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Living Life to Lose It

WELCOME TO TODAY'S WORSHIP SERVICE
 


March 29, 2009
Living Life to Leave It

Open your Bible


 
Light a candle




OPENING SONG 
Lord of the Dance



READINGS


 
FROM THE BIBLE


John 12:20-36

20Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. 21They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.


FROM SWEDENBORG

Suffering on the cross was the final trial the Lord underwent as the greatest prophet. It was a means of glorifying his human nature, that is, of uniting that nature to his Father’s divine nature. It was not redemption.

Believing that the Lord’s suffering on the cross was redemption itself is a fundamental error on the part of the church. That error, along with the error about three divine Persons from eternity, has ruined the whole church to the point that there is nothing spiritual left in it
anymore

TCR 114:6-7 NCE


 


 
MESSAGE



 
Living Life to Lose It

As we approach Palm Sunday, Good Friday, and Easter, it is a good time to remind ourselves of the meaning of the crucifixion as understood by Swedenborg and some of the other Christian mystics. Death of the ego is a crucial stage in spiritual growth in many traditions.

We often ocus on the resurrection of Jesus in this season, but it is the death of Jesus – more than his resurrection – that holds the crux of his mystical transformation.

His death can be seen as a profound example of how to live.

For Sufi’s, the importance of allowing the ego to die is the first step in finding connection with the Beloved.

The Sufi poet Attar says:

So long as we do not die to ourselves,
and so long as we are identified with
someone or something,
we shall never be free.


Christian mystics point to the abandonment that Jesus felt on the cross. For one who had lived a life so closely attuned to God, it is startling to realize that he cried on the cross: “My God, my God – why hast thou forsaken me?” [Mt. 27:46}

Mystic John of the Cross said that feeling abandoned is one of the first stages of the Dark Night of the Soul – it is a dying to the ego that opens the way to mystical union with the Divine.

Psychiatrist and spiritual director Gerald May wrote of this state:

“Many people are used to a consistent and long-lasting feeling of the presence of God in their lives. It may be a distinct sense of presence; of companionship everywhere. It may happen more in relationships with children, spouse, or other beloved people. It may occur in special places such as church or in nature."  To then stop feeling the presence of God this way is the dark night of the soul. May says: “…when habitual senses of God do disappear in the process of the dark night, it is because surely it is time for us to relinquish our attachment to them.”

“…it is at the time they are going about their spiritual exercises with delight and satisfaction, the light shining most brightly on them, that God darkens all this light and closes the door and spring of the sweet spiritual water they were tasting.”


Many Christian mystics would call this a preparation for union with the Divine. “John says this realization of union is the fullness of love – so much so that a person’s desire is indistinguishable from God’s desire.”
 
Swedenborg’s concept for this has been translated as “conjunction,” but in the New Century Edition translations, is union. In the case of Jesus recognizing complete oneness with God, it was glorification.

Swedenborg talks of this state as being “regeneration” when we are so aware of our union with God that our greatest joy comes from living in love.

Such is the quality of the celestial person that he/she acts not according to his own desire, but according to the good pleasure of the Divine, which is his ‘desire. …”

Swedenborg tells us that when on the cross, Jesus experienced God’s abandonment, and went to a place of utter surrender. He let go of any ego desires or hopes. He put himself completely into the hands of God. “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Swedenborg called this “emptying out.” Other mystical traditions refer to the "death of the ego."

Glorification or union is the mystical transformation that happened on the cross. Swedenborg was very clear that the passion of the cross was not an act of salvation for sins; it was a mystical joining of human and divine. “The passion of the cross was the last temptation which the Lord, as the greatest prophet, endured; also it was a means of glorifying his human, that is, of uniting it with the Divine. But it was not salvation in the sense in which it is generally understood by Christians.”

This mystical perspective on the crucifixion and resurrection separated Emanuel Swedenborg from most of the Christians of his day; and probably most of today as well. He wrote about a mutually reciprocal conjunction or union that can happen for each of us within the context of our spiritual growth.

“…the union of the Father and son, that is, of the Divine and the human in the Lord, is like the union of soul and body.” TCR 198

The crucifixion has a message about how to live more deeply. We need to die to ourselves in order to be reborn as co-creators with the Divine.

The mystics say we always are in union with the Divine. But we aren’t aware of it, and don’t live in consciousness of it. But we can. We can become less attached to our personal agendas and listen in quiet for God’s leadings. We can claim our true essence as “co-creators” with God.

Jerry May says that our lives are not linear. It’s not like we have a sudden transition into living our oneness with the Divine, and are aware of that forever. Teresa says that if she is aware of that state for half an hour, it is a long time.

Instead, life is full of “little resurrections” in our lives everyday. Those moments when we suddenly remember who we really are and why we are alive.

We remember that we ARE in union with the Divine. “God in me and me in God.” We are already. We don’t have to work at making it happen. Actually, we have to stop trying so hard to ignore Spirit’s gentle whisperings in our hearts. We can “let go and let God.” And each moment that we allow ourselves to live with this awareness is another moment of the mystery of the glorification.

We can find this meaning in our own lives by looking to the times when we lose part of our "ego" self; and come closer into relationship with the Divine.  What times in your life have you experienced this?


 
 

 
CLOSING SONG
"Lord of the Dance," Michael Flatley




 
Now extinguish your candle                         


 
And close the Bible.            
 

 
Go forth; knowing that your relationship with the Divine is deepened each time a part of your ego self dies.