Walking Humbly in the Way of Jesus
July 8, 2012
Walking Humbly in the Way of Jesus
Guest Minister: Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
THIS YEAR'S THEME: The Year of the Lord
THIS MONTH'S TOPIC: What does the Lord require? Walking Humbly with Your God
Open your Bible
Light a candle
From the Bible:
New International Version (NIV)
6 On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
7 On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
9 In that day they will say,“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
Luke 24:44-53 (New International Version]
44 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
45 Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. 46 He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
The Ascension of Jesus
50 When he had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands and blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. 52 Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.
New International Version (NIV)
1Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.
2 For the Lord Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.
3 He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
4 He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.[b
5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the Lord amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
God is seated on his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings[c] of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.
Walking Humbly in the Way of Jesus
Rev. Dr. David J. Fekete
July 8, 2012
When Jesus ascended up into heaven, after appearing to his disciples for 30 days, God and Man became one completely and totally. Some of Swedenborg’s statements about this process are harder to understand than others. Likewise, some of his statements are easier to understand than are others. In this talk we will look at only some of the many deep statements about this process—the central concept for all theology.
First and this may not be too hard to understand, God had Humanity even before His incarnation. It is from God's Humanity that we, ourselves, have our humanity. So it says in Genesis,
And God said, "Let us make a person in our image, after our likeness" . . . So God created a person in His own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:26, 27).
But God's Humanity was spiritual and made of spiritual substances. It had not reached all the way down into the ultimates of creation, our natural and physical world. However, God's Humanity did reach the lowest level of creation, or this material world, when God took on flesh in the form of Jesus. So John testifies,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God; all things were made by Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father (John 1:1-3, 14).
So Swedenborg, in a very short sentence says that God always had a Humanity, but God's Humanity was only in what Swedenborg calls "first principles."
That God is a Human, and that every angel and spirit is a human from God, is shown in several places in the treatise concerning "Heaven and Hell," and will be more fully shown in the treatises concerning "Angelic Wisdom." But God from the beginning was a Human in first principles, though not in ultimates; yet, after He took on the Human in the world, He also became a Human in ultimates (Doctrine of the Lord, n. 36).
So God's power and His Humanity came down into the ultimates of creation and took on human flesh in Jesus Christ. (As a footnote to this citation, we see that in this book that Swedenborg already had in mind the ideas for the book that became Divine Love and Wisdom.) It may not be too hard to understand that God came down to earth and took on human flesh--believing this doctrine is another matter. But then Swedenborg says something that is hard for me to understand.
Swedenborg goes on to say that Jesus put off everything of the humanity that He had from Mary, and put on Divine Humanity in its place. He calls the human that Jesus had from Mary a material human, and the Human that He put on a "substantial" Human. Swedenborg discusses this idea in the light of the Athanasian Creed,
So we read,
He had a Divine essence and a human nature,--the Divine from the Father, and a human nature from the mother; and thence he was equal to the Father as to the Divine, and less than the Father as to the human: also (as the doctrine of the faith which is called the Athanasian Creed teaches) that He did not transmute this human nature from the mother into the Divine essence, nor commix it with it; for the human nature cannot be transmuted into the Divine essence, nor can it be commixed with it. And yet from the creed is our doctrine, that the Divine took on the Human, that is, united itself to it as the soul unites itself to the body, until they were not two, but one person. From this it follows, that He put off the human from the mother, which in itself was like the human of another man, and thus material, and put on the Human from the Father, which in itself was like His Divine, and thus substantial; from which the Human also was made Divine (Doctrine of the Lord n. 35.
I don't understand what a substantial Humanity is, compared with a material one. I looked at the Latin and didn't find much helpful. I did find one interesting thing, though. The Latin word Materia, from which is our word “material,’ has for its root the word Mater. Mater means "mother" and so one meaning for the Latin word Materia would be "maternal." Another meaning is our word, "matter." So Jesus' material body could be both His maternal body, or His material body, or the body made of matter.
The process by which Jesus became one with God the Father was a mutual turning of God to Human and Human to God. God came down into the Human Jesus and the Human Jesus turned toward His Divine origins. So in order for God to fully become one with Jesus, there had to be a mutual movement of Human to God and God to Human. So John 17 reads, "Father glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee," and, "Thou, Father, are in me, and I in thee" (1, 21). God glorifies the Son--which is movement of God to the Human--and the Son glorifies God--which is movement of the Human toward God. Swedenborg comments on this doctrine as follows,
The Lord said these things because the union was reciprocal, of the Divine with the Human, and of the Human with the Divine . . . Thence union was full. It is the same with all union: unless it is reciprocal, it is not full. Such, also, there must be, of the Lord with humans, and of humans with the Lord (Doctrine of the Lord 35).
This brings us to our part in the process of spirituality. As the Humanity of Jesus turned to God, we also need to do our part and turn to God in like fashion. God is always coming to us; God is continually turned to us; God continually wants to enter into relationship with us. We have a part to play in order to make this a reciprocal relationship. We need freely and of our own choice to enter into a relationship with God.
Jesus tells us what our part in this mutual love relationship is. In Luke 24:47 Jesus says, "repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in His name to all nations." Forgiveness is perhaps the sweetest message of Christianity. But forgiveness is not cheap grace, a term that the Christian theologian Bonheoffer used. Forgiveness is not just a free gift. It is the result of a process of character transformation. Forgiveness is the product of repentance. In order to turn to God, we need to turn away from all that would come between God and us. We need to turn away, in other words, from sin.
There is a story from the 1600's that shows us how some Christians view the gift of forgiveness. The story is called Pilgrim's Progress. In the Christian display in city hall here in Edmonton, the doctrine I am referring to was written up as representative of Christianity. In city hall, a card stated that Christians believe that we are saved by faith. We see this doctrine in Pilgrim's Progress, a story from the 1600's, and this doctrine hasn't changed since.
The story Pilgrim's Progress is a story about salvation told from the English Protestant perspective. Almost every Protestant church subscribes to the doctrine of salvation we find in Pilgrim’s Progress. In this story, the main character is a man called Christian. The story begins with Christian described as wearing rags with a heavy pack on his back,
I saw a man clothed with rags . . . a book in his hand, and a great burden on his back.
As he read, he burst out . . . crying “What shall I do, to be saved? I perceive by the book in my hand that I am condemned to die, and after that to come to judgment.”
In this description of Christian we see the old Christian doctrine of original sin. This doctrine teaches that Adam's sin of disobedience to God is passed down all the way from him to each one of us. We inherit Adam's original sin at birth. That original sin is the burden on Christian's back.
But according to Protestant teachings, faith in Jesus will make all our sins fall away. Someone gave me a tract here in Edmonton that said faith in Jesus would cause all my sins to be forgiven--past, present, and future. Our hero Christian holds this belief. After describing what heaven is like, he tells us how to enter heaven. He claims that the doctrine of freely given grace, cheap grace, is Biblical.
The Lord, the Governor of that country, hath recorded that [i.e., how to obtain salvation] in this book; the substance of which is, If we be truly willing to have it, he will bestow it upon us freely.
The doctrine of free grace is illustrated in the plot of the book, when Christian sees the cross of Jesus. Upon gazing at it, the pack instantly drops off his back.
Just as Christian came up with the cross, his burden loosed from his shoulders, and fell from off his back, and began to tumble, and so continued to do, till is came to the mouth of the sepulchre, where it fell in, and I saw it no more.
Then was Christian glad and lightsome, and said, with a merry heart, “He hath given me rest by his sorrow, and life by his death.” Then he stood still awhile to look and wonder; for it was very surprising to him, that the sight of the cross should thus ease him of his burden.
This church sees the process of salvation differently. Notice that in Pilgrim's Progress, it is Christ's death that frees Christian of his burden. This form of Christianity sees Christ's crucifixion as a sacrifice that atones for our sins, just like the animals that the Jews sacrificed in the temple were thought to atone for their sins. But in the light of our Bible reading, we see things differently. It is not Christ's death that saves us. Rather it is the power of the risen and glorified Christ that gives us the ability to repent and change our lives. It is when Christ rises from the dead that repentance and forgiveness are preached to all the nations.
Our salvation is a love relationship between God and us. While God comes to us, we need to open our hearts and let Him in. We need to respond to God's invitation to the wedding feast. We do this by actively turning away from the things that would come between us and God. It is just like our relations with friends and lovers here on earth. Sometimes we have to hold our tongue in order to keep our relationship positive. Sometimes we need to sacrifice our own wants to rejoice in the delights our friends have. Sometimes we need to put our own needs second in order to help a friend through a difficult time. In short, sometimes we need to let go of self-interest in order to live in relationship with our friends and lovers.
It is the same with God. We need to put God first, self second. Just as we sacrifice our own ego-driven wants in order to stay in relationship with humans, so we need to put selfishness aside in order to find a loving relationship with God. This is what repentance means. But repentance is a subject for a sermon in and of itself. All we need to know today is that forgiveness is the product of repentance. Forgiveness is not cheap grace. And relationship with God is not with Jesus in agony on the cross. Relationship with God is the blessing of the risen and glorified Lord. Jesus said to his disciples,
"Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem." . . . Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God (Luke 24: 46-47, 50-53).