’ve heard, that’s fine, too. Read the story again and reflect on what it communicates to you. The whole idea is to look deeper than the literal sense of the words on the page and be inspired by the deeper truths. Knowing the Bible stories is great, but the Bible doesn’t become the Word until we receive and apply the deeper truths, whatever they may be.

And remember, those inspirations may not come easily, but don’t let that discourage you from trying, because some of them might. It is within every person’s ability to receive the Word, not only from the Bible, but also from all the beauty of the earth around us, for the Word is written throughout creation just waiting to be recognized and appreciated. If we can just get past the chaos and the hardships and reclaim our natural enthusiasm in the face of life’s challenges, we will be rewarded—we will become enlightened. The Lord has seen to that. Amen.

Prayer

Your Word, O God, is eternal, and it fills this world with beauty. As we gather in this place, we pray that you will always lift us to your heart and inspire us with your spirit, as you have inspired the psalmists and the prophets. In weakness they were made strong, in sorrow they found solace, in health they were not dismayed. We pray that you will give us similar insights and understanding, even and especially in the dark night of our soul.

Open our eyes so that we may read your newer Word, and let our hearts be present and involved in the issues and events of our time, so that we may learn from them what we need to know. Speak to your people, O Lord, a living Word, so that its music shall touch with hope and joy each secret sorrow of the earth and we may be enlightened by your ever present glory, now and forevermore. Amen.

Rev. Eric Hoffman